I just read an article titled “17 Things ‘The Princess Bride’ Taught Me About Autism Parenting.” As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum I found the article amusing and encouraging. As I read, I also became aware of many similarities between parenting an autistic child and pastoring a church. So here’s my spin-off (some sections I have taken whole from the original article as they apply to church life equally without modification):
1. Affection doesn’t have to mean saying I love you.
There are a lot of ways to tell your people you love them. A phone call, a card, shoveling their walk, raking their yard, sitting down to a cup of coffee, offering a hug or a gentle pat on the shoulder, or playing rhyming games that annoy their spouse.
2. Optimism can get you through the fire swamp.
Just because you haven’t tackled a problem before doesn’t mean there’s no solution, even for POUS’s (Problems of Unusual Size).
3. Having a target will help you stay focused.
Vision and mission are key components in the success of any organization, the church included. You simply don’t have the energy or resources to tackle every challenge that’s in front of you. Find your six-fingered man – prioritize your goals, work out which of those you can tackle and then pursue them with everything you’ve got.
4. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.
Be patient. Change and growth take time and prayer. There are no corners to be cut here. Every church is different, and each member grows at their own rate.
5. Success means using the right moves for the terrain.
As the cultural terrain changes we must change with it. It’s been said over and over and it remains true: The gospel doesn’t change, but the way we deliver it does. We must exegete not only scripture, but the culture in which God has placed us as well.
6. There’s not a lot of money in revenge.
People will hurt you. Members of your own flock may stab you in the back. Other pastors may belittle or bad mouth you for any number of reasons. Don’t get bitter about it. Don’t resent “more successful” pastors. Remain faithful to the God who called you to be His, who called you into ministry and to the vision He has given you.
7. Inconceivable doesn’t mean impossible.
Your people will achieve things beyond what you ever expected or imagined. Believe this and they’ll believe it too.
8. You may already have a wheelbarrow.
It’s easy to focus on the problems and difficulties, but don’t forget to take stock of your assets too. What experiences and skills are present in your church that can help you overcome the challenges before you?
9. Who says life is fair? Where is that written?
Scripture never says life ought to be fair. In fact Grace and Salvation are the least fair things in the universe. Are you familiar with the passage about the wages of sin being death but the free gift of God is eternal life? How’s that fair. Was it fair for Christ to suffer and die for your sin? Let go of the idea that you have more than your fair share of crap to deal with. There are no shares. You don’t have a big pile of crap, you have life, a calling, a ministry, a church. Go therefore and make disciples…
10. Sometimes words don’t mean what you think they mean.
Humans are notoriously bad about expressing their feelings in constructive ways which make sense to others. We hurt people accidentally and are hurt by people accidentally. If you’re wondering what someone meant, or you feel inclined to take a comment in a negative light, dig deeper. Don’t use email or texting for this. Face to face conversation in a casual environment is the best way to sort it all out.
11. Wiggling a finger is worth celebrating.
Take time to enjoy even the smallest of accomplishments, for they were hard earned and are signs of bigger things to come. Do you have two more people this Sunday than you did last year? Praise God! Did you manage to shave fifteen minutes off a business meeting? Rejoice!
12. You always come back for the ones you love.
It’s not for nothing that Paul tells Timothy that the goal of our instruction is love. Pastor, you must love your people. Let your people know that no matter how hard things get or how confusing life may be, you’re someone they can depend on to help them find the answers.
13. Mostly dead is slightly alive.
Two angles on this one… No matter how much your church may be struggling, remember two things: 1) it’s the bride of Christ. 2) Christ came to make the dead alive.
Secondly, on a personal level, Even when you’re too tired to breathe and the odds stacked against you seem enormous, you will survive to fight another day.
14. It’s one hell of a story.
Sure there’ll be laughs, adventure, pain and tears… but at the heart of it all, it’s about a God who loves enough to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Have fun storming the castle!