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January 25, 2011

My New Mantra

So What If It Fails?

When is the last time you acted on a dream that could fail?

Six months ago, I made the switch from professional volunteer to paid church employee. Along with my bank account, something else changed too: my appetite for change. With the weight of now being paid for my position, I had lost some of my hunger for being an agent of change at our church.

Intuitively, I knew I had ideas that were worth discussing. I knew it would be beneficial to apply my fresh eyes to the established ministry program. And yet I hesitated to share too much or dream too big. What if it doesn't work? What if people don't like my ideas? What if the leadership above me second-guesses hiring me? What if I'm naive? What if the students don't like it? What if it fails?

My new coworker and I would talk about doing things differently, but fear would inevitably creep in, sliding under the door like smoke and mingling into our creative ideas and dreams. Eventually, we realized that our fear of failing was outweighing our heart and our desire to work hard in the quest to creatively reach others for Christ.

One afternoon, in a fit of frustration, I scrawled a mantra onto our shared office wall in black marker. (Did I mention we work in student ministry? Black marker works.) Five simple words defined our ministry plans for the rest of the year: So what if it fails?

Most churches are pretty skittish about change. When I hear about battles being fought over music styles and Bible study schedules and building usage, I wonder if Jesus shakes his head in disgust. Jesus told his disciples that the fields are "ripe for the harvest." I believe that's still true today, but maybe we are missing opportunities, staying enslaved to the status quo.

"So what if it fails" might be the best perspective to take if we are serious about leveraging our influence as leaders.

When you consider your area of ministry, what have you been yearning to try but you don't because you are worried it will fail? What events and programs do you continue, even though you know in your heart they aren't serving their purpose or accomplishing their mission? What technology do you avoid because you feel too old? What learning do you circumvent because you feel rusty?

If you don't have anything on the horizon that might fail, then you are failing as a leader. If you aren't pushing for innovation and creativity, then you are guaranteed to keep attracting the very same people as last year. But if you are serious about reaching others for Christ, about pushing boundaries, about reaching the next generation with the love and freedom of Christ's way, chances are, you are going to have to try something that just might fail.

So listen to the leanings of your heart. If you run a women's ministry, evaluate your programming. Have you yearned for a way to connect women into the community or serve single moms? So what if it fails.

Do you wish to add creative elements or a new speaker or maybe even try and teach a Bible study yourself this year? So what if it fails.

Do you want to try a new class, run a marathon, or raise money for a cause close to your heart? So what if it fails.

Do you avoid certain people in the church because they're too hard to deal with, keep your mouth shut instead of raising a ministry concern, or keep your ideas to yourself because you don't want to get into something too big? Do something. Say something. Start something. So what if it fails.

And surprise—it just might work.

Related Tags: anxiety and worry, Decision making, failure, Fear, Trust


... oh I've asked myself alot of those questions over the years as I embarked on the rocky road of establishing myself professionally, as a woman in ministry.

But no matter what the naysayers said, I knew God had placed a call on my life and given me a rather clear vision of what that looked like.

And lo and behold, in time, with great work, hard and hurtful lessons, and perseverance, the dream unfolded, the vision came to be.

The journey was rocky and at times I just wanted to throw in the towel. But oh how thankful I am that in my darkest hours, I remembered the call He had clearly placed on my life.

Thanks for this great reminder to not allow fear to hold us back. I am reminded of Beth Moore's Esther study, when she addresses the issue of fear. She talked about how she would follow her fears, mentally taking each step to its "logical" conclusion. But in the end, she always ended up in the arms of God anyway -- not a bad place to be!
Indeed, So what if it fails? God is still there!

Thanks Nicole! One of the guys on staff at our church has a great idea along these lines. Every year he chooses one part of his program that he terminates. Even if it was working okay. This forces him to start something new. He's in Student Ministry as well so there are many little bits and pieces to all the programs he offers. So each year he stops doing something that was only mildly working and uses the space it clears in his head, heart and calendar to launch something new. It keeps the ministry fresh and keeps fresh ideas flowing. Love the thoughts! Thanks, as always, for your posts!

Awesome Nicole! I have asked myself this same question over and over. Tired of trying to reason with myself and God. Over it! Time to move on chica. Thanks so much. You rock!

As I read your thoughts, fear welled up in my heart - pushing tears into my eyes. I had so many answers ready for your mantra: If it fails, people will think I'm a failure. If it fails, I'll look stupid. If it fails, I'll have wasted all that time. If it fails, maybe that means I should've done the other thing that wasn't as creative, but was more sure.

There are so many things that could happen if "it" fails.

Yet what could happen isn't really the important thing, is it? It's who will care? And if the Master Creator who gives meaning to everything we try is the One who won't be disappointed with me if it fails... then His reassurance is all I need to try.

Thanks so much for the encouragement Nicole - just what I needed today. :-) I have just taken the step of resigning from my job in order to practice as a massage therapist - with a desire to reach single mom's - having been one myself for a long time. Single who are battling and need to feel pampered and beautiful - even for a short while. And older women - who perhaps have been alone and who often crave just simple human warmth and touch. All the thoughts mentioned above have buzzed around my head so many times - but the one that bugs me the most is : "How do I really know that this is God's will for me - and not just me forging ahead and doing what I want?" It's a real concern for me as giving up a steady income is going to cause some financial hardship not just to me but to my family as well.

Once again thank you so much for the inspiration. :-)

What a timely article. I've found my new found Motto. I too have switched into a paid ministry position in the last 7 months. It's as if you wrote my very thoughts! Thank-you for sharing. I am inspired. I'm going to write the motto on my whiteboard right away!!!

@Leslie: Sounds like you have a dream, and I would encourage you to continue to press into it. It would be important to ask the "me" questions too, like "what's in it for me?" When discerning God's call, I try to get the me questions on the table so I know what I'm dealing with, and so I can better discern what is a God-placed dream and what is a me-placed dream. Hope that makes sense in a comment.
@Sarah: I used a wall, but certainly a whiteboard would do! ha ha!

Thanks so much for the encouragement. My friend and I had this conversation yesterday. I need all you who have gone before me to pray for me as I venture out in women's ministry. Here in Canada it can be very difficult but this spring I am going to do it.
Thanks again Nicole.

Marjorie, it sounds like you have a passion and a plan. I'll be praying for you as you act on your heart's dreams!

Great blog. There's not a lot out there specifically targeting women called to ministry and leadership. I'm glad I found you.

Sarah, your comment is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thank you.

You are not self aware. Until you become self aware you will labor without results.

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