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Introversion and Extraversion Among Churchgoers.


The purpose of this paper is to explore and discuss the opposite polarities of introversion and extraversion among churchgoers and the influence of these two different personality types within the church. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung originally introduced the terms introvert and extravert and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers & McCaulley, 1985), and others, further developed Jung's psychological type theory.

There are four different personality dichotomies to explain personality differences: extraversion versus introversion, sensing versus intuition, thinking versus feeling, and judging versus perceiving. The extraversion/introversion dichotomy is concerned with how individuals obtain their energy: extraverts prefer to draw energy from the outer world of people and things, and introverts prefer to draw energy from the inner world of ideas. Sensing/intuition is concerned with how people perceive the world: sensors prefer to focus on details and on present realities, and intuitive individuals prefer to focus on future possibilities. Thinking/feeling is concerned with how individuals reach their judgments: thinkers prefer to rely on objective logic, and feelers prefer to rely on their subjective appreciation of personal and interpersonal factors. Judging/perceiving is concerned with how individuals approach life on a daily basis: judgers prefer an organized and planned approach, and perceivers prefer a more spontaneous and flexible approach (Baker, 2015). This research project will focus on the category of introversion and extraversion within the church.

Although Jung was concerned with both religious and individual differences, he did not apply his psychological type theory to religious orientation (Ross, 2012). In exploring the psychological type theory in relationship to introversion and extraversion within the church, we can determine whether there are connections between personality and church attendance and can look at the comfort and discomfort of different personality types within the church (Francis & Crea, 2016). Francis and Crea (2016) discussed the effects of churches shaped by introverts and extraverts:
According to psychological type theory, a church shaped by extraverts
would give greater emphasis to social activities than a church shaped
by introverts, while a church shaped by introverts would give greater
opportunities for quiet and reflection, than a church shaped by
extraverts. (p. 2)

Churches have employed Jungian psychological type theory to gain an understanding of how individuals differ in what they find important in scriptures and church and to aid in spiritual growth (Lewis, 1998). Worship and church attendance play an important part in many individuals' spiritual journeys, but people may demonstrate a preference for how they worship that reflects their personality type (Hall, 2012). Churches that become educated on the different personality types within their congregation are better able to understand the different gifts and challenges that members bring to the church (Velander, 2002).

What is "Church"?

According to Joset (2016), " It is critically important--especially in a worldwide, multicultural situation such as the Church faces today--to be clear that the essence of the Church is people, not organization; that it is a community, not an institution" (p. 5).

If the true meaning of church is going to be realized by churchgoers and non-churchgoers, it is important that we not visualize the structure or building where people gather to worship, but we look at the church as a religious or spiritual community. Often when people state that they are going to church, or when we ask, "What church do you go to?" we envision a building, a structure, and a place where people assemble to fellowship.

The Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California, was one of America's largest and most celebrated ecclesiastical buildings. The 60,000-square-foot structure was built in 1980 at a cost of over $18 million and was led by Evangelist Robert H. Schuller. Before becoming the leader of one of the country's most influential ministries, Schuller delivered sermons atop the rooftop of a snack bar at a drive-in theatre. At one time, the Crystal Cathedral housed a multimillion dollar production staged extravaganza each year, with a cast of professional actors, live animals, and bright lights. In 2013, the Crystal Cathedral--the megachurch, the multimillion dollar structure--closed its doors. What was supposed to be a church for people had become a moneymaking enterprise (Hinch, 2014). Schuller's ministry had ceased being a ministry to people and a church where people were part of a community; it had become a ministry transformed into a moneymaking enterprise. McHugh (2017) mentioned in his writings how the megachurches, such as the Crystal Cathedral, have stripped the sanctuaries and worship services of sacredness in hopes of creating a comfortable environment for the congregation to sit through fast-moving high-production events. He stated, "High-production events may entertain us and their avid employment of modern technology may dazzle us, but many times they cannot help us hear the still, small voice of God" (p. 27). Hinch (2014) gave an example of a different kind of church environment:
These days, young Christians in Orange County attend very different
kinds of churches, some unrecognizable as churches at all. Laundry
Love, a ministry in Santa Ana, is an ad hoc community of young
Christians who gather monthly at various inner-city, coin-operated
laundries and wash patrons' clothes for free. (p.27)

