Everything in church is designed to help its members love God out loud. You have to sing, participate in the responsive reading, get called on to pray and more. Participation seems to be key. But for introverts, this doesn’t come naturally. It’s exhausting.

Church is supposed to be a place of fulfillment, yet I leave feeling drained and in need of a long Sabbath nap.

I don’t think this is intentional. I highly doubt anyone ever got up and said, “How can we make the introverts feel terrible once a week?” But it can feel that way. Because of the church’s structure, it can feel like if I’m not screaming about my love of God from the rooftops, I’m not a real Christian. But being that upfront and open is hard and unnatural to me.

God made people of every type, including introverts, yet the church criticizes this way of thinking.

Here are the top barriers of going to church for many introverts and suggestions for ways to manage them.

  • Obstacle 1: The Greeter

    • They open the door for you. Just smile and say “Happy Sabbath” as you walk in; shake hands if necessary.
  • Obstacle 2: The Bulletin Keeper

    • If you want the bulletin, you have to approach them. Smile, say “Happy Sabbath” and move on quickly before they initiate further conversation.
  • Obstacle 3: The Minglers

    • They stand outside the sanctuary and want to chat. Avoid eye contact and keep moving. If they stop you, hope another person comes by soon so you can slip away.
  • Obstacle 4: The Aisle Blockers

    • They stand between the aisles to talk to people already sitting, not fully realizing they’re blocking your path. Slip past while saying “Excuse me” and keep moving.
  • Obstacle 5: The Forced Interaction

    • The pastor welcomes everyone to church and encourages everyone to say hi to somebody they don’t know. If you’re with someone, try to look like you’re in deep conversation with them. If not, get busy on your phone. If people introduce themselves, keep it short and smile politely.
  • Obstacle 6: The Volunteer

    • Usually only applicable at smaller churches, the pastor may ask an audience member to volunteer for prayer. If no one responds, somehow the pastor only ever asks you. If you’re asked, say a generic prayer asking God to bless the pastor as he speaks.
  • Obstacle 6: The Clock

    • Time is your enemy. Your energy is running out. The longer the service goes, the more you’re around people, the more exhausted you feel. Start planning your exit now.
  • Obstacle 7: The Dismissal

    • This is when you realize sitting in the back of the sanctuary was a mistake. Everyone will be up and milling about before you. You can’t slip out before your turn. You have to wait.
  • Obstacle 8: The Exit

    • Once everyone is dismissed, they group up to talk to each other. But you? You are ready to go spend some time by yourself. Weave through the conversations and never make eye contact.

I have found a church that creates a space that caters a bit more to introverts. My church does an excellent job of taking the pressure off, and the community there couldn’t be stronger. When a person walks in, someone is holding the door open and offering a bulletin, eliminating an obstacle for introverts. If people want to chat, they stay out in the lobby and never drag anyone into conversation while still being inviting. They ask people to greet others around them at the very beginning of the service, when an introvert’s energy is still high. The service is usually only an hour or so, an amount of “people time” most introverts can handle. Leaving is the same as entering; people are around and would love to talk, but they never make you feel forced.

This structure is perfect for introverts. Even though it may seem short, it does what it needs to do. It lets introverts experience all of the church elements without dragging them out longer than necessary and forcing long, tedious interactions.

Whenever you are at church, I encourage you to remember that not everyone is as excited to talk as you are.

We love a friendly wave, but we don’t always want to put on a fake smile-and-greet attitude. Help out your introverts by being aware that we are there and take the pressure off of us. God wants us to come as we are, so let us be ourselves.


Written by Lacey Stecker, 2022 senior communication and English major at Union College.