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Buzzword
October 19th, 2015, 11:39 PM
As my wife and I have been trying to get back into regular church attendance, and have had vastly different experiences at the same churches, I've become more aware of just how anti-introvert/anti-social anxiety the typical Sunday School class is.

Especially for anyone not raised in church.

The pressure to pray aloud usually means the prayer will be the most forced and rushed affair ever.

The pressure to read Scripture aloud tends to lead to completely ignoring the meaning of the text in an effort to get out of the spotlight as quickly as possible.

And then there's the pressure to take part in the class discussion.
A discussion which, depending upon the individuals in the class, can go into spiritual deep water (meaning, tons of theological jargon and assumption that everyone is deeply familiar with the minutiae of Scripture) within seconds.
And which requires that each person interrupt someone else just to contribute.

All of these contribute to an environment which leaves introverts and/or the socially anxious huddled in the corner waiting for the ordeal to end so they can vanish into the crowd for the main church service......at least until "Pass the Peace," in which tons of strangers invade their personal space again and again and make them want to run screaming from the room, but that's for another discussion.


The above are all impressions and experiences conveyed to me over the years by my wife, who is very much an introvert, and generally suffers from a large degree of social anxiety in everyday situations, which is ramped up in church services, in large part due to the above and due to her not attending church regularly until adulthood.

Being an extrovert who doesn't tend to feel socially anxious, and having been raised in church, I never noticed these issues until my wife and I got married and started looking for a church to call home together.


So to my question:
What would a Sunday School class for introverts look like?

How do we minimize and eventually eliminate the above peer pressures, which seem so ingrained in American mainline church practices, so that we can create an environment which does not alienate introverts and those who suffer from social anxiety (a specification I make because extroverts can suffer from it as well)?

The three sources of anxiety my wife listed seem to eliminate the entirety of every Sunday School class I've ever been in (group prayer, group Scripture reading, and group discussion), so it seems that an entirely new set of activities would be required, unless the peer pressure inherent in the three could be lessened.

I just don't see how it could be done, aside from the class leader doing the praying and the reading and making a lecture of it instead of a discussion.
But we already have that in the form of the pastor's sermon during the regular service.

So what do ya'll think?

Or is this problem intractable, and we should just recommend that introverted/socially anxious churchgoers avoid small-group meetings and stick to the main church service?

Ask Mr. Religion
October 19th, 2015, 11:52 PM
Your goal is regular attendance at church. Do that. Attend the worship service and hear the word of God preached and exposited.

The rest, "Sunday School", etc., is really quite incidental.

Over time, with regular attendance to worship, the other matters will sort themselves out, so do not unwittingly erect these peripheral things as a barrier to frequent assembly with a local vestige of Our Lord's Bride for worship.

AMR

Buzzword
October 20th, 2015, 12:01 AM
Your goal is regular attendance at church. Do that. Attend the worship service and hear the word of God preached and exposited.

The rest, "Sunday School", etc., is really quite incidental.

Over time, with regular attendance to worship, the other matters will sort themselves out, so do not unwittingly erect these peripheral things as a barrier to frequent assembly with a local vestige of Our Lord's Bride for worship.

AMR

This isn't a "peripheral".
Or "incidental".
We all need personal and spiritual engagement beyond sitting through corporate worship and being talked at for the duration of a sermon.

Small-group interaction is VITAL for the building of relationships within the church, and in helping one another grow spiritually by conveying a variety of personal and spiritual experiences.
Especially among those of us who have devoted significant time to educating ourselves on spiritual matters and need person-to-person interaction in addition to pulpit-to-congregation action.

As the pastor of the church we attended this past Sunday said:
"A congregation can make you feel welcome, but only a small group setting can engender the kind of trust that makes you feel like part of the family."

And if our small-group settings aren't engendering trust for introverts and the socially anxious, we are obligated to make changes.

glorydaz
October 20th, 2015, 12:12 AM
Your goal is regular attendance at church. Do that. Attend the worship service and hear the word of God preached and exposited.

The rest, "Sunday School", etc., is really quite incidental.

Over time, with regular attendance to worship, the other matters will sort themselves out, so do not unwittingly erect these peripheral things as a barrier to frequent assembly with a local vestige of Our Lord's Bride for worship.

AMR

I agree. I've been to a lot of Bible studies that do not put people in the position described...if they did, I wouldn't go back at all. I've never enjoyed public praying except among very close friends because people end up praying for the ears of the audience. they worry about what they'll say and how they'll sound. At least that's how it comes across way too often. There are usually plenty of people who read aloud quite well...not everyone can, so, of course aren't comfortable doing it. Let those who can do it. Not everyone should be jumping into every discussion, either. I'd stick to worship service if it was me...especially if my spouse was uncomfortable. Talk about dreading Sundays...that's not what anyone wants.

glorydaz
October 20th, 2015, 12:16 AM
This isn't a "peripheral".
Or "incidental".
We all need personal and spiritual engagement beyond sitting through corporate worship and being talked at for the duration of a sermon.

