We can find sound advice in the most unlikely of places sometimes, can’t we? Winnie the Pooh himself will tell you he is a “bear of little brain,” but he also has an uncommon, clear-eyed wisdom.
Because of Pooh’s thoughtfulness for his friends (which comes second only to hunny), he would likely make a pretty fair minister, were he not a fictitious stuffed animal. Here are six lessons of ministry we could all stand to learn from the lovable bear who’s all stuffed with fluff.
Lesson 1: “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
In most stories, we find that Pooh rarely sat around doing nothing. Much the opposite, he was usually heading out to visit his Good Friend Piglet or perhaps to pop in on Rabbit for a spot of Something. Visiting Owl was was an opportunity to gain advice, and Christopher Robin was always the place to go for help.
Similarly, it’s important for the minister to slip away from his corner and go connect with people if you want them to return, participate or simply be there. Tug their sleeve. Tap on their shoulder. Pull their hand. Whisper in their ear. Shout, if you have to. Otherwise, they may forget your ministry… or you… even exist.
Lesson 2: “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
Pooh rarely.. nay, never… got upset with anyone. He was a rather calm bear. Placid, even. Even to a fault, Pooh was patient and simply kept restating what he had to say until someone finally listened.
There are times you reach out to people, preach a message, or just continue to care, and feel as if nobody is listening to you. Sometimes you’ll feel that your efforts are in vain and you’ve been rejected completely. But be patient. People really do have fluff in their ears, so continue not only to work on them but also on yourself. Hone your ability to communicate your message more effectively, and let persistence show them that you certainly do want their attention… and that you honestly do care.
Lesson 3: “You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”
One of the reasons Pooh never got upset was because he knew what really mattered. Mistakes happened, and that was okay. Sometimes the group took the wrong path and got distracted. That was okay too. The bigger picture was more important than the little hitches along the way.
Sometimes we can get caught up with perfection to the point that people can’t hear what we’re really wanting to say, and they can’t live up to our expectations. The destination is vitally important, so be sure people don’t give up in frustration before they get there because they weren’t given the space to experience successes and failure.
Lesson 4: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?””
Pooh knew one thing: complicated language and complex terms were confusing. Owl would talk over his head, and all Pooh wanted was a simple, easy solution to his problems. He’d listen to the fluffy explanations and then ask for clarification.
The problem is that your guests won’t bother asking you to clarify. If they find themselves facing words they don’t understand, jargon they find confusing or explanations that take too much time to absorb, they’ll just ignore you. Say what you have to say in conversational, simple language and be done with it. Don’t get so caught up listening to yourself speak well that you don’t communicate beyond your own ears. The Gospel message is really quite simple. Indubitably.
Lesson 5: “I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit. “No,” said Pooh humbly, “There isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”
Pooh never panicked when plans went astray. Life continually threw him curve balls and he never seemed surprised. Obstacles cropped up constantly, but that didn’t bother Pooh either. He expected adversity to happen. When it did, Pooh seemed almost pleased, as if he were greeting an old friend come to visit.
That calm acceptance of life would serve ministers very well. When plans don’t work out, they just don’t – no big deal. You’ve come this far, and you can do it again, so there’s no point in getting stressed out until your seams split. Make a new plan and get on with it.
Lesson 6: “Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.”
Pooh never rushed about the Hundred Acre Wood. He always moved from place to place slowly, carefully and conscientiously. And do you know what? Pooh got everything got done in due time. His progress moved forward nicely.
With the fervency of our Great Commission, we often follow a skewed concept of time. We get frustrated if things don’t materialize when we think they should. Success seems to be an immediate, all-or-nothing game. But remember that, if you aren’t watching where you’re going and just rushing about, you may miss out on something rather important.
And when you find yourself stuck, not sure what to do next, perhaps you can do as Pooh… just find a stool, sit down, tap your noggin and, “Think, think, think!”