Failure is never fun but without it you’ll never learn or grow, but how do you keep your failures from drowning you in negativity and self-loathing?
Fear of failure is even worse because it may mean you’ll never try or never step outside your comfort zone.
You may not want to hear this but Youth Ministry is a numbers driven business. If you do meetings, events and outreaches the question will always be “How many came?” or “How many showed up” or any number of variations and, if the numbers are down, you will have to account for why.
This does not need to sound as ominous as does, an event audit can tell you a lot about why an event succeeded so you can implement the data for the next event or where you failed and why so you don’t repeat it.
Let me share an example of a recent “failure” I had in planning a youth costume party for Halloween and what I learned from it.
You have to put your “failure” in context
I put the word failure in parenthesis because very few things are complete failures. If you can learn something from failed events, outreaches, etc. then it’s not a complete failure. As the title of John Maxwell’s aptly expresses, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.
Sometimes, whatever you were in charge of is a failure and that failure is always your responsibility. You notice I did not say the failed event was your fault, I said you have to be responsible for it. There are reasons something fails and there are excuses we make for why it fails. The key is being able to take responsibility for what is ours, without excuse, and separate them from the reasons something failed.
My event was a failure of insight. Let me share the context of my failed event to better illustrate.
In January, I took on the role of part time youth pastor at a small church devastated by Covid and other things. I have only been there 9 months. I am still learning the rhythms of the youth ministry, the church and the community. These are reasons, not excuses, as to why I did not plan well enough to have this event become what I thought it should have been.
The max amount of students I serve are 12. On average, 5-8 students will show up for a youth meeting. I planned, along with them, a Disney Costume Party the Wednesday before Halloween and every “seemed” excited about it. I, like you, even after 30 years of youth work, can still be fooled by students enthusiasm.
I should have tempered my expectations while still having faith that God would inspire students to step up. Let me offer you more details of this failed event,
Why do I consider this event a failure?
- Only five of a possible 12 showed up.
- Zero students from the community.
- I spent more money than I would have liked to.
Where did I fail?
- I put to much stock in our students ability to invite others
- I was presumption on how many students I thought may come
- I overpaid for food ( I did chicken fingers instead of pizza)
- I, in my estimation, made the prize too valuable for best costume. ($50 instead of $25)
- I did not consider that some students would bail to go to other Halloween events
Where did my students fail?
- They didn’t. I take responsibility.
Why this event was not a failure
- This was a stress test
- I know what I need to teach/preach on going forward
Have you suffered a failure recently? Take the sting out of your failure by putting it in context with these five questions,
- Have you ever tried this before?
- What was your planning like?
- How well did you prepare your students?
- Were there circumstances beyond your control?
- Have you taken responsibility for the failure?
This will not be the last time I fail at an event; at least I hope not. I also hope you continue to fail, because if you’re not failing, you’re not trying or growing.
Remember, the great basketball coach John Wooden once said,
“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”
Be courageous. Keep trying. Keep believing.
Resources to help you plan better and build a successful youth ministry