Community. Communal interpretation. Consensus.
These are all values that the Brethren hold dear. Each involves relationships, working alongside people, and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately…togetherness.
For a number of us, camp season is here, whether it is Camp Peniel, Camp Bethany, or Camp Shipshewana. This means that a lot of our students are going to have awesome, fun-filled, Jesus-centered weeks. That requires a ton of directors, staff, cooks, and maintenance people. For myself, I’m heading to Camp Peniel in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania shortly, first for a week of cooking for our Junior Camp and then counseling Mini Camp.
I love camp, but honestly, it is exhausting, both physically and relationally. This is the first time I am doing two weeks of back-to-back camps (Mini Camp is only Sunday through Wednesday, but it feels like a whole week!) I’ve been trying to mentally and emotionally prepare for all the togetherness.
I wasn’t always this way. I remember doing a get-to-know-you kind of event and being asked if I was energized or drained by large groups of people. I have always been the type to be energized by groups and it had never entered my mind that others could be drained by them. Then I had kids. I think being on-call all the time made me realize that I am charged up by other people as long as I have a time and place to recharge alone at regular intervals. Now I know that if I am going to be in a relationally intense atmosphere, I have to anticipate and plan for some alone time or I’m going to be feeling burnt out pretty quickly.
We are all wired a little differently that way. My husband, Luke loves people. While he is great in large groups (he leads worship at our church and is awesome in large youth settings like Engage), he prefers small groups and one-on-one interaction. If he has an errand to run, he’ll call someone to tag along with him. He just loves being with people. I know extreme introverts and extreme extroverts and all sorts in-between.
As I’m realizing I’m in greater need of alone time, and recognizing that there are introverts everywhere, how do they fit in with the Brethren? Or more precisely, how do introverts see themselves belonging to a Brethren community? The reason I ask this is because the Brethren pride themselves on being incredibly relational and in fact, embrace a church “fellowship” model as a vehicle for filtering their understanding of church. One of our distinctive features is the amount of emphasis we place on being together, whether that be community functions, communal interpretation, and consensus among others. Are you seeing the drift? They’re all people focused, and rightly so. But how does an introvert perceive these functions, and how do we, already established Brethren, invite them into a community they feel comfortable investing in.
Jesus is a great model for us. He had huge groups following him at times, spent a ton of time with his group of 12 disciples, but also spent time alone praying. Extroverts could benefit from time alone, praying, listening, and spending time with the Father. They could also remember to step back and give others a chance to contribute. Introverts stretch grow when they engage with groups and contribute to the community. Everyone could use a small group of people who challenge and encourage them, whether that is 12 or more people, or just a trusted few.
I’m still thinking through what this looks like when you get people from all across the intro/extrovert spectrum and everything in between and put them together in churches to make decisions, care for each other, and reach their towns and world for Jesus. Surely this will look different in each congregation, made up of different people.
I desire that we work hard making relationships happen, even when it would be more comfortable to hole up at home with the TV. I hope that we are also people who are comfortable with silence and our own thoughts ,and are graceful to people that don’t love speaking up in groups. As churches, I pray that we seek out what God is speaking in our communities, even among the introverts, and that we act together as brothers and sisters to do the hard work of living together for the kingdom.
In a couple weeks when camp is over I’m probably going to call up a friend to ask if my kids can come over for a while, then I’m going to go for a drive, a hike, or a coffee, all by myself. I’m planning my recharge now so I can commit to those kids at camp. Then after my little excursion (and probably several nights catching back up on sleep), I can come back recharged to keep going and following after Jesus. I’m hoping this relationally intensive stretch of time will be a reminder for me to be quick to listen and more gracious toward introverts in the future.