Originally posted by Dan Lovaglia on Awana.org.
I loved to draw when I was a child. Turning a blank piece of paper into a work of art was rewarding. I never became a renowned cartoonist or painter, but I had fun exploring my artistic gifts and abilities.
Some days I could sketch my ideas easily; other times I kept starting over from the beginning. The wastebasket next to my desk was routinely filled to overflowing with crumpled creations. Frustrated by not meeting my standard of excellence, I regularly took “do-overs” until my masterpieces turned out. When I ran out of erasers, I got more. When the garbage can was full, I emptied it. Daring to do-over was just part of life.
Where Did My Do-Over Courage Go?
Fast-forward. I’m well into adulthood and I’m still artistic. Sometimes my canvas is paper, but more often it’s ministry leadership. I get to be wildly creative with a team of people-servers and problem-solvers. I’ve got a few successes, but it’s my failures that stick with me the most.
What if I had done Strategy X instead of Strategy Y? Why didn’t I give so-and-so a second chance? How much did we lose because I course-corrected too soon? Was that the best I could do?
As time passes, it gets harder for me to start over or pick up where I left off. I find myself letting my erasers stay worn down and leaving my wastebasket overflowing. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I lose the courage to do-over.
Sound familiar? Are you a ministry leader who’s struggling to move ahead because you’re tethered to the past? Have you forgotten how to push through failure toward your future?
Even the saved and forgiven by Christ mess up along the way. James 3:2a says it plainly: “We all stumble in many ways.” Fortunately Romans 8:1 helps us respond with hope: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” These truths bring us better perspective on failure, but we still need courage to move ahead as disciples and ministry leaders.
You Can Dare to Do-Over Again
It's won't always be easy, but it's never too late to dare to do-over. Click To Tweet You can learn to push through failure as a ministry leader by taking six courageous steps.
1. Stay in community.
It’s tempting to run and hide when you mess up. It’s been this way since the Garden of Eden. You think being alone will ease your pain, but this generally works against what you really need. It’s actually in God-honoring relationships where you experience true forgiveness. Look up and live out 1 John 1:9 and James 5:16. You’ll discover healing power in confessing your failures to God and others.
2. Own your part.
As soon as Adam and Eve blew it, they hid from God (as if He didn’t know how to find them!). People can be the same way today. They follow up sins by placing blame everywhere but on themselves. Leaders might not be 100% responsible for every failure, but dare to do-over leaders take 100% responsibility for their role in it and the cascading effects. Take Psalm 139:23-24 to heart. Do the hard work of going to God and whoever you’ve hurt. Invite Him to shine His light of truth on you and the situation so it can be restored.
3. Release your enemies.
Bob Goff, author of Love Does, asks Christians a great question: “When Jesus says ‘Love your enemies,’ why do we act like it’s a metaphor for something else?” Being a ministry leader doesn’t mean everyone you serve will become your best friend. Whether you succeed or fail, you’ll probably end up with quite a bit of opposition either way. It’s important that you recognize how your messes affect others, own up to it, and then let it (and them) go. Choosing Matthew 6:14 forgiveness is better in the long run for everyone, especially if you want to push forward through failure well.
4. Clarify what you learned.
Take time to journal through your journey as a leader. Wondering if there’s value in this? Check out David’s perspective in Psalms or Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs. God uses both of them, and their life and leadership experiences, to provide lasting lessons. Take hold of every opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows you encounter. Your own experiences and emotions need somewhere to land. Writing them down and talking them out gives you the opportunity for personalized life lessons to crystalize. It will change your leadership in the future if you can come to terms with what happened, how you could do things differently next time, and God’s love for you in all of it.
5. Get on your knees (again).
When you fail, you need forgiveness and wisdom for the future. James 1:5 nails it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” You can pray earnestly to the Lord and in concert with others for what you desperately need as a leader in ministry. Ideally, you’ll receive provision, insight, and direction so you don’t have to fall in the same hole again.
6. Stand up, dust off, and dare to do-over!
Remember, Romans 8:1 sets us up to to push through any failure with courage: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You are regularly in the spotlight or under the microscope as a ministry leader. This doesn’t need to paralyze or plague you. Be honest about your faults and follow up by being bold on behalf of Christ. When (not if) you make a mess, you can take the steps outlined above so that you’re able to dare to do-over as many times as required to lead creatively, diligently, and freely.
Leadership Reflection Questions:
- What was your most recent failure as a ministry leader? What happened, whom did it affect, and how was it resolved?
What’s your typical response to messing up (hiding or blaming)?
- Do you generally take too much or too little responsibility and what impact does that have on situations?
- Is there a ministry scenario where you need to “dare to do-over.” What’s holding you back? Which of the 6 courageous steps above will help you push forward and how?