I was at a meeting with some of our leaders from part of my ministry a few weeks ago, and we were discussing the topic of failure and how it is perceived within our organization. We agreed that there is an unspoken rule that failure is NOT okay. We will go to great lengths to prevent failure or even to cover it up and make it look like success when it does happen.
Why do we do this? It’s not biblical. Jesus let His disciples fail on a regular basis. Here are a few examples. They failed when they:
- Tried to cast out an unclean spirit from a boy
- Were asked to feed the 5,000
- Argued about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom
- Walked on water
- Tried to stay awake and pray with Jesus before His arrest
- Defended Jesus against the soldiers
- Denied knowing Jesus
You may think I’m cynical, but I believe Jesus even set them up for failure on certain occasions. He knew that they wouldn’t succeed, but He let them try anyway. Why? Because failure gives birth to growth and learning, maturity, character, humility, a teachable spirit, dependence on God, empathy for others, and even innovation, transformation, and revival! We learn sooooo much more from our failures than we do from our successes. Are we missing out on God’s best for us when we work so hard not to fail?
Recognizing this problem in their culture, here’s what one region of our ministry did. They flipped failure on its head. Instead of hiding failures, they required their leaders to celebrate them. In every leader’s performance appraisal for the past few years, they have had to share an “excellent failure” for which they were personally responsible. An “excellent failure” is a failure that taught you something, that gave you a new perspective, that prepared you, that matured you, that shaped you to be more like Christ. It’s a failure that produces a harvest in your life or ministry.
And for it to count, you have to own it. You’ve got to identify what you did or did not do that made things go wrong. You’ve got to say, “I failed,” or else the failure has no power to change you. You can’t dilute it by saying “we” or “my team” or “because they.” There may be truth in those statements, but the failure won’t be transformational for you until you acknowledge your part.
So, what do you think? Do you have the courage to own your failure? Are you willing to put your name on it and see what God is willing to do with a transparent and humble leader?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ~ John 12:24
For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again… ~ Proverbs 24:16
This lesson teaches that faith is about letting go of our problems and letting God handle them. It uses the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 and highlights the faith of the little boy who was willing to give everything he had so that Jesus could work a miracle.
- Vanilla wafers and goldfish crackers (enough for everyone to get some)
- Baskets to put the wafers and crackers in (12 baskets)
- Distribute the vanilla wafers and goldfish crackers among the twelve baskets and have them ready to distribute. You might want to arrange to have volunteers ready to pass them out before you begin teaching.
- Put markers in the Bible in the place where you want your volunteers to read the Scriptures for the lesson.
- Practice the script.
- “I’m going to tell you a story about over 5,000 hungry people.”
- “Let’s read about it.” (Have volunteer read John 6:1-4.)
- “But that doesn’t tell us how many people were there. Let’s jump ahead a little.” (Have volunteer read John 6:10.)
- “So, there were 5,000 men. That’s just the men.”
- “We know from one of the other Gospel writers (Matthew 14:21) that there were even more people than that, because it says there were 5,000 men besides the women and children.”
- “I bet that most of the men brought their wives and children, too.”
- “If every man brought his wife and even just one child, there would have been fifteen thousand people! That’s a lot of hungry!”
- “Let’s keep reading.” (Have volunteer read John 6:5-6.)
- “You see, Jesus already knew what He was going to do, but He wanted to test them to see if their faith had grown from seeing Him do all the miracles He did.”
- “And what did Philip say?” (Have volunteer read Philip’s response from John 6:7.)
- “BZZZZZZZZZTTTTT!!! Wrong answer! Everyone say it with me, ‘BZZZZZZZTTTTT!!!!’”
- “Philip failed the test. He didn’t have any faith that Jesus could feed the people.”
- “But let’s see what Andrew does.” (Have volunteer read John 6:8-9.)
- “Andrew brought Jesus a young boy with a lunch sack, which contained five, small loaves of bread and two fishes.”
- “Andrew didn’t bring much, but he brought Jesus something.”
- “DING! DING! DING! Right answer! Everyone say it with me, ‘DING! DING! DING!’”
- “Believe it or not, even though Andrew still didn’t have enough faith to understand what Jesus could do, he was the one who passed the test.”
- “Philip brought Jesus nothing but doubt, but Andrew brought what he could find.”
- “He brought Jesus something, and when you’re talking about faith, something is always better than nothing.”
- “Touch your neighbor and say, ‘Something is better than nothing!’”
- “And what did Jesus do with that ‘something?’”
- “Well, first He organized everyone into groups and had them sit down.” (Organize participants into groups, and have them sit on the floor.)
