Let Them Fail

I think I messed up.  A teenager gave me a form that needed to be filled out, signed and handed back to them in 5 minutes and I did it.  I know, I know you are saying, “It’s not a big deal Chris.”, but I can’t help feeling a little resentment, a little anger at myself for not saying, “Eh, not going to fill out this form (even though it’s not a big deal) because you should have given it to me 2 months ago when you first got it.”
But then again who am I to talk?  I was a slacker in high school, college and a little bit of one today.  But I know if I mess up, I don’t expect someone to bail me out…unfortunately, many of the teens we serve do and that can be dangerous to your ministry.  That’s why we have to:
LET THEM FAIL
I know sounds harsh right?  Really?  How can a Christian youth minister suggest a thing?  Well, maybe it’s because I’ve been reading Dr. Tim Elmore’s Generation iY and I’m buying what he’s selling.  Maybe it’s because I don’t remember getting bailed out when I was being irresponsible or acting entitled.  In order to hold up values, to create organization and build of followers of Christ who are humbled and selfless, we need to let them fail.  Because with failure we can grow, we can learn and we begin to understand that someone else is in control.
So how do we achieve failure?

Don’t Take Their Side
You are an adult that they love and will at times leverage you against their parents.  They want you to side with them because as a representative of the church we can hold a significant amount of weight.  That’s not going to be healthy to the relationship between the child and parent.  They need to honor their parents and when we take that responsibility away from them, they become entitled.  And entitled people are horrible at humility.  There are exceptions; however, if we don’t support parents we can’t expect them to support us.  To gain the support of a parent you’ll need to get to know the parent.

Raise Expectations
I used to be better, but I’ve turned into a softy of late.  I can be a little easy on the deadlines, rules and expectations.  As humans we need grace and mercy; however, we also need to stand behind certain values and disciplines.  I get it, we don’t want to create too many hoops for someone to jump through; however, confusion on an expectation is due to a lack of communication.  If you want to raise the bar, you need to raise awareness.


Give Them Story
You need to let them know that while failure isn’t always bad.  Failure is a reminder that we need to focus on God’s plan.  We need to share our stories of failure to the students we serve as a reminder that calling yourself a Christian doesn’t mean perfection.  When you can share a story, you can inspire a new one and we know the greatest stories have rises and falls.

Call Them Out
If you see them doing something they shouldn’t be doing, let them know.  Don’t ignore it if it’s on Facebook, talk to them about it and tell them, “Dude, that ain’t right.”  Of course do it in a loving manner, but don’t be afraid of letting them know that they were wrong.  If no one calls them out they’ll become apathetic towards certain behavior.

If we don’t raise risk takers then we raise safe Christians and that’s not attractive or effective.  People want action, they want triumph, they want the comeback, that’s why sports are so big in this country.  We need to encourage students to take risks, to get up after they fall and to move forward.  When we can help them move forward, then we can grow.  So is your ministry safe?  If so, change it so that you can help young people grow.

How do you facilitate risk taking and failure in your ministry?


What holds you back from allowing your teens to fail?