Recently, I had an amazing ministry experience where the teens debated against the adult leaders on certain positions that atheists or anti-Christians often hold. The debate was civil, but the adults, who played the role of the atheists/anti-Christians, did not hold back. The teens found themselves in a safe place to strive and fail. This led to a growth in confidence throughout the debate. Their efforts were honored and when they missed the mark, they were still greeted with love and had another chance to succeed on the next topic.
There is a freedom in failure, so long as we know that failure is not permanent and that much can be learned from it.
Getting Back Up
Whether it is giving a talk, sharing a witness, or planning an event, it is vital that we give those we minister to a safe place to take risks and even fail. Failing in a ministry environment gives teens a safe place to get back up, dust themselves off, and try again. College campuses do not offer such a luxury. The statistics surrounding youth who leave their faith during college are shocking. I cannot help but wonder if ministries setting up an ideal of Christian perfection contribute to these startling statistics. The Christian life is messy. It is difficult. There will be down times, but God is always present and there is ALWAYS a way to get back up when you fail, fall, or falter.
I believe that one of the most beautiful lessons of failure is not the success that comes the next time we encounter similar opposition, but rather the strength, of getting back up, that is developed. As Christians, everyone fails at one time or another. The reality is along most of our journey, we will fail. When major failures arise (whether it is a failure to live the moral life, or a failure to share God’s love with others), knowing that there is a pathway to getting back on track is vital. We must remind ourselves, and those we minister to, that our God is a God of second chances (that veggie tale movie was right).
How would our ministry look different if there was no fear of failure? How would our lives look different? There is a freedom in failure, so long as we know that failure is not permanent and that much can be learned from it.
Reflect on your ministry. Does your ministry create a safe place for failure to take place? In what ways are you giving ownership to teenagers in your ministry? What is the standard of success? How do those present in your ministry react when someone experiences a ministerial failure?
I’ll close with a quote from Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”