The following post is from May 2008, just after I received my Aspergers diagnosis. One of things I was thinking of back then is how to be a pastor with autism. I don’t think I have the answers today, but I think I’m a bit more confident that God does have a place for me in ministry.
Last night, I watched the Associate Pastor at the church I am a part of. We had our weekly prayer service- now biweekly during the summer months- and she was talking with two members of our congregation whose daughter, son-in-law and children were brutally affected by a tornado that hit the northern Twin Cities suburbs. She was skilled in being truly a pastor to them during this horrible time. As watched this scene, it occurred to me: I couldn’t do what she is doing- or at least it doesn’t come to me as naturally.
Today, at another meeting, I saw a young guy who is a pastor at a local UCC church. Again, he has the social skills that make him an excellent pastor. And I thought again, I don’t have those skills.
While I am relieved about my diagnosis of Aspergers, it leaves me with a big question regarding vocation: what in the world do you do with a pastor that has autism?
I’ve been around long enough to know that pastors tend to be social beings. They are supposed to be the kind of people who can connect with others. They “get” social cues. They know how to deal with sudden change. So what about someone like me who isn’t any of that? How in the world can I be a pastor if I don’t have those skills?
This doesn’t mean I am planning on hanging up my stole (though that has crossed my mind). But I just don’t know what to do here. I know that I can’t be a solo pastor of a church. There is way too much instability for me to process it all and I know I would end up pissing people off with my aspie ways.
For a long time, I’ve wondered where I fit in the church. I knew I didn’t fit, but didn’t know why. But now I need to figure out how to use my gifts in ministry, how to use my Aspergers not as a deficit, but as an advantage.
I know that I need to be in environments that are structured and have some sense of stability. That has made me think of some kind of Associate Ministry. However, at least in the metro area, there are no possibilities for that kind of ministry among Disciple churches and very few in UCC circles. I guess I could start looking outstate and see what happens.
What I have wanted to do is to maybe create some kind of ministry in a congregation where I would be on staff probably bivocational. Maybe it would be to perform worship or lead Christian Education. But it would be something that is regimented.
One of the stories in the Bible that I love is the story of Gideon. Gideon was called by God to lead an army against the Midianites. The trouble is, Gideon is a coward. But God uses him and just to make sure Gideon knows that it is God doing this and not Gideon, he sends Gideon into battle with only 300 men using pots. It was that ragtag army, led by a scaredy cat, that defeated the mighty Midianites.
The story shows that God doesn’t use the most qualified persons to do God’s will. So if God can call someone like Gideon, God can call me.
I just need to find what in the world that is.