Doing Bible Study groups in the churches I pastor is an intense experience for me–and from what I hear from the participants, it can be quite intense for some of them Since I am the named teacher of the study, I carry a lot of responsibility during the study time. I try to keep things on some track, enough so that everyone feels they are involved and that any side tracks we take aren’t simply the desires of any one person.
I spend a lot of energy listening to and observing the members. Because I am their pastor, I am not only trying to pick up on how well they are following and understanding the study, but also, I am listening and watching for indications of stuff outside the study: the normally verbal individual who is silent may be wrestling with the point under discussion or they may be getting the flu or they may be dealing with the cancer diagnosis they received yesterday that they haven’t told anyone about yet.
While all this is going on at some level, I am also processing the study: reviewing old material, asking and answering questions, seeking and receiving comments and ideas from the group, directing traffic a bit to keep everyone from talking at once, remembering the order of who speaks after the current speaker, laughing at the jokes, gently encouraging the silent to speak more and the verbal to speak less. And occasionally, during lulls in the questions and comments, I get to insert some new material for the group to chew on.
Bible study is a busy, interactive and often fast paced process on both my pastoral settings, one in which we all learn and all teach. But I am the teacher, facilitator, leader or whatever you want to call the person who gets paid to be there and participate. I am also, as I have mentioned here a few times, an introvert.
And that means that I love Bible Study, I seek and encourage the high level of participation, I enjoy the time. But when Bible study is over and I have finished with the last of the private conversations that follow Bible study, I am wiped out.
A few years ago, our two sons and I spend a week on a wilderness hike that involved me carrying a 25+ kilo pack 12-20 kilometers a day. I was tired at the end of each hiking day–but I don’t recall being as tired after those days as I am after one Bible study session. When possible, Bible study is followed by a short nap–and when it isn’t, it is followed by incessant yawning and wishing I had time for a nap.
One of the things I have learned about myself is that I have two conflicting realities within me. I am a pastor/teacher, which drives me to interact with people on a deep level. I want to help, to instruct, to enable, to encourage people as they grow in faith. I am both driven and attracted to opportunities to teach and pastor. But I am also an introvert. I prefer my computer or a book or a solitary walk. I don’t actually mind being by myself–when I talk about getting away from it all, I am normally thinking of getting away from people or at least people I need to pastor/teach.
I am probably not alone in this–many pastors and professional helpers I know are introverts so there are a great many of us living with these conflicting drives. I don’t think that I have any earth-shaking insights about how to deal with them. But I have learned that I need to accept both of them as real and deal with them in a practical, pragmatic way that keeps them in a proper balance.
I am a pastor/teacher so I am going to have to interact with people on a deep basis–they don’t pay me to sit at home and be alone. I am an introvert who gets tired as a result of the interaction. So, I care for both sides. When I am with people, they are getting the very best I can give during that time–and when I finish interacting with people, I take the time I need to rest and restore myself. All through the process, I am looking to God for strength, leading and acceptance, which he graciously gives to me.
May the peace of God be with you.