Failure Is a Key to Growth by Tom Arthur

I’ve been experimenting with ways to grow my church. I know “church growth” is sometimes a bad word, but at its best, church growth is about making disciples of Jesus Christ. So I went with my worship leader, Jeremy, to Michigan State University’s campus and tried to hand out worship invite cards to students. This was way out of my comfort zone, but I was asking my congregation to push themselves, and I thought I ought to push myself, too. I found it a lot easier to tack the invite cards up on bulletin boards than hand them out to people, but we did both.

Our expectations were not very high. We hoped that after handing out a couple hundred cards we’d get at least one person to show up. We waited anxiously on Sunday morning hoping our low expectations might be surpassed. The results: not one new person showed up! So much for growing our church through invitation.

What Jeremy and I realized as we walked around the MSU campus (with a growing sense of futility about our method) was that this was the very first time in my two years of being a pastor at this church that we had actually gotten out of our office and walked around the community imagining how to build relationships. We really hadn’t realized how inward-focused we had become until we walked among these students on campus. Our eyes were being opened and our imaginations were being stretched, but the only way we got there was by risking failure.

And fail we did.

Failure is a key to growth. Joshua Foer in his book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, introduced me to the “OK plateau,” a place where we are no longer risking failure. We don’t take risks anymore, because we’re “OK” as we are.

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Source: Building Church Leaders