In this guest post I wrote for the Lead Small blog (Don’t Lose the Introverts) I talk a little bit about one of my introverted children and a few things I learned after reading “Quiet, the Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain. Fascinating stuff. Great reminder not to try to pull a kid out of their shell, but make them comfortable in it.
Checking into church is painfully awkward for him. When the greeter tries to give him a high-five or tease him by sticking his name tag to his forehead, I can visibly see him fighting his primal urge to run and hide in a bathroom stall or curl up in the back seat of our family van and hide.
But some way, some how his SGL has figured out a way to crack through his shy veneer. She greets him by name as soon as he walks into the room and cheers at his entrance. Like she’s been waiting on pins and needles anticipating his arrival. She compliments him immediately, “what a cool shirt” then tells him where to go and what to do to get started for the day. She smothers him with compliments instead of peppering him with questions, “You did great today. You did awesome during the challenge. You’re the best.”
And low and behold, recently when I went to pick my son up from small group, he gathered his stuff to leave then walked over to his small group leader and put HIS hand up to initiate a high-five.
That’s when I realized that this energetic, committed, truly-caring-for-the-unique-person-that-my-son-is SGL had turned an uncomfortable, loud, geared-for-the-extroverted-kid environment of small group into a safe place for my son. She’s figured him out and made her piece of fuzzy real estate on the floor of that big, open room a happy place for him to come learn about God each week.
Have an introvert in your group and not sure how to draw them in without shutting them down? Try some of these:
- Greet your student by name every week, even if they don’t greet you back. Keep acknowledging them. You’ll get a tiny grin of acknowledgement eventually.
- Make an observation or statement about them and move on, don’t ask a bunch of questions. “Cool shoes! We’re coloring today…” or “I was hoping you’d come today! We’re trying to build a pyramid out of…”
- Direct them to an independent activity like drawing a robot or looking up a verse in the Bible.
- Speak to them intelligently. Introverts are thinkers. They are smart. They know when they’re being talked down to.
- Use a quiet, gentle tone of voice with and around them. Often they would just rather blend in than be singled out, but they still desire and deserve recognition.
- If you have to pair them up, be sure to put them with someone who is kind and gentle. Don’t saddle them with the extroverted clown who is loud, goofs off and will frustrate and embarrass them.
- Allow them to observe and don’t force them to participate. They LOVE to watch the Minute-to-Win-It games, but would rather die than go on stage and play one.
- Let them be the scorekeeper rather than compete in the Family Feud game. They probably know all the answers anyway.
What are some other great strategies for serving the introverts in your small group?