McBrien (1998), in examining some of the problems associated with the Catholic church, addressed how Catholics were indoctrinated to believe that "The church was something to which we belonged, from which we received spiritual benefits, and to which we were always to be loyal and obedient" (p. 14). He stated that the church identified hierarchy and that the people did not see themselves as the church; that nine times out of ten, when a Catholic mentioned church, they were referring to the hierarchy of the church. The author concluded that "The whole people of God, not just the hierarchy, are the church" (McBrien, 1998, p. 14).

Understanding Introverted/Extraverted Churchgoers Who Stay and Those Who Leave

The Journal of Spirituality (2011) told a humorous story about a churchgoer who explained why he did not attend church regularly:
Do you go to church? A friend was in front of me coming out of church
one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to
shake hands. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. The
pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!" My friend
replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor." The pastor
questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?"
He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service." (p. 1)

In Newport (2007), a survey discovered that people attended church for a variety of reasons: to worship God, for spiritual growth, to socialize, to make business contacts, to develop friendships, and to maintain status in their community. Some people who grew up having to attend church on a regular basis continued the tradition, although many of them decreased the frequency of attendance. Recent studies have shown that a person's environment--mainly how his or her family approaches religion, especially during childhood to adolescence--plays a significant role in his or her approach to religion. However, the early environment becomes less significant, and genetic influences become greater between the ages of 18 and 25 (Saroglou, 2012).

A study from the University of Iowa found that there is a difference in the brains of extraverts and introverts:
Party animals and wallflowers hoping to change their social personas
may have no say in the matter. A new study shows that introverts and
extroverts show activity in different brain structures, which mirror
the wildly opposing aspects of their personalities. Debra Johnson,
Ph.D., and John S. Wiebe, Ph.D., used positron emission tomography
(PET) to measure cerebral blood flow--an indicator of brain
activity--in individuals rated on a personality test as shy or

Johnson, a research scientist at the University of Iowa, and Wiebe, an
assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas, asked
both types to think freely while undergoing PET scans. The images they
obtained clearly separated the quiet thinkers from the social
butterflies. Introverts showed increased blood flow in the frontal
lobes, the anterior thalamus and other structures associated with
recalling events, making plans and problem solving.

Extroverts, on the other hand, displayed more activity in the posterior
thalamus and posterior insula, regions involved in interpreting sensory
data. These results highlight what the researchers consider the main
difference between introverts and extroverts: inward and outward focus.
Reticent people are more introspective, attentive to internal thoughts,
while wilder beings are driven by sights and sounds--they crave sensory
stimulation. (Gallagher, 1999, p. 18)

McHugh (2017) also discussed the difference in the brains of introverts and extraverts. The brains of introverts look calm on the surface, but they are bubbling with activity. The brain of an introvert requires less external stimulation than the brain of an extravert. Therefore, too much external stimulation can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. This awareness could help us understand why an introverted person in an extraverted church would probably eventually leave. In contrast, the brain of an extravert requires more dopamine, a central neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system that is produced when a person is active and in motion. That is one reason extraverts feel better when they have places to go and people to see. McHugh (2017) discussed the importance of dopamine in the brain of an extravert:
Dopamine takes a short path through the brain and, in stressful
situations, produces an "act and react" response. It can be credited
for extroverts' ability to think and speak quickly and to thrive under
pressure. It also helps them access their short-term memory rapidly, so
their data-processing circuit is shorter and faster, (pp. 44-45)

The brains of introverts require less dopamine, and therefore too much dopamine can cause anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. The brains of introverts rely more on acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system that conserves and restores the introverted brain and produces a pleasurable sensation in introverts when they are thinking and reflecting. Because this chemical is produced more slowly in the brains of introverts, it causes them to present with a posture of calmness and to move more slowly than extraverts; this may be one of the reasons introverts may be less expressive with their bodies (McHugh, 2017).

