I love when driving from here to there means I get to geek out on snippets of NPR! There’s always something super interesting. Like the story of a girl who took it upon herself to fix an aged piece of art hanging in her local cathedral. Thinking she was doing something nice, she destroyed a historic and valuable piece of art. Parishioners are paying to have a professional come and restore it again. Fail.
An NPR piece about scientist captured my attention and of course made me think about youth ministry. Is it just me, or does everything apply to youth ministry? Especially NPR stories about scientist! According to NPR, Scientist have two very important traits, intelligence and an incredible imagination (just like youth workers). Before their intellect begins figuring out the mathematics and science required to make something possible, their imagination allows them to see vividly what is possible. The Wright brothers imagined a new type of travel. When their intelligence worked with their imagination, air travel became the new reality of transportation.
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Thomas Edison imagined the use of incandescent affordable lighting giving us the ability to illuminate our homes. His imagination went wild, and his intellect went to work. What I love about the imagination is it allows us to see solutions to the needs around us. When our imagination is paired with our intelligence, combined with a commitment to produce a solution, we can then facilitate the exchange of current realities for new realities.
First, we must be willing to imagine a new reality. Second, we must use our intelligence to work out the details that will facilitate this new reality. Third, we must learn from failed experiments and make adjustments needed to reach our goal rather than allowing failures to create obstacles.
Thomas Edison was committed to his imagination. He pictured a new reality and worked tirelessly thinking through possibilities. He spent a year and a half failing to create the light bulb, trying over 2,000 experiments. When he failed, he made the adjustments needed to see his imagination and inventions come to life. He said, “I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.”
This incredible story of Edison’s stick-to-it-ive-ness leads me to wonder- do we have the imagination to provide a solution or new reality in ministry but lack the kind of stick-to-it-ive-ness that allowed Thomas Edison to succeed after hundreds of false starts and failed attempts?
For just a moment, substitute the word imagination for vision. Maybe we have a vision to see our youth ministries reach beyond the walls of the church. That’s a start. But do we give up on our imagination/vision after 1 month of trial and error? Are we willing, like Thomas Edison, to spend a year and a half failing if it means we will ultimately succeed? Are we willing to develop things and take the necessary steps to see our vision come to life and facilitate new realities in the communities we serve?
With all my heart I imagine a generation that knows the love of God and extends his love to those around them. And with all my heart I am committed to fail until I’ve accomplished that which facilitates an exchange of current reality for a new reality. Who’s with me?