7 Faith Considerations When Raising Introverted Kids

7 Faith Considerations When Raising Introverted Kids | Christian Mom ThoughtsA couple of weeks ago, we took our twins to a birthday party at a bounce house. It was the first one we’ve been to for a friend at school, and it was interesting to see how our kids interacted with the other kids in their class. After a while I didn’t see Nathan, so I went searching.

I found him sitting alone inside a tunnel in the corner of the room.

“Buddy! What are you doing in here?!”

“I’m tired. I wanted to get away.”

I didn’t even know what to say. My 4-year-old son was tired of playing with other kids so he just “left.” On one hand, I was embarrassed my kid was sitting in a tunnel at a birthday party (bad, I know). On the other hand, I totally understood.

I had always known Nathan was an introverted kid, but it wasn’t until this experience that I realized just how introverted he is – just like me, and just like my husband. Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert isn’t the same as being shy. An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people (here’s a checklist of traits); conversely, an extrovert is a person who gets their energy from being with other people.

The implications of being introverted extend much further; introverted people process their whole world differently than extroverted people do, and that has a lot of implications for faith as well! If you have an introverted child, here are seven things you’ll want to consider in their faith development.

 

1.    Understand that praying out loud is a HUGE deal.

Many people struggle with praying out loud, but for introverts it can be mortifying; it feels like a performance to let your deepest thoughts flow audibly. That said, it’s important to pray together as a family, so it’s necessary to find ways of encouraging prayer participation while being empathetic to the fears involved. Here are a few tips:

  • Use roundtable prayers where a single word contribution is acceptable. For example, we’ll say, “Kenna is thankful for…” (and she says something), “Nathan is thankful for…” (and he says something). This is an easy and low pressure way for each person to contribute. You can also have each person ask for forgiveness for something, praise God for something, ask for healing for someone, etc.
  •  Have the child repeat after you. I’ve always thought it was important to teach our kids to pray from the heart, so I’ve never taught them memorized prayers. However, I found a happy medium between intimidating spontaneous prayers and rote memorization with this two-step process: 1) I ask Nathan for three things he wants to pray about, then 2) I make a prayer out of those things and he repeats after me. This way the prayer is still based on his heart’s desire, but I’m helping him find the words to use.
  • Resist the temptation to compliment prayers. It seems natural to offer an encouraging “good job” after a prayer, but complimenting a prayer implies there are good prayers and bad prayers, which further exacerbates the fear of doing something wrong. Just say Amen!

 

2.    Be proactive in initiating faith conversations.

Introverts mostly process internally, so what you hear from them is only the “tip of the thought iceberg” – if you get to see that tip at all. An introverted child may be less likely than others to proactively engage verbally with you on faith (or anything else). This makes it especially important to be the initiator of faith conversations so you can understand where your kids are in their thinking and how to best guide their faith journey.

 

3.    Ask open-ended questions rather than right-or-wrong questions.

Most introverts don’t like being put “on the spot” to come up with a right answer in front of others (e.g., siblings). Keep this in mind when you ask questions during Bible lessons or story time with your kids. Instead of quizzing them on specific answers, engage with them through open-ended discussion questions (e.g., “How do you think Joseph felt when he was in jail?”).

 

4.    Pay attention to your child’s social experiences at church and intervene when needed.

Introverted kids can have more difficulty making friends because it often takes them longer to get comfortable with other children. If your child isn’t having a good social experience in Sunday school, it can make all of church a very negative experience. Introverted kids may not proactively offer you that information, however, so be sure to regularly ask questions to find out how your child is doing with other kids in the class.

 

5.    Accept quiet (but respectful) forms of worship.

Introverts often don’t feel comfortable with “external” manifestations of worship. I don’t particularly like singing in church, I’m not a “hand raiser,” and I’m usually not a clapper. I prefer to be reflective rather than expressive. As long as your kids are being respectful (i.e., not goofing around), don’t pressure them to worship in ways that become more about managing discomfort than thinking about God. Remember, worship is a state of the heart.

 

6.    Find serving experiences that utilize your child’s gifts.

Many church serving experiences are geared toward people who are comfortable talking to strangers at length, helping groups of people, praying out loud with others, etc. – things that can be very difficult for introverts!  Look for serving opportunities that comfortably emphasize your child’s gifts (e.g., serving in a soup kitchen, making toiletry packs to give to the homeless, organizing/managing a charitable fundraiser rather than going door-to-door, etc.).

 

7.    Make sure your little introvert knows he or she is just as important as anyone else in God’s kingdom.

Growing up, it always seemed to me that the kids who were singing in front of the church, teaching the younger kids in Sunday school, making visits to people in nursing homes, bringing 20 friends to church each week and offering prayers out loud when called on were the “good” Christian kids. As an introvert, that was never me, and I always felt there was something wrong with my faith because of it. Be sure to proactively let your child know that everyone is equally valuable in God’s kingdom and that they are perfectly made the way they are!

Are you an introvert? Did you share in any of these experiences as a kid? What are other ways we can help our introverted kids in faith development?

14 Comments

  1. Regina Jennings on June 13, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    Amazing post! I’ve heard from introverts who struggle with a lot of the “welcoming” activities that churches assume set everyone at ease, but I’ve never thought of them from a child’s viewpoint. Thanks for sharing.