Therefore, if we take a closer look at the difference in the chemical makeup of the brains of introverts and extraverts, we can gain a better understanding of why someone would have difficulty remaining in a church in which the energy was of the opposite psychological type. Introverts who may have been required to go to an extraverted church in their youth may make the decision as an adult to attend a different type of church or to not go at all. The same is true of extraverts who may have been required to go to an introverted church; they may now find an extraverted church, or they may decide not to attend a traditional church.

Baker (2015) discussed the idea of people leaving organized churches and stated that researchers have been trying to understand for decades the reasons behind church leaving and apostasy. He discussed the explanations from prior research, which included rebellion against parents and traditional values, intellectualism, and a low emphasis on religion in the home during childhood. "More recently, however, it has been suggested that innate personality differences might also play a role and that psychological type theory in particular might prove to be a useful model when it comes to understanding why people end up leaving church while others do not" (p. 622). Baker's findings (2015) supported the hypothesis that psychological type plays a role in church leaving.

Francis & Robbins (2012) discussed the decline in church attendance in their empirical research project on church satisfaction among Anglican churchgoers in England. Here they explored the connection between church satisfaction and psychological types. Their hypothesis in relationship to introversion and extraversion orientations was that congregational satisfaction would be higher among introverts than for extraverts.
In psychological type theory, the two orientations are concerned with
contrasting energy sources and distinguish between introversion (I) and
extraversion (E). Introverts are energized by the inner world. When
tired they prefer to go inwards to regain energy. Extraverts are
energized by the outer world. When tired they prefer to congregate with
other people to regain energy. Introverts enjoy their own company and
appreciate silence. Extraverts enjoy the company of others and prefer
to engage in conversation. A congregation shaped by introverts may seem
somewhat strange to extraverts, while a congregation shaped by
extraverts may seem somewhat strange to introverts, (p. 1025)

Their assumption was that low levels of congregational satisfaction would result in individuals disengaging from the church. The results of their study indicated that introversion was the highest percentage of churchgoers for Anglican churchgoers in England.
Preference for introversion characterizes a community in which
participants are energized by their inner world rather than by their
outer world. Introverts are people who will value the contemplative,
quiet and solitary aspects of public worship more than the active,
participatory and community aspects of church life. A community shaped
by a preference for introversion may, however, feel somewhat alien to
individuals who view the world through the lens of extraversion. For
this reason extraverts may find it more difficult to access their local
churches and, having done so, may sense that they are not really
fitting in, and not properly belonging. (Francis & Robbins, 2012, p.

Francis & Robbins (2012) remarked that church congregations have created psychological type-like communities in their churches. So, individuals who display the opposite type preference feel disregarded, or feel that they do not fit in, and will display a higher level of dissatisfaction. The not fitting in feelings would result in individuals leaving the church.
Taken together these data support the overall conclusion that
psychological type theory is capable of explaining (at least in part)
the experience reported by some churchgoers that their motivation for
congregational disengagement was associated with the feeling of "not
fitting in" and the consequent response of "getting out." (p. 1034)

Hill (2009) did not address church dissatisfaction in terms of the psychological type theory, but remarks that some of his congregants presented were completely opposite in regards to their satisfaction. He commented how puzzling it was that people in the same church could have such opposite experiences. He shared the following experiences from individuals who attended the church he pastored, and his amazement that all of these things were said about the same church:

* The church is not friendly [versus] They reached out to me.

* The worship is irrelevant and mechanical [versus] The worship is transformational

* I have grown so much here [versus] I am not fed here

* A church that preaches the word of God [versus] You just don't preach the word here

* This church is run by an insider group [versus] 1 really appreciate the open, transparent process, (p. 26)

The theme of dissatisfaction among churchgoers is present in both Francis & Robbins (2012) and Hill (2009). Hill (2009) suggests that people find churches that fit their personality, which challenges them, that embraces them unconditionally, and that speaks truth in a loving way.