- “Then He took the loaves and blessed the food. ‘God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.’” (As you say this, hold up one of the baskets of wafers and crackers.)
- “Then, He fed just a few of those people, right?” (Expected response: “No…” As you ask this question, have some volunteers begin to pass out the baskets of Goldfish and Vanilla Wafers to groups of kids. They should continue until every group has a basket.)
- “No? Well, He fed the hungriest people, right?” (Expected response: “No…”)
- “No? Well, He fed all the men, right?” (Expected response: “No…”)
- “No? Well, maybe He fed just the women and children, right?” (Expected response: “No…”)
- “No? Well, who did He feed?” (Expected response: “Everybody!”)
- “Everybody? You mean He fed every single person? That’s amazing!”
- “Well, surely He told them to only have one serving each so that the food would last, right?” (Expected response: “No…”)
- “No? How much did He feed them?” (Have volunteer read John 6:11.)
- “He gave them as much as they wanted? That’s crazy! We’re talking maybe 15,000 people at an all-you-can-eat buffet! That’s a ton of food!”
- “But wait, it gets even better!” (Have volunteer read John 6:12-13.)
- “They gathered twelve doggy bags (or baskets)!”
- “Why do you think there were twelve baskets left over?” (Expected response: “There were 12 Apostles.” They may need some help making this connection.)
- “Exactly! That was one for each of the Apostles!”
- “I think Jesus was being funny.”
- “He was teasing them, because they hadn’t believed that He could feed all those people, so He gave each of them their own personal reminder!”
- “Now, Philip failed the test. Andrew passed the test (but just barely). But the boy did better than both of them. He got an A+!”
- “Can anyone tell me why?” (Expected response: “Because he gave everything he had.”)
- “Right! He gave his entire lunch!”
- “When it comes to faith, something is better than nothing but everything is better than something!”
- “Touch your neighbor and say, ‘Everything is better than something!’”
- “Think about that! He had to be just as hungry as everyone else there.”
- “Jesus had been teaching and healing all day, and it was now late in the afternoon.”
- “I’m sure the boy had to make a tough decision – keep his lunch and fill his grumbling belly or give it away and take the risk that he might go hungry.”
- “Faith always requires us to take a risk.”
- “Faith is the moment something leaves our hands and goes into God’s hands.”
- “We don’t know what God is going to do. He almost never tells us ahead of time.”
- “But we’ve got to trust that God will do something good and maybe something even better than we expect.”
- “The boy didn’t know what Jesus was going to do with his lunch.”
“There is no way he could have known. This had never happened before!”
- “But that was the test! Did the boy trust Jesus enough to let Him handle the problem?”
- “God sometimes allows problems in our lives because He wants to know if we will trust Him by putting things into His hands.”
- “To pass the test, we’ve got to let go of our problems and let God handle them.”
- “Jump up and yell, ‘I’m gonna LET GO and LET GOD!!’”
- “Yell it again, ‘I’m gonna LET GO and LET GOD!!’”
- “Awesome! That is what faith is all about!”
- “Let’s all work at having faith in God like the boy in the story.” (You may want to say the Rhyme Time below several times to reinforce the teaching point.)
When we practice letting go,
God will help our faith to grow.
Children, Teens, Adults
This object lesson teaches about how God brings good things out of bad and uses the metaphor of turning lemons into lemonade.
- Romans 8:28
- Galatians 5:22
- Several cow patties if you can find them. If you can’t, use a bag of fertilizer and just explain that many fertilizers include animal waste.
- A pot of fragrant flowers
- A piece of fruit that most people would enjoy eating
- Lay out materials for the lesson.
- Practice the script.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “Who knows what this is?” (Hold up dry cow patty.)
- “Right? It’s a cow patty.” (Pass it around to kids.)
- “Now, it doesn’t smell too bad right now, but who has ever smelled a fresh one?” (Acknowledge responses.)
- “They’re stinky, aren’t they?”
- “So, you probably wouldn’t go around smelling them, would you?”
- “But would you smell this?” (Hold up flowers in a pot.)
- “Sure, because it smells good, right?”
- “Did you know that this (hold up another cow patty) was used to make this (hold up flowers) smell so good?”
- “How did that happen?” (Take responses until someone mentions fertilizer.)
- “Right! Cow manure is one of the most common ways to fertilize plants and flowers.”
- “How many of you would eat this?” (Hold up cow patty.)
- “But would you eat this?” (Hold up fruit.)
- “Believe it or not, there’s some of this (hold up cow patty) in this (hold up fruit).”