    • Natasha Crain on June 18, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      Thanks so much, Regina! I’m glad it was interesting to you!



  2. Virginia on June 13, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    I love the whole post! But #7 is my favorite! I want to clap and cheer (inside) or privately here at home with no one watching — because I too am naturally an introvert. You described EXACTLY how I feel now (and felt as a young person) in the church. WOW! You really hit the head on the nail with #7 for me. That explains a lot – I am not a ‘go up in the front and sing’ kind of gal either. This really helps me not feel so guilty for not doing those things. THANK YOU!

    I appreciate your blog! Thanks!



    • Natasha Crain on June 18, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      That’s awesome, Virginia, thank you! It’s really easy to feel guilty for not being like the extroverted Christians around us, but there is a ton of need for introverts in God’s kingdom too. 🙂 I think that’s why I enjoy having this blog. It gives me a way to think through all these things personally, and the opportunity to share those thoughts with others (minus having to interact with each person individually, which is what drains an introvert! haha). Thanks so much for your comment!



  3. diana on June 13, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    Your son sounds like mine…though mine is not introverted, he has sensory processing issues. It reeks havoc when we are in large groups and when in an environment that is loud or where a lot is going on. It’s a constant struggle for us. His sensory issues are mild in comparison to some. I’d like to see churches provide activities for kids who need things a little quieter or lower energy. It seems when large groups are gathered the activities are high energy. How about offering Lego building or book reading along with active or group games? We are still in process. It’s hard to watch our children struggle period. I appreciate your ideas.



    • Natasha Crain on June 18, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      Hi Diana, That’s such a great point about groups having varied activities. Perhaps you can suggest it to the group leaders for future consideration? There should at least be some kind of choice – many children would prefer lower energy activities. Most people just don’t even think about these things, or assume all kids enjoy loud, bustling activities. I guess as parents of kids who aren’t like that, we have to take the lead in providing alternatives.

      Thank you for your comment!



  4. Kaylene Forrester on June 20, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Hi, I love this article because my husband and I are both introverts and love to just be at home or doing “quiet” things with each other and our children. We struggle with finding serving opportunities because we don’t do well at visiting people, sharing testimonies at church, sharing out loud in Sunday school, etc. Anyway, we prefer to give money quietly to organizations and things like that, but it seems like we’re not quite “pillars” of the church like some people are! I guess I just need to realize that it doesn’t matter what people see, but what God sees. Thanks for sharing this, it gives me hope that there are more people like us out there!



    • Natasha Crain on June 25, 2013 at 8:27 AM

      Hi Kaylene, I’m so glad this was helpful for you! There are a lot of us introverts out there. I actually start getting claustrophobic when I see activities on the calendar. 🙂 When my husband and I see that we have an open weekend with nothing we have to do, we’re thrilled to just be at home! Take heart, many of us are that way, and God can use all of us!



  5. Melissa Williams on June 24, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    Natasha… You have no idea what this post has done for myself and my husband. We have always just thought our three year old son was “shy” or being “reserved” in his social actions… Church has been a struggle when dropping him off at childcare because of how busy the hallways are and the room that he would go into and how parents are not allowed in the room with the kiddos when dropping them off. to much action. With this said, making him feel he belongs at church was hard and he never wanted to go because he could not wrap his brain around what was going on.. when we would try praying with him he would turn away. NOW….we have used your tool #1 and he is awesome at filling in the blanks. Then he asks me the questions and I fill in the blanks… We love the time in prayer we have together now…. You have opened the door for us and our hearts to better understanding our son being an introvert. God has really used you in our lives when we needed it most as parents. Thank you for your words.



    • Natasha Crain on June 25, 2013 at 8:29 AM

      Oh Melissa, your comment made me cry! I am so touched that this made a difference for your family and that you took the time to leave the comment. Thank you so much! It is so encouraging to hear that God is working through these blog posts. I love that your son is asking YOU the questions now – what a great idea! I will try that myself!

      Thank you so much!



  6. amy on August 21, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    My middle girl is an introvert, so this was a great resource for me. I also have two extrovert girls and I fall somewhere in the middle and my husband is an extrovert. Funny how God blends us all together.



  7. […] 7 Faith Considerations When Raising Introverted Kids – I so appreciated this one.  Make sure you bookmark this! […]



  8. James on June 26, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    Great post Natasha. Lots of young parents at our church will benefit from your thoughts on this. I will share it with them.

    Let me encourage your efforts here. I have enjoyed many of your thoughtful and expressive blog posts. Blessings on your work here! 🙂



  9. NanaCarolyn on October 1, 2015 at 6:30 AM

    Natasha,
    This was so on point. I AM an introvert, preferring “a quieter person”. One of my Grands is an introvert. Seems we parents are influenced to try and “make” our children different than how GOD gave them to us. Yes, we try to help them redirect some unpleasant or sinful nature seeds. But they have a personality that can be developed to GOD’s glory as we help them come to know HIM. I struggled with this all my life and I believe my Dad was basically an introvert. So there you see, things get passed along. It takes so long to become “comfortable” with a group or place that sometimes I give up and move on. One thing you are told as an introvert, though people even parents don’t know about that at all, is that “oh, she’s a moody person.” That is so wrong. Thanks for your willingness to be open and honest about yourself.