Finding the right words as an introverted pastor

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In personality tests I’ve always landed on the introverted side of the spectrum. This can be kind of awkward given the fact that I’m a pastor, a profession that requires quite a bit of social interaction. Even in my “secular” work in engineering I’ve slowly shifted away from programming and into project management, again a fairly socially demanding position.
A friend recently shared an article which offers an explanation for why introverts often have trouble finding the right words to speak in social situations. I can relate a lot to the article. I hate, but often experience, that feeling of being caught flat footed in a conversation.
This struggle isn’t limited to social situations. It is often heightened in preaching. Early in my ministry preaching was especially stressful. What if I lose my train of thought and can’t find the right words? Over time I have developed some strategies for working through these challenges, especially as it relates to preaching. (Note, I think these are good strategies for any preacher, but might be especially helpful for introverted ones.)
1. I always rehearse my sermon in its entirety at least once. This way I am confident not only in the conceptual line of thought, but also in my ability to verbalize that line of thought.
2. I often write out particularly difficult parts of my sermon. The article referenced above notes that introverts often think more clearly in writing than in speech. This is absolutely true for me as well. If I’m having trouble thinking or speaking things clearly I will sit down at my computer and write it until it’s clear. Once the thoughts and words are written it’s a lot easier to put them into speech.
3. Preparation, preparation, preparation. The more I have internalized whatever I’m teaching on the better. The more familiar I am with the content the less nervous I am that I won’t be able to find the right words.
I probably don’t need to go into my strategies for dealing with run-of-the-mill social gatherings, but if you see me focusing my attention on my kids, or if I happen to pull out a board game, you’ll know that’s the introvert in me.

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2 thoughts on “Finding the right words as an introverted pastor

  1. John and Marie Kopp

    If you have to do those “things” to do the job as you feel you should, it’s probably not a bad thing that you’re an introvert.

    Those are “things” every pastor should do : )

    Love,

    Mom

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