Running a ministry can often times be completely unpredictable. You don’t always know if your efforts will produce the results you hope for or just end up in failure. Say you have been trying to prioritize relational evangelism within your ministry. Because you want to be a leader who models it, you begin to call your students up in order to build stronger relationships with them. As you dial a few numbers you begin to get discouraged—no one is picking up. In faith you call one last student, Erika. She picks up! After talking for a few minutes on the phone, you ask her if she and a friend of her choosing would like to hangout at the local coffee shop—your treat. Erika, oozing with excitement, agrees to meet you there and says she’s going to invite her non-Christian friend, Daniel, to come too. So excited at the opportunity to relationally evangelize you shout out, “Yes!” Getting off the phone feels like a complete victory.
Try This! ❯
Text your leaders and students the following message: True or False? Every sin is a failure, but not every failure is a sin. We’ll talk about it at youth group this week.
A week goes by and your phone begins to buzz—it’s Erika. Instantly you begin to panic as it dawns upon you that you were suppose to meet her and Daniel. You are all the way across town and there is no way you can make it to the coffee house in time. So, you answer the call and tell her the bad news. While she tells you it’s OK, you can tell that it’s not. Next week, Erika doesn’t show up to youth group and you feel like a complete failure. How can you ever build a Gospel Advancing Ministry if you cannot even model it yourself?
We All Fail
Let’s face it…life is full of failures. Granted, some failures are more catastrophic than others. Yet, whether big or small, we can all agree that there was a time in the past and there will be a time in the future when failure will strike.
In youth ministry, a failure can completely destroy the morale of a leader—especially young leaders. You are, after all, engaging in the work of sharing God’s love and discipling teenagers. When you make a mistake it can feel as if you not only failed the ministry, but you failed God. Except, failures are not really failures if you are able to learn from your mistakes. In fact, your failures can help you better develop a Gospel Advancing Ministry, if you understand how to make failures count.
Not All Failures Are Sins
The Fall of humanity marks the greatest failure that has ever happened in the history of the world. Adam and Eve’s sin fundamentally changed human nature. Second Chronicles 6:36 states, “There is no one who does not sin.” Every person, because of Adam and Eve, is born with a sinful nature and will therefore sin. There is no escaping this sad truth. And if we try to deny it, Scripture tells us that we are deceiving ourselves and the truth of God is not in us (1 John 1:8, 10). While this may sound gloomy, it is actually freeing. Your sins are not unusual; instead, sin demonstrates the great need that we all have for a savior. Help your teenagers understand that the sooner they accept their fallen nature, the sooner they can accept that they cannot live a perfect life—only Christ could accomplish that.
Every sin is a failure, but not every failure is a sin. This is a radical idea for many Christians. But think of it this way: God created humanity with finitude, that is, humans have limits. We are not all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present beings. Therefore, there will always be a limit to what we are able to do. So if you find yourself forgetting an important detail like meeting up with a student, don’t automatically accuse yourself of sinning (unless the reason behind your fail was pure laziness); instead, ask God for help and figure out a way to fix the situation going forward. If you are honest with your students about your failures, they will respect you and can better relate to your own struggles.Every sin is a failure, but not every failure is a sin. Click To Tweet
Failures Point Us to Christ
As you work to teach your students that failures are a part of our struggle in life, remind them that as Christians we’re no longer defined by our failures and sins, but are considered righteous because of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of God, we can always fail forward. And failing forward means we hold onto the truth that God considers us righteous—even if we may sin. Our failures consequently do not change our righteous standing with God. When you fail, do not beat yourself up; instead, cling to Christ and ask Him for help—the kind of help that only He can bring.
Talking about failures provides a great gospel segue! Figure out ways to teach your students that failure and sinning are an unfortunate struggle in life, but our failures do not define how God sees us. Failures point us toward Christ. For example, as you craft your message and discussion questions this week, be transparent about your own shortcomings and especially the failures of great Bible heroes. This does not mean that you have to share your darkest moments—it may not be appropriate. Rather, help your youth group see the broken side of every person and then point them to the gospel. For help with this, try using a great lesson from our Youth Group 2 Go downloadable curriculum line called “Freedom From Guilt.”
Realistically embracing our limits is a good thing, because the sooner we all accept them, the sooner we can better point others to a God who covers a multitude of sins and failures. Take the time this week to discuss with your leaders and students how failures demonstrate the power of the gospel.
Want more practical advice on mobilizing your teens to share the gospel? All of our Mobilize stories offer great ideas for training your students and building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Sign up here to receive this free, hands-on, weekly resource in your inbox!