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Are You an Introvert In Youth Ministry? Me too.

Introvert in Youth Ministry-

My name is Brad. I am a youth worker and I am an introvert.

People are often surprised when I confess to them I am an introvert, usually responding with some form of, But, but, how can you be an introvert when all you do is hang out with people?Or, You arent an introvert! Look at how you love running around at youth group and do so much public speaking. Youre even good at it! You arent an introvert…”

Oh, but I am. And not simply in an I like to relax with a good booksort of way. My reality as an introvert is much more in the vein of nearly-constant headaches after a day of sustained human interaction that even occasionally leaves me curled up on the bathroom floor vomiting.(OK, that’s only happened twice, but it’s totally happened!)

I often find myself frustrated at my introversion, especially when my job is one that demands both recurring face to face interaction in addition to the hours spent with those lovable, energetic, noisy, brilliant, hilarious, energy sucking leeches that are apparently the reason I have a job in the first place!

In the worst moments, usually when I see pictures or hear stories of the stereotypical extroverted youth worker seemingly excelling at their job in ways foreign to me, I feel like a youth ministry unicorn. A creature so rare that it is simply known to be a myth. Except maybe unicorns are far too joyous and vibrant to be an apt metaphor for an introvert. In those moments I feel far more like a youth ministry Eeyore. Still mythical, but far more well… Eeyore-ish.

But the truth is that I’m far from the only introvert in youth ministry, and my personality rarely is anything like Eeyore’s. Some recent studies have even put the percentage of introverted adults in our population at around 40%. Im sure the percentage of introverted youth workers out there is a bit lower than that, but I know you are out there!

Anne Lamott famously said, The most powerful sermon in the world are the words me too.’” I love my job. I am even pretty dang good at it! I am passionate about it dream of being the old guy in a wheelchair still playing dodge ball surrounded by high school kids. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone say, “me too.” So heres to you, my fellow introverted youth workers:

  • Have you ever let your emails or text messages sit unanswered for days because even a simple reply of “sure, see you then” felt impossibly hard? Me too.
  • Were you aware of a student who really wanted to hang out and talk—but you just. did. that. yesterday and two days in a row seems impossible? Me too.
  • Have you ever ditched brainstorming meetings and instead gathered information through guided journaling and reflection and had it turn out far better? Me too.
  • Do you secretly look forward to Monday mornings where a chance to simply sit quietly in your office and catch up on administrative stuff is both necessary and expected? Me too.
  • Have you ever hung out with a student and had it be incredibly life giving and sacred and wonderful, inspiring you to do it more often—then woken up the next day to find the simple thought of more human interaction made it hard to leave your house? Me too.
  • Do you find that sometimes the you were able to actually listen to the Holy Spirit during a time of solitude and realize you just stumbled upon the most amazing ministry idea ever? Me too.
  • Do you have endless energy and pure joy and appreciation for your time spent at youth group, and then need to unwind by yourself for hours sucking your thumb in the fetal position afterward? Me too.
  • Ever text a kid to hang out hoping they’ll already be busy? But, hey, at least you tried!? Me too
  • Have you ever spent the morning after youth group just laying around doing as little as possible because the idea of setting foot back in the church, or running into another human, before noon sounds like probably, definitely, the worst thing that could possibly happen to you? Me too.
  • Have you ever let a voice message hang out in your office phone for days before you even listen to it, since you know it’s only either a sales pitch or an unhappy parent? Me too.
  • Ever spent the hours leading up to youth group fantasizing about an excuse, or an illness, so you could just go home and watch Netflix instead? Me too. 
  • Do you know you are called to this job filled with human interaction and wouldn’t change a thing? Me too. Me too.

Feel free to add your own me toostatements in the comment section!

