Burnt Ribs, Fire and Learning to Learn

Last week I almost burned my house down. And it reminded me of how churches sometimes work. Before you laugh at me and my incompetent bar-b-queing skills, please hear me out on this.

In celebration of a coming milestone for our family, I was bar-b-queing ribs. Not having cooked ribs in many years, I closely read the directions on the package. Even though I followed the instructions perfectly, within eight minutes, my grill was aflame! Massive flames came slapping out the sides of the grill even though the lid was closed. A cute little cactus my kids affectionately call “cactus-shroom” caught on fire next to the grill. The paper towels I had used to wipe off my hands earlier were next. It was quickly getting out of hand.

My kids, who apparently have zero concept of the dangers of fire, moved ever closer to get a better view of the impending doom that awaited our dinner. I reached under the grill to turn off the gas and burned my hand, but that still didn’t put the fire out. Those ribs were burnin! In a last ditch effort to put out the flames, I grabbed the garden hose, quickly lifted the lid and sprayed the flames into submission. In the process, much of the hair on my left arm was singed to a stinky crisp. The fire was finally out, but not before a neighbor had called the fire department because of the smoke.

By the time the fire truck arrived, the smoke was gone. They slowly drove by, looked over the fence at my charcoal ribs, saw everything was in order and waved goodbye.

So what does this have to do with Reach Consulting and the Church? It was a reminder that sometimes things just go wrong, no matter how much effort you put in, no matter how perfectly you followed the instructions, no matter how much thought you put in ahead of time.

Sometimes, your efforts just end up in flames. It’s just life.

In the Church, it’s often difficult to get new ministries or initiatives off the ground. We plan, we budget, we communicate to the congregation what is going to happen, we tell them how this can affect their lives or the lives of others. We hope and pray that this is the leading of God, the thing that is going to make our church more effective. We work hard at preparing, teaching, getting volunteers, raising money, praying, and then preparing some more.

But what if it fails?

BBQ Fire

In the Church, we like to think that all of our ministries are God-ordained and will succeed every time. But lets be honest. Sometimes our efforts fail.  Perhaps our endeavors are ordained by God, but that doesn’t mean the outcome we expect will be the outcome God allows. For whatever reason your ministry initiative or project failed, did you learn from it? As leaders, we must learn from our mistakes and from the mistakes of others.

I remember working for a church when our executive team launched a new video venue worship service. We assigned two other pastors to oversee the development of the venue, renovated a building, gave some funds, and set them free. After less than 9 months, we had to shut down the venue. It simply didn’t work for our church. After much discussion, our team was forced to learn what had gone wrong and why it failed. As we developed the next venues over the next two years, we constantly reminded our staff and teams what we had learned and to not duplicate our mistakes.

Is your team a “learning team.” Does your church learn from its mistakes? Is your staff willing to admit when its ministries or initiatives fail?

In order to constantly improve your team, your ministry, your church, your evangelism, your outreach, you must learn from past mistakes and past failures.

So what happened to my dinner?

After the fire was out, I hopelessly looked at the burnt ribs. With my wife Brandy not being home, I had to quickly figure out what to now do for dinner for me and the kids. The ribs didn’t work out as planned, but our celebration and purpose still moved us to keep going. We had all wanted the ribs to be awesome, but we had to settle for something a bit less than expected. Regardless, our evening was still fun, celebratory, humorous, and worth the experience. Besides, we got to celebrate that I didn’t burn the house down!

What did I learn? I learned that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes God forces us to learn from our mistakes. And even when we follow the best instructions we have, things still sometimes don’t work out. It’s just life. And I learned that the instructions I used for ribs were not very good! And I’m sure I’ll try a different method in the future.

We all need to learn and try again, but do it differently. Sometimes we need to get help, find a professional, seek out someone who can point you in a different direction that may be more beneficial. At Reach Consulting, this is what we do best. We help churches look at their past, offer different solutions, and point them in a new direction.

Do you have any fun ministry (or bar-b-que) failures that you learned from? Share with us so we can all be a learning team.


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