Ministry, Science, and Failure

I feel like I have heard it a thousand times:

Ministry is an art not a science.

It takes creativity, beauty, gifts and talents. There is the wild element of the Holy Spirit that keeps things from being precise and measurable (as much as we try).

But friends, I think I remembered tonight that ministry is also a science.

I’m not talking about those eureka moments and big discoveries. I’m talking about the thousand failures that happen all along the way.

I heard recently about this book: Failure: Why Science Is So Successful, by neuroscientist Stuart Firestein. He points out all the ways the scientific process guarantees failures and flops. And every one of those failures is an opportunity to learn, tweak, grow, and do something different.

I am in the midst of what was essentially a failure of process and communication right now at my church and it rests squarely on my shoulders. Not enough time, too many balls in the air, not enough clarity, they all played a role.

This fall, I instigated some changes to our ministry structure: shifting away from more rigid committees to a more flexible team approach. But I couldn’t figure out how to help lead that change in the right way in a timely manner. Running up against a deadline with charge conference, I skipped a few steps I didn’t realize existed. And instead of helping folks feel freed up to serve where they are called, it turns out there are some who are feeling left out and left behind and left alone.

I kind of want to take a mulligan. I want to take back the last four months.

Or maybe not.

Because failure is an opportunity to learn, grow, move forward, and do it better next time.

And the science of ministry allows you to look at the process, evaluate, and make adjustments to the formula.

The science of ministry takes the key learnings from a flop and turns it into a process for the next time.

When you remember ministry is a science, you are reminded that innovation and discovery takes patience, time, grace, and a familiarity with failure. Holy failure. The kind of failure that means you are constantly moving on towards perfection… without judgment for where you have been. 

So, tomorrow, I start making phone calls and rebuilding. Tomorrow, I put in writing what I’ve learned. Tomorrow, we begin the work anew.

Here’s to tomorrow… Because God isn’t done with us yet, and that probably means there is another failure waiting to show us how to keep growing in love, service, and prayer.

1 Comment

  • rebuildingpastor

    December 30, 2015 at 1:47 pm Reply

    One of the most grace-filled things a Christian can do is accept responsibility for a mistake, failure, or shortfall. I pray those who were taken aback will respond to your grace, Katie. May you all forge new paths together.

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