Last year we bought a Roomba. If you’ve never heard of Roomba, it’s a robot vacuum cleaner made by iRobot. It’s actually quite ingenious, and like having a pet that cleans up after itself.
To vacuum a room, you put Roomba down in the middle of the floor, and turn it on. Roomba then begins a circular sweep of the room, learning the room layout as it goes. If it bumps into something, it bounces back, turns, and moves forward again. It Roomba gets hung on a rug, it rears up on one side and frees itself from the entanglement. Stairs? No problem. When Roomba senses it is near the top of the stairs, it turns without going over the edge. Plus, there’s a little brush that goes round and round, sweeping the baseboard when Roomba is near the wall.
It occured to me tonight that Roomba has a lot to teach small-church pastors. Here goes:
- Learn your way around the “room.” Roomba circles around, learning where fixed objects are and remembers obstacles it encountered. Pastors and church leaders need to do the same thing — learn where the barriers are and remember for the future.
- Bounce back when you hit an immoveable object. Roomba is an eternal optimist. As long as the batteries hold out, Roomba bounces off chairs and tables, spins around, and tries it again. But, this time, Roomba takes a slightly different course to get back to the area it wants to clean. Roomba is persistent and consistent, doesn’t get discouraged, and keeps on coming back.
- Don’t go over the edge. Roomba has an “edge detector” that keeps it from plunging down the stairs. You need one, too. A friend, a church member, an associate — someone who can yell, “Stairs” so you can pull back just in time.
- Stay low and work hard. Roomba will spend all the time it takes to clean a room. It simply runs back-and-forth along the floor, over and over again, until the area is clean. Not a bad strategy in a small-church.
- Recharge. When Roomba’s battteries get low, it knows it needs recharging. So, Roomba takes itself back to the dock, lines up, and wheels itself into the recharger. A good example for all us preachers. Know when you need to recharge, and take responsibility to get there.
Sadly, our Roomba is not working right now. I tried a cheap replacement battery that didn’t hold up. Which is another lesson for another time.