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The magic of mistakes leads to more effective ministry

Failures can be a catalyst for success if leaders pay attention to the lessons.

Les Taylor

Wouldn’t you agree that the greatest lessons in life come from our mistakes and failures, not from our successes? I would also venture to guess that the same is true of your greatest ministry lessons. A pastor friend says of his ministry team: “Don’t judge us by the mistakes we make, but rather by the way we deal with the mistakes we make.”

I’d even argue that those of us who have made more ministry mistakes than we care to remember are in pretty good company. From Genesis to Revelation, from Abraham and Moses, to Peter and the Apostle Paul, we see how God uses our failures to further his Kingdom.

The magic of mistakes is that our mistakes and failures are often the catalyst for success and achievement, personally and professionally. Now, I’m not suggesting you set out to make as many mistakes today as possible. You won’t have to; life has a way of taking care of that.

Celebrate the failure

Failing from time to time should be expected. It’s making the same mistake over and over again that can’t be tolerated. When things go wrong, and they will, don’t be too quick to look for the guilty party. Don’t jump in and try to save or rescue the person or persons who made the mistake. One of the reasons mistakes go undetected or covered up is because of the stigma we place on those who make them. Celebrate the failure and instead of looking for a scapegoat, look for the lesson to be learned.

As a pastor or ministry leader let me encourage you to have an open and honest conversation with your staff and lay leaders about this whole issue of mistakes and failure. Doing things wrong (initially) can sow the seeds for innovation and growth. Let’s face it, the best solutions for most of our problems and challenges are seldom obvious. Mistakes can be the portals of discovery. Maybe that’s why IBM’s rumored motto for years was: Fail faster!

If you’re a heart surgeon or an airline pilot, you certainly want to keep mistakes to an absolute minimum, but for the rest of us, doing things wrong is often the precursor for getting it right.

Here are a few keys for innovation and growth:
•    Don’t fear making a mistake. Instead, fear that you lack the courage to try something new.
•    Every time you make a mistake, look for the opportunity to learn from it and grow.
•    Cut those who make mistakes a little slack. Help them see how to turn their mistakes into success opportunities. In fact, ask a few colleagues to join in. Make a list of a few classic (ministry) mistakes that have turned out to become springboards for success and achievement.

I encourage you to do the same exercise for your personal or professional life. What are some of the mistakes or failures you can point to that turned out to be opportunities in disguise? You might want to share this one with your children. It could be a great source of encouragement.

Guy Davidson, the former senior pastor of Grace Community Church, one of the largest churches in the Greater Phoenix area in the 60s and 70s, often said, “You can’t unscramble an egg, but you can make a pretty good omelet.”

Mistakes and failures are so often the springboard for new beginnings. Let’s not fear them. Instead, let’s see them for what they are, opportunities to improve our churches and our ministries for the glory of God.

Les Taylor is president and CEO of Achievement Solutions LLC., Mesa, AZ. [achievement-solutions.com]

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