Coming into ministry one of my biggest fears was the fear of failure. I remember fearing that I would mess up the kids, make a huge mistake in my personal life, or just not be able to cut it when it comes to pastoring. 8 years later and I have failed so many times and the love and faithfulness of God has met me so many times that I no longer feel the residing fear of failure that can plague us. With that said, I want to share some of my failures with you mostly so you know you are not alone. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I don’t have one awesome funny failure story to relay, but I do have 4 little failures and 1 big failure to share.
First, let me share a story from last week. We did a scavenger hunt where you have to record yourself via your Instagram story experiencing or doing various noises. There were 40 plus noises on our list and the team with the most at the end of the time won. One such noise was to record yourself singing along loudly to a song in a department store. So we went into Walmart and one of my students was singing along loudly to a song I can’t remember and I was the camera man. It was hilarious! I was teasing him, more on teasing later, and I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings while I recorded him through my phone. I knocked over a TV in the middle of Walmart. Thankfully the TV was in a package and not out on display but nevertheless you could imagine both the embarrassment I felt and the joy the students on my scavenger hunt felt. Don’t worry the TV didn’t break and we were fine.
Teaching too much
I love to teach. I studied hard at seminary to be good at teaching. Teaching lights me up. I feel alive and connect with God as I am prepping and delivering my thoughts. I believe it’s one of my gifts. With that said, I once found myself teaching in 7 different formalized to semi-formalized contexts in one week and the next week I had 5 teachings. That’s too much for me, especially given the pressures of needing to lead leaders, be with people, think about our structures, and most importantly spend time with Jesus. Plus, I think people were done hearing my voice after a couple weeks.
Not having crucial conversations
I can’t tell you how many times early on in ministry I avoided conversations that needed to happen. Whether it was something I saw that was out of whack in someone’s personal life, a leader not stepping up to the plate where I needed them to, or not asking someone to do something I needed them to do. I have avoided too many conversations. If I had things my way I would just do whatever I could to make people like me, but Jesus wants me to lead. If I am going to lead well, then I need to have crucial conversations that are sometimes difficult. Nowadays I don’t look for them, but I am beginning to see these sometimes difficult and awkward conversations as opportunities for deeper my understanding of another person and myself.
I like to joke around. I like to tease people. It’s part of my family dynamic with my dad. It’s part of my dynamic with my closest friends. That being said, it doesn’t always communicate well with teens. Actually, it hardly ever does. I have realized over the years that my teasing creates a barrier to trust. Trust is everything in youth ministry and teasing can really undermine it. I have learned to ask the question: Is what I am doing, thinking, or saying building trust or undermining it?
Not listening to God’s leading
A few years ago the Lord told me to gather four young leaders together and to set up a regular dialogue about what it looks like to pastor young people in our area. This was in a college ministry setting, but the point is still the same. So I thought: “Great! Thanks for the direction Lord.” Then as I thought about executing this leading, fear began to creep in. I realized that these four guys don’t actually like each other very much and that there are a lot of relational dynamics between the four that could go very wrong. I know now that underneath that fear was the fear of failure. Needless to say, I didn’t follow the Lord’s leading and instead I did something else that I felt was cool and more palatable to everyone and myself. Big mistake! Within 6 months that other thing had failed and all four young leaders were either out of ministry, at a different church, or struggling in their faith. Ouch! That hurt, but in that pain I realized that when I don’t follow the Lord’s leading as I lead other people are impacted. Good lesson to learn, but a hard one for sure.
I once heard some say wisdom learns from the failure of others. I hope you can learn from mine!