Giving People Permission To Fail

ripples-in-pondThe last post I wrote concerned strategies for constructive failure. One of the most constructive things you can do for people is to give them permission to try new things without an extensive approval process (assuming funding is not expected) and to value the experience without expecting a success every time.  When you tell people to go and try new things they tend to be eager, but frightened of the possibility of failing.  They are afraid that they will be diminished in the eyes of the pastor if they fail, and even in the eyes of their peers in the church.  To overcome this you need to create an atmosphere of adventure and acceptance.  The truth is that success is, in many cases, in the eye of the beholder anyway.

Take the following scenario as an example.  John wants to start a new Bible Study group focusing on men and their issues.  His first study is on pornography and he has five men who attend.  Two of the men commit to an accountability relationship while the remaining three eventually drop out.  The study stops meeting.  Success?  Or failure?

Well, in some people’s eyes the fact that the study had three people drop out and the study itself did not continue indicates that the idea was a failure.  No ongoing ministry resulted.  But on the other hand, two men have committed to an ongoing accountability relationship which will not only impact them, but their family and friends as well.

The simple fact that John tried something new, and two men have been impacted (not to mention the outward ripple effect).  This is cause for celebration!

By giving people permission to fail, you are also giving them permission to succeed.  The number of perspectives and ideas generated from those perspectives multiplies the chances for long term success.  Even better is that such a philosophy will spill over into other areas of ministry, and the morale of the entire church is affected.  So, go for it!


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