- “God made it so that plants and flowers take the nutrients out of the manure and reuse them to help the fruit and the flowers grow.”
- “God doesn’t waste anything. He even takes bad stuff (hold up cow patty) and turns it into good stuff (hold up or point to fruit and flowers).”
- “If God can do that with cow poop, He can do that with the bad stuff in your life, too.”
- “Some of the stuff that happens to us really stinks, but God will use it to do good stuff in our lives so that we come out smelling like a rose.”
- “He can use those bad things to create fruit in our lives like the fruit He talks about in the Bible.” (Have volunteer read Galatians 5:22).
- “So, whatever bad stuff happens in your life, give it to God to use as fertilizer, and He will bring good fruit out of it.” (Have volunteer read Romans 8:28.)
- “God will use everything to bless you if you trust Him with it!” (You can use the Rhyme Time below to reinforce the lesson.)
If we trust Him and obey, God makes bad things go OUR way!
Filed under blessing, Challenges, Change, Choices, Conflict Resolution, Fruit of the Spirit, God's Plan, Healing, Hope, Object Lesson, Problem solving, Solutions, test, tool, Training
For summer camp this year, I’ve written ten Challenges (Bible activities for small groups and a leader to do together – sometimes in competition with other groups) and some large group lessons on the story of Joseph. They are all located on the Lesson and Material Downloads page (see the link at the top of the screen), and you can find them alphabetically in the list. They all start with the letters “JJ” for “Joseph’s Journey.”
Hope you can find some lessons that will be useful for you!
Filed under Abraham, Abundance, acceptance, activity, Agape Love, Annointing, Belief, Bible study, blessing, Challenges, Change, Character, Christianity, Comfort Zone, Coping skills, courage, Discipline, distractions, drama, exercise, faith, Fear, forgiveness, Future, Game, Games that Teach, God's dream, God's favor, God's Plan, God's Will, Hands-on, Healing, heart, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Joseph, Kindness, leadership, Lesson, Listening to God, Love, Obedience, Object Lesson, Overcoming obstacles, Pride, purity, Relationships, Repentance, Salt of the earth, sanctification, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Health, Spiritual Warfare, Strengths, struggles, team, temptation, territory, test, tool, Transformation, Trust, unconditional love, Waiting on the Lord
As a group, read the following Scriptures, and use the form to do a needs analysis of the situation.
Matthew 17:14-20 Mark 9:14-29 Luke 9:37-43
- What are the main issues?
- What isn’t working well?
- What is obvious about the problem(s)?
- What pain is it causing?
- Who/what is impacted by the performance gap?
- What is it costing individuals, the team or the organization?
- What are the organizational goals that are being impacted by the lack of performance?
- (If possible, tie these in with the organization’s strategy, vision or mission.)
- What is the potential cost to the organization if the goals and outcomes aren’t achieved and the performance problem isn’t addressed?
- What is the desired performance?
- What does success look like?
- What are the expectations?
- How will we know when we get there?
- What is happening now?
- What level of performance is currently being achieved?
- What are the gaps between the desired performance and the current performance?
- Why is the gap happening?
- Who or what is responsible?
- 1. Suggest
- What do you recommend?
- Who should do what by when?
- 2. Select
- Typically done by key leaders or stakeholders.
- 3. Start
- Typically done by key leaders or stakeholders.
- 4. Status (Celebrate or Start Over)
- Return to the Status step to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.
Filed under Apostles, demons, Devotion, Disciples, faith, Healing, Jesus, leadership, Management, Needs Analysis, Overcoming obstacles, Performance, Problem solving, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Growth, test
Children, Teens, Adults
This game helps participants to understand how important it is to step our of our comfort zones in order to grow. You can use the story of Abraham (Abram at the time) leaving his country and his family and everything he knew as a reinforcement of the lesson.
o Genesis 12:1-9
o Rope (about 30 feet or more) or a garden hose
o Balls (about 5 – alternatively, you can just wad up scrap pieces of paper)
o Laundry basket or trash can
o Tie the rope or garden hose into a loop.
o Use the rope or garden hose to make a small circle on the ground (about 1 ft – 1 ½ ft in diameter).
o Coil the excess rope or garden hose on top of this circle so that you have only one circle.
o Set up the trashcan or laundry basket about 20 ft away from the circle (further if you want to increase the difficulty).
o Practice the script.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “How many of you know what a comfort zone is?” (Acknowledge responses.)
- “A comfort zone is a place or situation where you feel safe, comfortable.”
- “When you are in your comfort zone, you don’t take risks.”
- “Those are uncomfortable, so they can’t be in the zone.”