Francis, Robbins, and Murray (2010) found that there is also an interrelationship between psychological type and religious orientation. The intention of that research project was to explore the connections between the religious orientations and the application of Jungian psychological type theory to examine individual differences in religiosity. The data confirmed that there is a "significant link between preferences for introversion and extraversion and levels of intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity. According to the data, introverts record higher scores on intrinsic religiosity, while extraverts record higher scores on extrinsic religiosity. In other words, introverts and extraverts may tend to go to church for somewhat different reasons" (pp. 826-827). The connection of introverts to intrinsic religiosity, which refers to internal motivation for being religious, such as a belief in God, inner peace, happiness, and the connection to the divine, are all characteristics that are consistent with introversion. The connection of extraverts to extrinsic religiosity, which refers to external motivation for being religious, such as meeting people, community conformity, family pressure, and heritage, are all characteristics that are consistent with extraversion (Emerging from ashes, 2007).

Embracing Introversion and Extroversion Within the Church

Smith (2013) proposed the question, "How do introverts and extraverts live together as the church in ways that are meaningful and appropriate to their personalities?" The people are acknowledged as being "the church" in this question. In addressing this question, the author recognized that we live in a diverse society, with different races and ethnic groups, and with various ages, genders, and opinions, and that it is important for church leaders to acknowledge that their congregations contain people with various ways of perceiving, due to their different personality types. In exploring the answer to Smith's question, we can look at the diversities mentioned above in our society and the idea that there are opposites (men and women, Blacks and Whites, young and old, etc.) who come together every day to socialize, work, worship, play, dine, study, and do much more in our society. At a young age, boys and girls learn to play together, and even though racism still exists in the United States, we have made great strides in bringing ethnic groups together. If we look at the segregation that has taken place within churches, and equate those ethnic segregation differences to the differences of the personality type differences of introverts and extraverts coming together, then we can see how transcendence can take place within our churches for different personality types. Marti (2010) addresses how religious racial integration can be redefined by the shared identities being able to focus on idealized religious commitments. He stated that:
And even within Protestant multiracial churches when different ethno
racial groups exist in an uncomfortable alliance (Garces-Foley, 2007),
these congregations utilize distinctively religious resources to
overcome racial obstacles and nurture religious identities to foster
long-term, cross-ethnic relationships. Marti (2005, 2008, 2009)
presents a process of "ethnic transcendence" that describes how the
religious culture of Protestant congregations can foster integration.
In this strain of scholarship all ethno racial groups--including
African Americans--are able to overcome their racial particularities by
taking on a religiously based "master status" as a base of solidarity.
In short, sociologists of religion are bringing new insights and new
debates to the growing phenomenon of racially diverse congregations,
(pp. 201-202)

Therefore, in using the terminology and ideas expressed in Marti (2010), we can state that, by using resources to overcome the obstacles and by church leaders and congregants nurturing the different personality types, long-term cross-personality type relationships within the church can become more cohesive. In other words, the principles we use in our everyday lives to coexist in harmony are the same principles that must be used to bring about harmony in churches so that introverted and extraverted personalities can come together to worship and enjoy fellowship without great exoduses taking place. Even though research has shown that the innate personality differences of introversion and extraversion may be hardwired in our brains, we still have the ability to explore, discover, and develop the non-dominant side of our personality type. So, if your dominant characteristic is introversion, your non-dominant side is extraversion. If your dominant characteristic is extraversion, your non-dominant characteristic is introversion. If churches are going to grow and make changes so that people of different personality types will feel welcomed and accepted, it is imperative that those changes start with each person, regardless of race, gender, age, or personality type (extravert or introvert). We need to learn to integrate and embrace our opposites: the characteristics of an introvert that the extravert admires, but is not able to access without frustration, and the characteristics of the extravert that the introvert admires, but is not able to access without anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. These are our opposites.

The purpose of the integration and embrace is not to make the non-dominant characteristic the dominant characteristic, but rather to get to know that side of ourselves. It is like acquiring a new friend. We do not become that person, but we are able to be with that person. Therefore, if church leaders and congregants are able to continue to function in their dominant personality type and become friends with the non-dominant part of their personality, they will be able to develop cohesiveness and unification within the church.

