On the last week of every month we’ll be giving you a great resource idea you can use in your work with children, young people and families. This month Dan Crouch shares some reflections on a book he’s found particularly helpful.
The month of February was a very blessed month for me as my church granted me a month’s sabbatical. It was a brilliant opportunity to not only rest and recharge but also to resource myself and my ministry. I’ve always enjoyed reading and so this time provided an excellent opportunity to get my teeth into several books.
One of the most interesting books I read during this time was Mark Tanner’s ‘The Introvert Charismatic.’
Now, as an introvert myself, I have to declare a particular bias towards this book. It makes sense to me, helps me understand more about myself, and gives a language to experience and frustration that I can own myself. I come at this from a particular perspective. So I asked my wife to read this book, as an extrovert, and to be honest she persisted with the book probably out of love and care for me, rather than because she felt it particularly useful to her. What was perhaps more helpful were the conversations we could have together about the content of the book, areas where we found agreement and places where we disagreed, talking together, discussing, debating and reflecting on what we had read in order to more fully understand one another.
For those of us ministering in church contexts this book offers an insight, from Tanner’s perspective, about what it means to be charismatic and what it means to be an introvert in the church. Tanner asserts that while there seems to be a dichotomy here (where else have you seen the words introvert and charismatic alongside each other) these two characteristics are actually compatible rather than mutually exclusive. What I found particularly helpful was the way Tanner defined charismatic as ‘simply a Christian who lives in expectation of daily encounters with God, by his Spirit, and seeks to respond to the presence of God faithfully and courageously.’ When I think of a charismatic Christian I would not consider myself part of this group because my character, I had assumed, was incompatible. Tanner shows that this is not the case.
One of the big challenges I have faced throughout my time in youth ministry is believing that as an introvert I can be a good youth worker. Let’s face it, the majority of people will assume that an extrovert personality will make a better youth worker. This is in fact a lazy application of the Myers-Briggs assessment. Introverts and extroverts can be good youth workers.
In youth ministry we, I hope, will meet a wide variety of young people coming from a range of backgrounds. We probably know quite a lot about individual learning styles and group dynamics, but our recognition of introvert and extrovert in our work may be less developed. We may understand where we ourselves are on the continuum, but perhaps not so clearly how we recognise where others are, especially young people. While we don’t want to be too eager to label young people, understanding the way that they are energised and the activities that drain them is little different to understanding their preferred learning style. How could you apply some of this learning to your youth ministry?
Dan Crouch is a youth worker in Keynsham, near Bristol, a trustee of the Sophia Network, and a BCYM BA and MA graduate.