Cheering for Failure


I’ve sat in a lot of church planning meetings over the years. I’m a little sad to say that, unlike most sane people, I actually kinda like these meetings. I love strategizing, planning, and yes, even evaluating. But, over the years, both in church settings and in normal, every day contexts, I noticed a hesitancy that should be boldly overcome – the hesitancy to CELEBRATE FAILURE.

Failure is such a negative word. No one really wants to say it, and certainly, no one wants to feel like a failure. Unfortunately, our culture today seems pretty focused on finding who’s to blame when something goes wrong, and calling for some sort of punishment when blame is assigned. This, I believe, had helped to create a church culture where leaders are fearful that if something fails, then they will be blamed and consequences will be called for. This is a sad reality because it hinders leaders from performing two of the most vital practices necessary to a healthy church: taking risks & learning from mistakes.

Every church has a unique mission that God has called its leadership to pursue. This is your WHY. At the foundation, it is the WHY of every church to connect people to Jesus and to help them grow as disciples. A church committed to achieving that WHY has to continually be exploring ways to connect to and serve our communities more effectively. This means we have to take risks and try new things, and then learn from the mistakes that may result from those risks.

Have you ever been in a leadership meeting where evaluation was supposed to be happening, and instead of honestly identifying a mistake or failure and why things did not go well, the team figured out every reason to place blame on some other factor? I’ve heard so many excuses for why an event or program didn’t go well. Excuses like the weather, the economy, the mood of the community, and even the NFL football schedule. I’ve also heard blame placed on the people of the church, as uncommitted, lazy, just consumers, or that they don’t get it. Although sometimes some of these factors can be true, most failures occur due to the missteps in planning and/or execution.

We should celebrate a leader who has the guts to say, “Yeah, it didn’t work, here’s why, and we will do it differently next time.” To me, that’s a win. This is not looking back just to be negative and kick someone while they’re down. When led well, the problems identified can help inform multiple ministries of the church about what does and does not work in your community.

Don’t read me wrong, I’m not talking about failure due to incompetence. There’s too much at stake in the ministry of a church to allow incompetence to cripple its effectiveness. However, if a team tries new ideas or strategies, then continually evaluates well and learns from the failures, then these things occur:

  • Teams get stronger and better
  • Ministries, events, and programs will have much greater success.
  • Worship services will have a much deeper impact on people’s lives
  • Your church comes that much closer to achieving your WHY.

This is something to celebrate!

One thing I’ve said to teams that I have led is, it’s ok to fail, just don’t fail the same way over and over. Trust me, if there is not a culture where failure is celebrated, either the rate of failure will be much higher since honest evaluation rarely occurs, or the effectiveness of the church will diminish quickly due to a lack of innovation and solid execution. So, be bold, and celebrate the growth that comes through learning from failure.

About the author, Chris

I am the founder of BreakThru Churches, a community of Christ followers who are committed to helping leaders and churches achieve their WHY. I believe every person and ministry has a unique mission (their WHY) and my WHY is to help others achieve that.

I have served churches in Colorado, Maryland, and Tennessee, for more than 20 years as a pastor, leader, educator, and coach. My biggest WHYs are to embrace that I am restored child of God, and to be the best husband I can be to my wife, Kyrie, and our 3 kiddos, and serve the leaders of churches.

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