Learning From Failure

Youth Specialties
July 4th, 2016


It’s a word that can give you a sinking feeling in your gut. Maybe it brings back memories of schoolwork covered in red ink. Maybe when you think of the word failure, you’re reminded of your shortcomings and the places you’ve made mistakes. My stories of failure include kids coming home from camp with broken bones, the executive pastor’s daughter—a nationally ranked track and cross country runner—getting injured at a youth ministry event, and a parent who was upset because I alluded to the fact that Santa isn’t real (sorry to break it to you). I’m sure you have stories of failure, too.

So what do you do with failure?

How do you respond and lead through these difficulties in youth ministry?

The Nuts and Bolts

The first thing to think through is whether or not what has happened is indeed a failure. It’s possible to confuse a tough call or difficult decision with failure. Just because a parent is upset that you haven’t provided enough ministry events on multiple days of the week doesn’t mean you failed. Remind yourself of what is true, and hold tight to the vision God has given you for the ministry you lead.

But what if you have failed?

I can’t say this vehemently enough: own it. Don’t try to defend yourself or explain it away. Apologize right away. Nothing diffuses a tough situation better than a sincere apology. It shows humility and a willingness to learn. In some situations, however, an apology is an incomplete response. In those instances, the next step is to make changes. One year we had multiple kids come home from camp with injuries from the blob, so the following year we made massive blob reforms. An apology is insufficient if it isn’t followed up with changes that will prevent the mistake from happening again.

Your Heart

I don’t care how thick your skin is, failure is difficult. It can shake you to the core and possibly make you question your calling. Please hear me:

[bctt tweet=”Don’t let failure define you.” username=”ys_scoop”]

We all get bumps and bruises along the way. Maybe you need someone to talk to about yours (if you want, you can e-mail me at robb@wcrossing.org). It’s vitally important to have partners in ministry who you can go to on those difficult days. They’ll show you their scars and tell you the stories of where these scars came from, and that is where you will learn, be encouraged, and remember that you aren’t crazy for loving teenagers the way you do.

Rob-1-300x200_400x400ROB BERGMAN is the Pastor of Youth Ministries at The Crossing, a multi-site church in St. Louis, MO. Rob has served in youth ministry for 15 years and has a passion for leading, strategizing, and teaching students, volunteers and other youth pastors. Through those passions he has had the privilege of writing, speaking, and coaching through various national and global youth ministry organizations. He is married to Rachel and they have two elementary aged kids, Caden and Claire. You can keep up with him online on Instagram @rgb.3 or twitter @robbergman.

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.