Do you know the starfish story?
A big storm washed lots of starfish onto a beach. The next morning a child was walking along with her grandfather and saw all the starfish. She stopped and started throwing them back into the sea. Her grandfather stopped her and said, “There are too many of them for you to make any difference.”
The girl picked up another starfish and flung it back into the sea. “I made a difference to that one.”
I like that story. It is heart-warming. It shows us how a child’s perspective can be better than an adult’s. It is optimistic.
I can’t help having a bit of sympathy with the grandfather’s position too. There are too many starfish. There are too many people who haven’t discovered the amazing news about Jesus. There are too many people in need. There are too many things that need to be done. I may be able to make a difference to one or two, but that doesn’t solve the problem for the rest of the starfish on the beach. So what do I do? Join the child and fling harder?
The grandfather could go back into the town and invite more children onto the beach to make a difference to more starfish.
When churches pay people to be Ministers or workers in a church those people can then try to do all the work. They can try to save all the starfish themselves rather than recognising that perhaps it is a better use of their time and more effective if they encourage more children to get involved in fish-flinging.
At a recent meeting we were observing how we need more people to be involved in helping out with different things in the church. When a gap appears it is tempting for me, as a Minister, to think about how I might be able to do it. But it might be better if I can encourage, equip and empower others to fling the fish. I have learnt that lesson so many times during my 19 years as an ordained Minister that you’d have thought it would be second nature by now. Instead I think I get distracted / attracted by the need to make a difference by flinging the fish myself, or overwhelmed by the size of the problem.
If you spot a starfish on the beach by all means fling it back, but don’t forget to invite and encourage others to join you!
Be blessed, be a blessing.