Failing is something that normally people do not like. Failure means that we did not do something successfully. It is never a good feeling to know that you failed at something you really wanted to do well. In youth ministry, failures will happen but we do not have to let them break us down. In December, I experienced a failure in my ministry that has now prepared me for the future. I learned from my failure and now consider it a success as it has helped me to grow my ministry and as a person.
In my failure, I had planned a movie night with all the youth ministry from the elementary age, through the high school age. Since it was Christmas time, we were going to watch the Polar Express. When we went to start the movie, the computer could not read the DVD. While frustrating, it was not the end of the world since you can rent movies online, now. When I started the online version, the movie would not render properly (of course, right?). We, then, moved to a new area to watch the movie and it actually started to play. I was thrilled as I knew that the night would not be a complete failure, so I thought. After about twenty minutes, the computer we were watching it through decided to crash and do an immediate update. This was a hard experience for me to go through, as I felt like a failure and let the kids down. Through this experience, though, I learned some things that I think our failures in ministry can teach us.
1. We are human.
When we fail, it shows our youth and others that we also make mistakes, even though we are ministry leaders. While we are a hero to teens and kids, they need to see that we are human too. It shows our students that it is normal to make a mistake. Our culture today tells our youth that they need to dress, act, and live a certain way. If they do not, then they will be considered a failure. When we fail, it shows them that failing is normal. As humans, we can never be perfect, but we serve Jesus who is. Failing shows us that we are humans and that we cannot always get it right. It shows us and our youth our need for Jesus.
2. Your youth still love you.
After the movie night messed up, I thought I was doomed. As a youth pastor, you obviously want to have a good relationship with your students. I thought that since I had failed an easy event like this that the youth would start to look down on me. I let my head and the enemy get to me. I was worried the whole next week that when the next Sunday rolled around, students would be thinking differently of me. Instead, what I found, is that they did not really care at all. They still wanted to hang around me and rough house on me (middle school and high school boys, am I right?). When I left church that day I felt God say, “Lean on me.” I was leaning on my thoughts, instead of God’s thoughts. The youth still loved me and they still love you through your failure, but when you fail, lean on God.
3. Learn from the failure.
A fail in ministry does not have to stay known as a failure. If we learn from it, then we succeed by applying it to our lives. From this failure, I realized that ministry is hard. While we wish everything would go our way, it will not. When it does not, usually it is God allowing something to happen, so that we can learn or depend on Him more. God used normal people like you and me in the Bible. They failed at times, too. God knows we are going to fail, but we can always learn from it. We can always turn a failure into a successful failure when we recognize that there is always something to be applied from the event. Please, be encouraged to know that when you fail, it is okay. Learn from the failure and apply it to your life. Do not let the failure consume you, but instead recognize that you are human, that your youth will still love you and that there is always something to learn from it.
Ben Lock has served in youth ministry is some form or fashion for around 4 years as a volunteer and now full-time at New Heights Church in Connersville, IN. He loves to show children and teens the love that God has for them. When he is not hanging out with students, Ben likes to play video games, go camping, watch movies, and go on dates with his wife, Kaitlyn.