In my whole life, I don't think I ever received an 'F' in school. I've had a few 'D' grades. Most of my bad grades were because I didn't try. Now, I want to clarify something. Yesterday I mentioned that I failed. What I mean by that is, I moved to St. Joseph, MO, and said that my goal is that I would be a Missionary here. That I would approach ministry in a different way than I had before. I failed at that for a number of reasons, but here's the big three:
1. I Wasn't Intentional
I honestly had little clue to what it means to be a missionary. I didn't set a clear, specific goal of that that would mean. Which also means I didn't know what it took to get there. It was very haphazard. I sort of just approached it as "if I just think about ministry differently, and do some things I hadn't done before, then maybe it'll happen." I should have put myself on a learning track about doing missionary work in the U.S. and been more intentional about things to try. I should have put myself in a healthy-accountability system to help me grow and progress. By "healthy-accountability" I don't mean having someone on my case. I mean some way for me to keep myself on task, and coaching to help myself think strategically instead of getting bogged down in moment-by-moment situations/problems.
I recently purchased something to try to help myself with this, the Best Self journal from Best Self Co. Right now, it seems like a lot of work to start it, and I may fail at it at first, but knowing what I know now, in the long run, it will pay off. (Is that a run-on sentence? #grammarpolice) I've learned a lot about myself and where I can grow, so I'll use this to set some goals and be intentional about them.
2. I Tried Alone
I started this change in my thinking as a personal goal, "I'm going to be a missionary, not a typical Pastor." One great piece of advice that an experienced Pastor gave me when I asked about how to start something new in a church is "Do it as a herd." We are social beings, like herd animals. We gain momentum to accomplish things when we do it together. We truly are better together.
I was unable to (or incapable of) gathering a herd to work on having a Missionary/Missional mentality together. What I said above played a big role in that. I was only focused on changing me, and even then I wasn't as intentional about it as I could have been.
3. I Didn't Fail Enough
Failing means you tried. Not-trying is the even worse. I should have tried more things Honestly, if I would have failed more and failed faster, then I may have made more progress (see #1, I need to track and be intentional in order to try things, fail, and make progress). I know that "practice makes perfect" is a cliché, but in some ways it's true. Practice is really "fail a bunch of times and work to get better". Some say "practice makes habit" is a better way to put it, which is true, but improvement will happen when you learn and adapt as you practice. So, keep Failing, keep trying, and keep growing! Like my dad taught me, "Mistakes aren't bad if you learn from them." Another way to put it is "Fail Forward."
Stop the Blame Game
When failures happen, it's important to analyze and figure out "why". That's what I'm doing here. Sure, there's lots of other factors at play. Here I am simply taking responsibility for what I can, and provide a "why" without placing blame. Blaming isn't helpful, but self-reflection, taking responsibility, trying something new are all ways to grow and develop. So when I say that I failed, I'm saying it in a positive way. Yes there's grief, and I have all kinds of emotions, positive and negative, to process. This is part of the reason why I like the sport of baseball. They play so many games. They have thousands of at a bats. They throw thousands of pitches. There is so much data to analyze, and you see a lot of failure. You win some; you lose some. Sometimes you hit a home run; sometimes you strike out. Sometimes you can barely get the first out of the game and have to be replaced; other times you pitch a shutout. All of it is simply part of the game. It's mostly a lesson in dealing with failure. It's when you internalize the failures and make them your identity that you begin to quit trying and give up. This also means you quit learning and growing. If there's one thing that churches and church leaders need to do is to quit the blame game, keep learning & growing, and fail forward. 'F' can be for Future. What are you going to do with it?
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.