Brad Hauge is a lifelong resident of the great Pacific Northwest and has survived this youth ministry thing for 13 years in spite of crippling introversion. He is currently the Director of High School Ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA and is part of the team that brings the Youth Cartel’s VIVA! curriculum to life each month. You can follow his ministry and baseball thoughts on Twitter @bhauge

Posted on 12 Comments

12 thoughts on “Are You an Introvert In Youth Ministry? Me too.

  1. Great stuff and spot on – thank you for sharing! – Extroverted youth leaders also give birth to extroverted youth clubs, which – if left unchallenged or disbalanced – lead an orgy of consummeristic energy that the young people themselves are not used to dieting on.

    1. yes! thanks Tim, in total agreement. Also I was *this* close to using the word orgy in my post, but now at least it made it into the comments 🙂

  2. It’s such a coincidence that I stumbled upon this post when I did. I was just sitting in my office thinking to myself that there are about 4 too many of us in this room (and only 4 people work in this particular office) as I’ve spent the entire weekend surrounded by a crowd of people. I have been sitting and contemplating for a long time about the fact I must be the only introverted youth minister on the face of the earth and it’s so nice to see how wrong I was! Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s just what I needed.

    1. Thanks so much, Briana. This was so cathartic for me to write, so I’m glad it was that way for you to read!

  3. Wow. I so needed to read this right now. Such a God thing that I stumbled upon this. I just got back from a Youth Ministry Conference where I was surrounded by several Youth Pastors who were all mostly male extroverts. I, being a female introvert, felt like the Eeyore. Thank you for the “me too.”

    1. I love me some conferences and I love me some back row seating when at them 🙂 Thanks for the note, Kaley- so glad us introverts can be in the this together.

  4. As I was reading this I could O soo relate. I am a parent of a student in Brads youth group, and I’m also an introvert. Thank you for sharing your inner most thoughts and struggles ! I do have a great respect for adults in your line of work ~ I do not know how you do it and to add the intimate self to the mix and stay strong and separate ~ Wow you are amazing!! Thank heavens God and Prayer are OK to call upon in you Job description at anytime, can you imagine the jobs with youth that don’t allow it . Thank You for loving your job and living in the mist of a difficult struggle. They need you !! God Bless

  5. I loved this. People are always shocked when I admit to my introversion. I think people assume me being energetic and being comfortable in front of big crowds makes me an extrovert. In all honesty, I’m more comfortable speaking in front of bigger crowds because my brain doesn’t equate it to “human life” its just a big lump that seems to be listening.

  6. Well now! Me too! How did we all end up called to youth ministry? This would be another occasion when I would say God has a sense of humour! I relate to your comments. I am much better in front of a group, too. Add to this that I am female and almost 60. (My reward after Youth nights is “chip night” when my husband and I beg together watching Netflix, eating chips and drinking pop.) And I wouldn’t trade a second of it!!!! Love the kids and love what God does in their lives!

    1. sorry for the double post. Was trying to say *veg* not beg. 🙂

  7. Well now! Me too! How did we all end up called to youth ministry? This would be another occasion when I would say God has a sense of humour! I relate to your comments. I am much better in front of a group, too. Add to this that I am female and almost 60. (My reward after Youth nights is “chip night” when my husband and I sit together watching Netflix, eating chips and drinking pop.) And I wouldn’t trade a second of it!!!! Love the kids and love what God does in their lives!

  8. Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading it. I was wondering if you could answer a question. My wife and I have been married for a short time (less than 5 years) and she was involved in her old church youth group for many years and now is involved in our church’s youth group and enjoys doing it. She is also definitely an extrovert. She has tried to get me involved in the youth group as well and I have participated but I also know that I don’t have the same drive and passion for it as she does. I am more of an introvert. It is hard for me to relate to the youth group environment and I am just not that into being wild and goofy as they are sometimes. I also don’t know how to relate to the youths. I am thinking of telling my wife that I want to pull out of being involved with the youth group. What do you think? Also, the youth group, seems to have enough adult leader volunteers so I am not necessary. Thank for your time and any input.

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