What do you do when you put a lot of hard work into an event or idea in ministry… and the end result is disappointing?
For Christmas Luke got a home made volcano. We were pretty excited about it and spent several days building it and looking forward to the final moment on the eve of our trip home when we would erupt the volcano.
The climax of the project, was, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing we all had a good sense of humor about it. Here is a video of the dramatic eruption!
As we laughed about our volcano disaster, it occurred to me that the same thing has happened to me many times in ministry. I got a “great idea” – put a lot of work and energy and time and often resources into bringing the idea into reality, only the have the final result be… well, disappointing.
If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. You’ll have a great looking volcano that only fizzles. You can laugh about it, but more importantly, you can learn from it.
What are some of the lessons we learn in leadership from our flops?
- Ask, “Was this really of God? Or just me?” The answer isn’t automatically that you were off track with God – God isn’t always into big results, He is in the character building business, not the ministry building business – but there are times we have moved forward with something without any confirmation from the Lord that He even wanted us to pursue what we are so excited about. It can be a lesson to be more certain next time that He is asking us to do whatever it is we are so excited about. It may be the right idea, just not the right time.
- Ask, “Did I have others on board?” Similarly, you may have been the only one excited about it and been forcing it to happen. Others may have been acting excited so as not to disappoint you or discourage you (or bring on your frustration or irk) but in the end, they didn’t put the effort and energy into preparation and promotion that they would have if they had truly been on board with it.
- Ask, “Was this a distraction from what I ought to be doing?” Sometimes there is something more important we need to be focusing on, but it is less exciting, less enjoyable, or we plain just don’t want to do it – so we can find ourselves choosing to pour time and energy into something that “demands” our time so that we “can’t” do what we really should be doing. It can be a bit of self-deception not revealed until the distraction flops and the real problem is still there, and perhaps worse!
- Ask, “Did I take short-cuts?” Sometimes in our planning we let our excitement and eagerness cause us to short change the process and we don’t take the necessary time to do the job well. For example, in my volcano, what if I didn’t read the recipe right? In a ministry project we may skip asking for help, promoting properly, planning certain details, or clearing things that need to be cleared… all in our rush for the eruption we are so eager to see.
- Ask, “Could someone else have done this better than me?” One of the poisons of ministry is the belief “if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself.” Often, the opposite is actually the truth! When we want something badly, or enjoy something intensely, we often are more hands-on than is actually good for the project. If we let others who are more skilled than us take over, we may actually enjoy the results more!
If you’ve ever had a volcano fizzle – you are not alone. Don’t get down, laugh it off – but do learn from it. Next time, the results may be even better as a result!