Integrating and Embracing Opposites

Zyl (2007) discussed embracing opposites by using Jung's transcendent function method of creating a dialogue between "opposing poles, to allow a new position or perspective to emerge that is neither a combination of nor a rejection of the two" (p. 5). He also discussed opposites:
The shuttling to and fro of arguments and affects represents the
transcendent function of opposites. The confrontation of the two
positions generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living,
third thing... that leads to a new level of being, a new situation. The
transcendent function manifests itself as a quality of conjoined
opposites. (p. 5)

Zyl (2007) also suggested using the attitude of mindfulness in embracing the opposite, by using these therapeutic guidelines: (a) experience the symptom, mindfully; (b) immerse into the pain; (c) constellate the polarities consciously; (d) allow the new perspective to emerge; and (e) apply the insights and experience to daily life. In working with the introversion and extraversion opposites, and using the therapeutic list above, the embracing of the opposite polarities of introversion and extraversion may present as follows:

A. Mindfully experiencing the symptom: Individuals close their eyes and visualize how it would feel to operate with the opposite energy. What feelings or emotions would come up for an introvert visualizing being in a crowd of people talking and being engaged in activities? Perhaps it would be anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed; whatever emotion comes up, allow them to intensify. "Hidden within every wound we always find a particular blessing... whatever seems impossible in our lives--if we go toward it, see it, feel it, make a relationship with it--becomes our path" (Zyl, 2007, p. 6).

B. Immerse into the pain: For a highly extraverted person, the pain could be the experience of sitting back in a crowd of people and just relaxing in a corner, not talking to anyone but being aware of all the excitement and activities taking place. Or, perhaps, just being home alone, with no means of communicating with anyone: no television, radio, or technological devices. Imagine the feeling of boredom settling in and getting stronger and stronger. Or, perhaps, having to participate in a program at a church that operated in all the characteristics of introversion, and having to be there for hours. "Sink into and engage with the discomfort, negative affect or mood as Jung said, 'without reserve'" (p. 7).

C. Constellate the polarities consciously: At this step, "One is continually facing the conflict of opposites in an effort to transcend them." "A polarity map or constellation is created with the two painful extremes and the harmonious 'middle way' polarity" (p. 10).

D. Allow the new perspective to emerge: Here the client is assisted with entering any side of the polarity with continued engaged mindfulness and embracing the extremes with openness. "Of course, the ultimate conjunction remains the merging of the personal identity with the supra-personal, the union of the whole man with the 'one world'" (p. 16).

E. Apply the insights and experience to daily life: "Jung continues by saying that transformation is only a notable advance... if the centre experience proves to be a spiritus rector of daily life... for self-knowledge has certain ethical consequences which are not just impassively recognized but demand to be carried out in practice" (p. 16).

Churches can start by becoming aware that there are different personality types within the church. Velander (2002) brought the awareness to church leaders by introducing them to the idea of the importance of being familiar with personality types within the church. In a group retreat church leaders participated in activities that heightened their awareness of personality types. They also were encouraged to become aware of the various personality types among the leaders and the church congregants, and they discussed plans for continuing to develop the groundwork on working with the different personality types within the group, and the church.

Self-awareness and corporate awareness within the church can lead to exploration of transcendence of the opposite personality types. Church congregations can also create a welcoming environment for those who are of the opposite personality type than the church majority. Church leaders also need to become proactive in order to bring balance, openness, inclusiveness, and to assure that the church is operating with a spirit of kindness towards personality types that may present themselves as different than the majority population of the church (Village, Baker & Howst, 2012). The value of exploring, embracing, and empowering the opposite personality typology is that a degree of confidence and power develops that not only carries over into our personal lives, but also becomes a part of the church environment and the community.

