Most people, and understandably so, spend a good portion of their time trying to avoid making mistakes. A mistake on the playing field might cost you the game. A mistake with your bank account can cost you some points on your credit score. A mistake driving could cost you your life. A mistake while texting could cost you a really embarrassing auto-correct.
For the most part, we have been conditioned to do everything we can to avoid making mistakes. Add this to the fact that as youth workers we have all witnessed, or possibly experienced ourselves, how unforgiving churches can be when mistakes are made, and it’s no wonder many youth workers spend much of their time and energy in the pursuit of mistake-free youth ministry.
And that, I would suggest, is the biggest mistake you can make!
Mistakes are a sign of life. Mistakes are an indication that risks are being taken. Mistakes prove you aren’t on cruise control. Mistakes mean you took a step of faith. Mistakes help you learn and grow. Mistakes are often a step back, which lead to two or three steps forward.
Haven’t made a mistake in a while? Not sure where to start?
Let me suggest three mistakes I think every youth worker needs to make (and maybe make on a regular basis!):
The Mistake of Planning Something Big That Fails Miserably.
A negative hit to the budget, a negative hit to your ego, a negative hit to the volunteers who bought into the idea are just some of the consequences when it happens, but it needs to happen. There aren’t enough fingers and toes on my body to count the number of times I’ve planned something I was sure would be epic, incredible and amazingly awesome. Sometimes it was all of those things….for the three people that showed up. And sometimes it was NONE of those things for the crowds of people who bought into the hype. I’ve had guest performers cuss on stage in front of junior high students, I’ve thought we rented out entire facilities only to discover we hadn’t and I’ve seen students calling to get picked up early from an event that we thought would be epic because they were bored to tears. But there’s something exhilarating and faith-stretching about planning something a little bit bigger, better and riskier than you normally would. It stretches your faith, makes you pray a little harder heading into it and sends a message to your ministry that teenagers matter enough to take risks.
The Mistake of Giving Too Much Ministry Away.
When you empower people, they often drop the ball. Or they carry the ball the wrong direction. Or they find success and cling way too tightly onto the ball from then on. I’ve heard it said that a ministry will only grow (numerically or spiritually) to the extent that the leader is comfortable giving it away. Not sure who said that, but he (it was probably a she) was a genius. Sure, it can be a mistake to give too much of your ministry away; to give the wrong stuff away to the wrong people. Be generous with empowerment; if you find yourself giving away too much of your ministry, you can always adjust…but hoarding influence and leadership really isn’t an option.
The Mistake of Being Taken Advantage of.
Nobody wants to be taken advantage of, right? Right…but you need to be. Being taken advantage of (by an overbearing parent, another department at the church, a student who abuses your grace, etc.) is an indication that you trust people, that you are a team player, that you put the interests of others above your own. A hard-hearted, calculated leader is rarely taken advantage of because everything is a transaction to be completed fairly, a deal to be brokered or a negotiation to be won. You don’t need to be abused, but you should be taken advantage of from time to time because it proves you are neck-deep in relationships with broken people in a broken church. Being taken advantage of might be an indication that you are naive and easily duped. And it might also be an indication that you simply care too much and trust too deeply. No mistake in that.
I only listed three….what are other mistakes that youth workers need to make?