Small-group interaction is VITAL for the building of relationships within the church, and in helping one another grow spiritually by conveying a variety of personal and spiritual experiences.
Especially among those of us who have devoted significant time to educating ourselves on spiritual matters and need person-to-person interaction in addition to pulpit-to-congregation action.

As the pastor of the church we attended this past Sunday said:
"A congregation can make you feel welcome, but only a small group setting can engender the kind of trust that makes you feel like part of the family."

And if our small-group settings aren't engendering trust for introverts and the socially anxious, we are obligated to make changes.

Then why don't you really have a small group. Have a few families over to your house, and you lead or have another mature brother lead. Have a topic in mind and let everyone know what it is before hand....then everyone can share as they feel led. That is the best kind of Bible study you could ever have.

Ask Mr. Religion
October 20th, 2015, 01:16 AM
We all need personal and spiritual engagement beyond sitting through corporate worship and being talked at for the duration of a sermon.

I gently suggest you misunderstand what worshiping God on the Sabbath means if you have this notion.

20570

AMR

bybee
October 20th, 2015, 05:33 AM
As my wife and I have been trying to get back into regular church attendance, and have had vastly different experiences at the same churches, I've become more aware of just how anti-introvert/anti-social anxiety the typical Sunday School class is.

Especially for anyone not raised in church.

The pressure to pray aloud usually means the prayer will be the most forced and rushed affair ever.

The pressure to read Scripture aloud tends to lead to completely ignoring the meaning of the text in an effort to get out of the spotlight as quickly as possible.

And then there's the pressure to take part in the class discussion.
A discussion which, depending upon the individuals in the class, can go into spiritual deep water (meaning, tons of theological jargon and assumption that everyone is deeply familiar with the minutiae of Scripture) within seconds.
And which requires that each person interrupt someone else just to contribute.

All of these contribute to an environment which leaves introverts and/or the socially anxious huddled in the corner waiting for the ordeal to end so they can vanish into the crowd for the main church service......at least until "Pass the Peace," in which tons of strangers invade their personal space again and again and make them want to run screaming from the room, but that's for another discussion.


The above are all impressions and experiences conveyed to me over the years by my wife, who is very much an introvert, and generally suffers from a large degree of social anxiety in everyday situations, which is ramped up in church services, in large part due to the above and due to her not attending church regularly until adulthood.

Being an extrovert who doesn't tend to feel socially anxious, and having been raised in church, I never noticed these issues until my wife and I got married and started looking for a church to call home together.


So to my question:
What would a Sunday School class for introverts look like?

How do we minimize and eventually eliminate the above peer pressures, which seem so ingrained in American mainline church practices, so that we can create an environment which does not alienate introverts and those who suffer from social anxiety (a specification I make because extroverts can suffer from it as well)?

The three sources of anxiety my wife listed seem to eliminate the entirety of every Sunday School class I've ever been in (group prayer, group Scripture reading, and group discussion), so it seems that an entirely new set of activities would be required, unless the peer pressure inherent in the three could be lessened.

I just don't see how it could be done, aside from the class leader doing the praying and the reading and making a lecture of it instead of a discussion.
But we already have that in the form of the pastor's sermon during the regular service.

So what do ya'll think?

Or is this problem intractable, and we should just recommend that introverted/socially anxious churchgoers avoid small-group meetings and stick to the main church service?

Apparently the Quakers sit in silence until one is moved to speak?
The Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has a rather traditional way of conducting Sunday School with lesson plans, and of course prayer but no one is forced to participate outside his/her comfort level.
It is assumed that the participant is there to learn and lend his/her voice to corporate prayer and worship?
Blessings to your wife. Church may be such a comforting place to be.

PureX
October 20th, 2015, 08:06 AM
All I can offer is my own minimal experience with these groups.

For a long time, in Chicago, I attended a Bible discussion group, and I found it to be an excellent experience. And this is coming from someone who is not generally disposed to group religious … anything.

The reason the experience was positive was that it was a small group, 4 - 6 of us each week, it was run by the pastor but NOT controlled by him. Meaning that he was not teaching his own views and interpretation, or deciding for the group what to read and discuss. He was allowing us to read and then discuss our interpretations, and then talk about how the material related to our lives, if at all. Differences of opinion were welcomed and expected, and ultimately respected. The goal was to share each other's understanding and experience, not to 'teach and learn'. And that was the key, for me. And I think for the others, too. No one lorded over the group, and no one pushed anyone else to agree with them. We just shared each other's thoughts, and experiences, and then moved on to the next reading.

So for me the keys were: small group, no "teacher", no necessary consensus sought or necessary. The goal was understanding the material for ourselves, and then sharing that with the others.

Since it would be very difficult to just stumble on this scenario in a church nearby you, perhaps you could initiate it in a church that you otherwise like attending. The pastor doesn't really even have to be there. Just set the basic ground rules and jump in.