Saturday, September 12, 2015

Can I Be a Pastor and Autistic?

One of the reasons that some people are surprised by my autism diagnosis is my history of Christian ministry. I have worked as a pastor, chaplain and Bible teacher. All of those roles require social interaction. Since autism affects social interaction, I shouldn't be able to do those things.

Except I did and continue to do so.

I suspect that the problem is that many people have a stereotypical view of autism. They assume that people with autism are completely anti-social and are not able to connect with people emotionally. My children with autism are both on the severe end of the spectrum and yet are very social. In fact, it is usually more of an issue to get them to act appropriately socially rather than seeking interaction. They feel and show emotions. They care when someone is hurt and when someone is happy.

And so do I.

What does this look like in a pastoral context for me? I will admit that writing sermons and preparing Bible studies come the easiest to me. I love to preach and I love to teach. My gifts allow me to do these without too much effort. Pastoral care does not come as natural to me but I can do it. When I visit a person in their home, hospital or nursing home, I genuinely care about what is happening in their life. Chit chat does not come easy, but I know how to talk to people about their challenges and struggles. I can listen and ask probing questions. I can pray. Basically I can do my job.

What I am saying is that pastoral ministry is no different for a person with autism than it is for people without autism. Each pastor has strengths where things come naturally and other areas where more effort is required.

I have high-functioning autism and I am a pastor/chaplain/teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm also a pastor/chaplain/teacher at level one on the autism spectrum and I enjoyed your article. After 22 years and counting into the pastoral ministry, I'd say there's most definitely a place for us!