Dealing With Failure Within The Church

youth ministry failure

As stated before, failure is not an “if it happens”, but “when.” Maybe one of the hardest parts of youth ministry is when we fail in our dealings with other adults. We talked about failing when we work with students, but they are typically quick to forgive and unjaded by the struggles of this world. When we mess up with an adult, be it colleagues or volunteers, failure on our part can have harsh consequences for you and your ministry.

Grace is one of the foundational cornerstones of ministry, unfortunately some of the worst people to exercise this are those who serve in the Church. Maybe you have had a game that got out of control in the sanctuary and a window shattered or you show up late to the nine o’clock staff meeting (it does not matter that you say nothing during the hour or that you were late because you were talking with a teen who was struggling with being accepted in school). Regardless of the specific details of the accident, failure on your part may result with the senior pastor, an elder, or even the secretary come down on you hard for your “complete lack of control” with the teens or inability to do things right.

The flip side for youth workers failing is when it involves our volunteers. Now our failure impacts ministry directly and may even call into question your leadership or faithfulness to this ministry. Failing to get the curriculum out to your small group leaders does not allow for enough time to prepare well enough and encourages a pattern of laziness or cancelling a meeting with them ten minutes after it was suppose to start shows a lack of respect for them. This can result in poor performance, a reputation of not getting the job done, and even a lost of numerous volunteers.

When these failures happen, we need to ensure that we are dealing effectively with what is going on. Here are four things that we need to recognize.

  1. Apologize And Recognize The Failure. This step is the only first step you should take. To try to fix the situation or plan how you are doing to do better next time without apologizing is actually creating a second failure before we fix the first one. The “fix” to the current situation is apologizing, stating you know what you did wrong, and listening to their side of the story. This not only shows your heart on the matter, but that you are being authentic. Fixing something without apologizing shows an unempathic and rude person that you probably do not want to express.
  2. Find Out Where There Is A Failure In Communication. If the senior pastor did not know the importance of your meeting that caused you to be late or the volunteer did not know you could be late, there was a failure to communicate. 99% of the problems could be simply fixed with an open and frequent communication. Even a text message an hour before missing a meeting or giving the basics of details about your youth group night can solve so many headaches. If you are not communicating with your staff and volunteers, change it today.
  3. Come Up With A Plan To Not Fail Again. If something broke, it may mean you do not play that game again or change it somehow. If you need to remove something from your schedule so you have more time for meetings with volunteers, do it or eliminate that meeting if it is not a priority. The idea is that we are proactive to making this ministry a success and that means dealing with our weaknesses.
  4. Do Not Forget This Failure. This does not mean to dwell in the failure, but to use it as motivation to always do better. This also means that we do a good job for a couple of weeks and then fall back into our old habits. If it failed once and we go back to doing it wrong, we will fail again. Make those plans for change become permanent. If need be, ask for accountability to succeed.

How has failure with adults hit your ministry? What steps did you take to do better?

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