- “In your comfort zone, there is no progress or growth, because progress and growth only occur when you take risks and step out of your comfort zone.”
- “God asked Abraham (Abram at the time) to leave his comfort zone.” (Have a volunteer read Genesis 12:1-9.)
- “Abraham had to leave everything that he knew (his family, his friends, his country, his home….) in order to follow God’s leading into a strange country.”
- “The trip would take months, and it would be full of risk to Abraham, his wife, his nephew, Lot, and their servants.”
- “They would face dangers from animals, thieves, foreign kings, fatigue, potential starvation and other threats.”
- “But Abraham could not experience God’s blessing from inside his comfort zone in his home in Haran.”
- “To experience God’s blessing, Abraham had to take a risk.”
- “Let me show you a demonstration that will help you understand comfort zones better.”
- “I’m going to need a volunteer.” (Select a volunteer from the group.)
- “Let’s pretend that this is your comfort zone.” (Position volunteer inside the coil of ropes or garden hose.)
- “Don’t you feel all comfy in there?”
- “Now, let’s pretend that you have a goal that you want to achieve.”
- “Your goal is to get five (or more if you like) shots in a row in that basket/trash can.”
- “You can take shots only from inside your comfort zone this first time.”
- “How many shots do you think you will make?” (Listen to response, and share it with the audience if it was too quiet for them to hear.)
- “Well, let’s try. Take your shots.” (Allow volunteer to take all his/her shots. Share the score with the audience.)
- “Not so good.”
- (Ask volunteer…) “What do you think would help you to be more successful?” (Listen to response, and shear it with the audience if it was too quiet for them to hear. If the volunteer doesn’t mention stepping out of their comfort zone, prompt them.)
- “Let’s try that.” (Allow volunteer to take one step, as big as they can, out of their comfort zone.)
- “But wait. That wasn’t very scary. Stepping out of your comfort zone has to have some risk involved.”
- “Otherwise, every place on earth would be your comfort zone.”
“Let’s make it more scary.”
- “Can I get another volunteer?” (Select another volunteer. Make him (or her) stand five feet away from the first volunteer.)
- “This person represents the risk of stepping out of your comfort zone.”
- “He (or she) has to stand right here and count to ten slowly (“one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand….”).”
- “When he gets to ten, he can try to tag our first volunteer, the shooter, as long as he is out of his comfort zone.”
- “But if the shooter goes back into his comfort zone, he can’t be tagged there.”
- “However, he still has to make all five shots, either from within the comfort zone if he hasn’t don’t it already or out of his comfort zone if he is brave enough to come out one step.”
- “Do both my volunteers understand how this works?” (Answer any questions they have. Then, let your shooter try to make the shots, stepping no more than one step out of the comfort zone. If the risk person tags the shooter, the shooter can’t shoot anymore shots.)
- “That looked challenging.”
- “But something interesting happens when you step out of your comfort zone.” (Uncoil the rope or garden hose to make it twice as big as it was.)
- “Your comfort zone grows!”
- “Now you feel comfortable going further than you went before.”
- “So, let’s try it again.”
- “Our risk person will count to ten slowly before he tries to tag our shooter.”
- “Our shooter can step one, big step outside of his comfort zone and take five shots without getting tagged.” (Allow them to try this.)
- “It’s getting easier. Let’s do it again!”
- “The comfort zone increases, because our shooter took a step out of it during the last round.” (Uncoil the rope or garden hose another loop or even two (depending on how fast you want to finish the exercise) to make it bigger. Then let the shooter try to make his shots again. If the shooter makes all his shots, you’re done. If he doesn’t, you might want to run the exercise a time or two again. When you are finished, thank and dismiss your volunteers and close with the following comments.)
- “So, you can see how a comfort zone works.”
- “Whenever you take a risk and step out of it, it grows.”
- “The more you do it, the easier it will be to accomplish your goals.”
- “Remember our story about Abraham?”
- “He took a huge risk, but every step out of his comfort zone helped him to grow in his faith in the Lord.”
- “By the time Abraham reached the Promised Land, he had learned to put his complete faith in the Lord.”
- “He needed that faith to help him wait the 25 years for God’s promise of a son to come true.”
- “He would need it again to pass the test of almost offering Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord.”
- “Abraham could never have the faith to do those things if he had stayed in Haran.”
- “If you want to experience God’s greatest blessings, you’ve got to follow Him out of your comfort zone.”
Filed under Abraham, Abram, Belief, blessing, Challenges, Character, Comfort Zone, courage, faith, God's Plan, God's Will, Obedience, Object Lesson, Sarah, test, Trust