Diamond (2012) discusses the on-going process of becoming balanced, which requires introverted personality types to develop and integrate their inferior function, their extraversion; for extraverted types to cultivate their capacity for introversion. Below, he elaborates on the benefit of meditation to bring about balance:
Jung's notion of individuation--the ongoing process of becoming more
whole or balanced--requires introverted types to develop and integrate
what he called their "inferior function," their extraversion. And for
extraverted types to cultivate their capacity for introversion. So this
is why extraverts need to meditate. Once an extraverted type recognizes
the imbalance between introversion and extraversion in his or her life,
they are more receptive to try meditation. And many learn to love it as
a welcome counterbalance in their constant whirlwind of extraverted
activities. Finding balance is the key. For both types, however, this
is exceedingly difficult work. What comes naturally to the extravert,
requires enormous effort for the introvert. And vice-versa. But
individuation cannot be accomplished by denying one's innate typology
and trying to replace it with the opposite. Though, as often happens in
the process, the pendulum may swing from one extreme to the other
before finding balance. The introverted type must learn to extravert,
honing his or her extraverted skills, but always essentially remains an
introvert. Just as extraverted types must learn to introvert, but will
forever fundamentally be extraverts. Balance is the secret. Balance and
acceptance. As with much of psychotherapy, it's all about accepting
oneself and restoring one's soul. And recognizing that refusing to
respect and honor our innate typology--and that of others--is
ultimately self-defeating and destructive, (para.12)

Diamond's statement (2012) regarding our refusal to respect and honor not only our own innate typology, but the typologies of others, is a very worthy statement for church leaders, churchgoers and non-churchgoers to recognize, as this dishonoring has created destruction in our lives inside and outside of the church.

The Benefit to Churches when Extraverted and Introverted Typologies Are Balanced

Meditation must also be examined here from a Christian perspective, since the use of meditation has been discussed as a tool in balancing introversion and extroversion psychological personality types. Neimeyer (2010) wrote extensively on the importance of Christians meditating by discussing the works of Thomas Watson, who was a Puritan author and pastor, born in 1620 and who passed in 1686. The author speaks of the vitality of Watson's spiritual life and about his belief of how meditation produced delight in the believer's life. "Not only did Thomas Watson think the practice an important one to revive, but his writings even suggest that he saw meditation as the most important aspect of private Christian devotion" (p. 167).
Meditation is so excellent, he argued, because it breathes life into
the believer's faith. It is a duty "wherein the life and power of
godliness doth consist," a duty "wherein consist the essentials of
Religion, and which nourisheth the very life blood of it. He also
called it "the greatest work in the world" and "the best way for a man
to prosper in his estate." (p. 174)

Neimeyer (2010) clarified that Watson did not think meditation alone was better than prayer, but that he believed that meditation together with prayer was better than prayer alone. The author also quotes from Joel Beeke, another Puritan author who wrote on the subject of meditation in 2004, and who supported Watson's views on meditation:
Meditation was a daily duty that enhanced every other duty of the
Puritan's Christian life. As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation
facilitates the diligent use of means of grace..., deepens the means of
grace..., and strengthens one's relationships to others." (p. 175)

The benefit and power of meditation in the lives of Christians was clearly recognized by Thomas Watson over two and a half centuries ago. I propose that if churches were to establish meditation as a form of church doctrine, and that if church leaders and congregants practiced it daily, that the church would prosper, that the means of grace would be deepened, that relationships would be strengthened, and that there would be cohesiveness among introversion and extraversion personality types within the church. The ultimate result would mean a higher degree of church satisfaction for churchgoers.


Worshipping and attending church can be an important aspect of our spiritual growth. Recognizing and implementing, within that structure, aspects that can be valued by the psychological personality type of introversion and extraversion is beneficial if unity is going to take place in churches. When church leaders and congregants become educated on the introversion/extraversion structure of personality types within their churches, then activities and actions can be introduced where opposing personality types can integrate, embrace, and transcend for the betterment of the church. If this does not happen, individuals may go away feeling spiritually empty, unaccepted, detached, or they may permanently leave the church and find more fulfilling forms of worship practices.

Most of the current research discussed in this paper focused on personality typologies within the church, and concluded that different personality types go to church for different reasons, and that different personality types were more inclined to be dissatisfied, especially if the church majority was of a different personality type, i.e., extraversion vs. introversion. I suggest future research include the exploration of personality types in various church denominations, and how they differ from each denomination and future research for empirical longitudinal exploration on the difference in churches before and after inferior functions of church leaders and congregants have been balanced.


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Mini Myers Card, MS, LPC

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Publication:Journal of Heart Centered Therapies
Date:Sep 22, 2017
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