Silent Women

14 comments Written on April 7th, 2015     
Filed under: Resources, Testimonies and Stories
Nilwona Nowlin currently serves as the Administrative Specialist for Governance for the ECC and is an active member of the Christian Community Development Association. In her “spare time,” Nilwona teaches workshops about living successfully as an introvert. She also randomly blogs about random things at thedreamerspeaksNilwona is a member of the launch team for Kingdom Covenant Church (Chicago).

Nilwona Nowlin photo2The concept of intersectionality, popularized in the 90s by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, is the theory of how different types of discrimination interact. For example, as a black woman, I’ve experienced discrimination based on my ethnicity or gender. Intersectionality addresses the discrimination I also face based on the unique combination of my ethnicity and gender. In a nutshell, it explores the variety of ways in which people/groups can be “othered.” When discussing privilege and power, we – in society and the church – often look at such categories as ethnicity, gender, class, physical abilities, religion, age, etc. These categories create an endless combination of subcategories that can be explored through the lens of intersectionality, but I want to share with you a bit of my experience with an often overlooked area.

Approximately  just over one half of the United States population is made up of introverts, those individuals who generally lean more toward: being energized through time alone, processing internally and preferring a few deep relationships to a lot of surface level relationships. Though the majority of our population consists of introverts, we function as an extraverted society – in business, education and even the church. How does this discussion fit into a forum for advocates of biblical gender equality? Intersection.

It’s hard enough to be an introvert in ministry; but when you add the fact that I am also a woman of color, sometimes I’m amazed that I even bother trying! Introverts often struggle with the tension of being internal processers in a society where we teach that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. As a woman of color, I already face the obstacle of people’s assumptions that I am not qualified to be at the table. So then, for example, I know that if I am silent during a meeting or class (because I’m processing), I risk being written off as not having anything of value to contribute – because I am a woman of color.

Over the past two years, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking on this topic (ironic, I know). Most often, the majority of my workshop participants are people of color and women (including women of color) who identify as introverts. Most of these participants have been made to feel (by society and the church) that their introvert-ness is a problem that needs to be fixed. As a woman of color who is also an introvert, it’s hard to discern whether I’ve been marginalized in ministry because I’m a woman, because I’m black or because I’m an introvert. But, as intersectionality has taught me, it’s more likely a combination of all three – because these parts of me are so tightly woven together and can’t be unraveled.

Yes, I just made this conversation even more complicated. But my hope is that we are committed enough to this cause to be willing to explore the waters of intersectionality and how it impacts women in ministry. If you’d like to learn more about introverts in particular, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” and Adam McHugh’s “Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.”


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    14 comments “Silent Women”

    Thank you. As an introverted woman pastor, I wish I could come to a workshop. Complexity is part of the reason some problems persist. We really don’t know how to be more accepting and welcoming of various gifts.


    Thanks for reading and responding! It’s such a new/foreign concept. I feel so strongly about this that during my NPTS end of studies interview last year, I raised the introvert/extrovert dynamic as a diversity issue that we need to be more proactive about within the church. I’m leading a focus group during the CHIC base camp, and I’m particularly excited to introduce the conversation to a younger group – in hopes that they can help us move in a healthier direction.

    There is a possibility of some future workshops; I’ll be sure to post them on my blog (listed in my bio at the top of this post).

    Blessings to you as you continue persevere and serve through the unique way that God has gifted you!


    Oh my!! Such profound thoughts…as an introverted African-American preaching pastor I resonate with these truths….Thank you for sharing 😉

    Thanks for reading, Ramelia! I’m glad that you connected with this. Keep doing what you do! 🙂

    Hi Nilwona – Although I am not an introvert, I do encourage a conversation about intersectionality. Women, young and old, pastors and leaders, racially diverse, extroverts and introverts have named this reality – not really knowing how to identify which part of yourself is really being projected as the problem for others. I will pray for you as your prepare your workshop. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. 

    Yes and amen! When I first discovered what intersectionality was, it was like a big light bulb went off. It’s amazing how one little word can explain so much! Thank you for your prayers!

    Hello Nilwona,

    I feel it is very important that we all understand our identity. Your discussion on intersectionality was very enlighten and should be included as we search for an understanding of who we are as individuals created by God. The more we understand ourselves places us in position to seek God’s understanding so that we can be content with who we are and our purpose.

    Lynette, thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I have had some friends from different backgrounds share how this has really helped them name some stuff in their lives as well as better understand themselves. That makes me SO happy because one of my biggest passions is helping people discover their purpose (which includes learning more about how God fashioned them) and fulfill it.

    So much wisdom here! I am convinced that anytime we increase the voice of those not heard or silenced by others – God’s kingdom grows! Speak woman!  🙂 Grateful for you and your voice. 

    Thank you so much, Liz! I’m so grateful for avenues to share my story through writing because it’s such a wonderful medium for me as an introvert. I actually have time to think through what I want to say. 🙂

    Nilwona, girl, you nailed it. I’m always fighting for my right to be an introvert. As a pastor’s wife, I’m challenged to perform as a extrovert. I can, but then, I have to go into hibernation for a while. 🙂 I totally understand about being in meetings and felt I have to respond before I’ve fully processed all the information. Each time, I regretted it or have to come back and add to my first thought. I’m signing with relief that I’m not alone. Thanks for writing this.

    Kim, YES! While self-care is important for everyone, I think that it’s especially important for introverts. It’s much easier to function in those extrovert spaces when I’ve had ample time to prepare/energize myself by vegging out or curling up with a good book. I’m so glad that you have the opportunity to go into hibernation! 🙂 One phrase that I’ve learned to keep in my meeting toolbox is something like, “Well, this is just me speaking off the top of my head…” and “…let me think on that a little more, and I can get back to you…” One solution to this problem is for the person leading the meeting to send out agendas in advance, so everyone (not just introverts) can be more prepared…by I digress…

    Thanks for chiming in, you are not alone!

    Nilwona, I will be attending chic on the prayer team (any others out there want to come for the best job st chic?) And I will try to attend your seminar! 

    Karen, I’ve been trying to help get the world out about the need for prayer team volunteers! Please do introduce yourself to me if you stop by! 🙂

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