The Value of Mistakes
An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable.
Howard Head was frustrated with the clumsy, hickory snow skis he used when he hit the slopes. So he designed new skis with two layers of aluminum, plywood sidewalls, and a center filled with honeycombed plastic. He excitedly tried them out on the slopes, but they broke. So he made a second pair. They broke, too—as did the third pair. Howard Head went through forty versions of skis over three years. Finally, in 1950 he came up with a design that worked, and his sporting equipment is known worldwide today.
Leaders who expect progress must allow some latitude for chaos and failure. That's the point of Proverbs 14:4. Derek Kidner, an Old Testament scholar, comments, "Orderliness can reach the point of sterility. This proverb is not a plea for slovenliness, physical or moral, but for the readiness to accept upheaval, and a mess to clear up as the price of growth." Do you want your feeding trough kept clean? Fine, then don't have any oxen. But you'll have a tough time harvesting and processing your grain.
Peter Drucker recognizes this wisdom when it comes to business. He suggests, "The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote into a top level job a man who was not making mistakes—otherwise he is sure to be mediocre." Another CEO adds, "Make sure you generate a reasonable number of mistakes."
Churches and ministries that make an impact create an environment where people are allowed to make mistakes. Obsession with complete order will curb creativity. Do you want the walls in your church facility to be spotless, or do you want to reach more teens for Jesus Christ? Is it more important to avoid legal hassles and red tape or to develop a ministry to single moms? Leaders must create environments for themselves and others that allow for a reasonable amount of mess. That's the price for progress.
What kinds of messes and mistakes can I allow people to make in order to make progress? What kinds of messes and mistakes are inappropriate because they stem from carelessness, rebellion, or apathy?
Lord, save me from majoring on the minors. Help me to see the big picture—and to tolerate the messiness that comes with effective and creative ministry.
Something to Think About
"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try!"
–Beverly Sills, American soprano
Copyright Tyndale House Publishers.
Used by permission.
In ministry it is all too easy to be plagued by fears of failure or inadequacy. Many of these fears stem from flawed expectations or a narrow perspective. This resource has articles, devotionals, assessments, and more that offer insights and practices to help you gain a more biblical (and more encouraging) outlook.