Everyone likes a success story. You do, I do, everyone does. We generally don’t like to hear about failures, yet which of us has not failed at some point? I have a confession to make; the reason I stopped listening to certain pastors and motivational leaders is because they succeeded too well. It is discouraging to me because I hear on the one side how well something may work, and then I look at myself and my own context and think, “Why do I fail when I try something like that?”
Well, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in the last 20 years is the art of failure. So here are a few points for you to consider.
- Realize that everyone fails. Even that megachurch pastor and motivational speaker with all the success stories fail. For every success story they have a plethora of failures that they usually don’t bother to mention.
- Give yourself permission to fail. Learn from each failure. Then sit down and analyze what happened and why, and what might have been done differently. Debrief all your team members and apply the lessons learned to other efforts in progress.
- Train your people to do the same. Make learning from failure a part of the discipleship process, and teach them to extend this practice of grace and forgiveness to themselves. People tend to be better at extending grace and forgiveness to others than they are at applying it to themselves.
- Give your people permission to fail, too. Most people are afraid to try new things because they don’t want to be seen themselves as ‘a failure’. Tell them you are giving them permission to try new things and it is okay if they don’t work as desired. Become an encourager!
A famous pastor once made the remark that he tells his people to try new ministry ideas and if one out of 10 succeeds then the effort was worth it. I not only agree with him, but have told my people the same thing. I am not going to think less of them if we try something and it fails…we can always learn something from the effort.
One of our biggest successes over the last few years has been a ministry no seminary-trained pastor would have ever thought to try. My men’s ministry director started a blowgun competition. My church now offers the only United States Blowgun Assn sanctioned club in New England. We have great fun with it, but it also offers us outreach opportunities we could not otherwise duplicate. We have been in our local paper twice with full color pictures and nice write-ups. We have drawn interest from a wide geographical area and presented our ministry to over 75 men’s group leaders at our church camp. By the way…over half of our group are now women.
The moral of the story is don’t fear failure. Use it.
Learn to fail well and you will end up succeeding, too.
“After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:28-29 (NIV)