When I was accepted to LTN, I was worried about two things: fundraising and community outreach. Given the name Love Thy Neighborhood, reaching out to our neighbors is a huge part of the program. As an introvert, it can be really difficult for me to go meet other people. Spending more than 10 hours a week actively pursuing conversation with new people sounded exhausting. However, I learned quickly there are four steps to pursuing and supporting community that work well with introverted personalities, whether you serve with LTN or you want to be more active in your home community.
Be present and available
The first thing you have to do to be successful in community outreach is to be present. It’s very easy as an introvert to say “I’ll go for an hour” and then spend that entire hour counting down to when you can start saying goodbye. If you’re spending all of your time thinking about leaving, you’re not available to make genuine connections with the people around you.
It can be helpful to remind yourself you only have a two hour commitment, but don’t obsess over it. Be intentional in paying attention to people and your outreach will be much more satisfying.
Connect with your church
The church is a great place to start looking for community outreach opportunities. Churches often have a list of different ways to serve. There are many community groups that need babysitters so that they can fellowship and study uninterrupted. Babysitting is always deeply appreciated by the parents, it’s usually not as mentally taxing for introverts, and the kids are cute. Often, churches will have a great need for volunteers at their conferences–there is no shortage of attendees, but there is always a shortage of people willing to serve (you can also get free or reduced admission to conferences by serving, which is great if you’re interested in the subject they’re covering).
Make your outreach consistent
When I served with LTN, I was very aware that my introversion would negatively impact my ministry if I didn’t plan my outreach. By scheduling my outreach, I was able to remove the pressure of figuring out my evening. Additionally, by partnering with community groups and organizations, I made commitments that I could only break if I was sick because others were counting on me. It was a way for me to be held accountable to my outreach because I could be more inclined to push off outreach if I didn’t have a commitment. Planning consistent outreach allowed me to experience a variety of communities in Louisville while still deepening key relationships.
During LTN, I had three days of scheduled outreach but it may be more reasonable for you to schedule one or two days of outreach depending on your other commitments. As long as you are intentional, the consistency of your outreach will benefit both you and those you serve as much as three or more days would.
Take time for yourself
None of these steps will help, however, if you aren’t taking time for yourself. God rested on the seventh day, and we need to rest as well. Scheduling rest was just as important to my ministry as scheduling service. LTN gives team members every Monday off, and I used those days to limit my social stimulation and time with my housemates. Not because I didn’t want to be around them, but because it was so important for me to be alone and turn off in order to recharge as an introvert. Use Sabbath and personal time as personal time so that you can give your best to others when you’re “on.” You’ll also enjoy your outreach much more if you’re rested and energized.
As worried as I was about community outreach at the beginning of the program, it ended up being one of my favorite things about my time in Louisville and certainly something I want to continue at home. I know I wouldn’t have done as much or be as satisfied with my service if I hadn’t taken these five steps to maximize my rest and impact in community outreach.
Brittany Baumli is from Kansas City, KS. and made an impact by serving with Nonprofit Leadership track during the summer of 2017. She currently attends the University of Kansas where she is studying English.