Failure, Learning, and Engaging

legosThe Super Bowl is past, the Olympics are here, and baseball spring training has begun. These are all topics around my house as we talk about our favorite sports and marvel at what people can accomplish. We cheer when amazing plays go right, we gasp when someone falls or crashes, we wonder if they will get up and try again, we can feel their frustration and pain, and we can hope that they will do it better next time. These are life lessons. Whether we are talking about building a Lego structure that collapses, leading a class that doesn’t go so well, or crashing on an Olympic ski run. How do we pick up and try again? Or, DO we pick up and try again. There is always an option of walking away from something when it isn’t going right, and then there is the option of learning from our failures and mistakes, in order that we might apply them to new adventures in the future.

We cannot learn from only succeeding and as JK Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” ( Our lives are made up of what we learn from both failure and success. This is an easy concept when it comes to experiments and learning in school. They Mythbusters say, “Failure is always an option.”

But, what does failure look like for those of us working in the church? How are we helping young people not only work through their own failures but also risk failure as they engage in living a life of faith? Failure for us may not mean crashing on a ski mountain, but it may mean creating too safe a space for them where we provide all the answers and never have any questions. JK Rowling reminds us that life is about living, taking chances, risking, questioning, and learning. As Diana Laufenberg talks about in her TED talk, ( we no longer have to go to a school to learn or get the information. Youth no longer have to come to church or youth group to learn about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, religion, etc. because they can get all that information elsewhere. So how are we engaging with the questions? In what ways can we inspire youth to grapple with their faith, beliefs, and practices so that they are using their own words, making it their own, and coming to understand it as something that has an impact on their lives? How are we encouraging our youth to really grapple with those things that are important to them in light of their beliefs?

Most of us grew up in a church where you had worksheets that had correct answers and stories that were not questioned. We are now in a time where the questions are just as important as anything else because the questions begin the exploration and engagement. Let us not forget that the disciples failed over and over again as they struggled to understand Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Jesus kept teaching, and showing, and giving them examples knowing that once they got the message they would make it their own and spread the Good News. Jesus used examples and stories that made sense for their context. He taught by example and used their life experience as a basis for teaching about the Kingdom of God. How might we go about doing the same?

  • Invite youth to create imagine what a Bible story would be like if Jesus were teaching it today. Instead stories of sheep, fish, and agriculture, what might the examples be?
  • Encourage your group to grapple with the moral and meaning behind given Biblical texts.
  • Inspire them to find ways in which their faith can inform their everyday lives.
  • Explore with them how to live out the Gospel in your community…take the Beatitudes or the Greatest Commandment and find a way to make that real where you are right now.

Written by The Rev. Shannon Kelly, Originally posted on Faith Formation Learning Exchange

Categories: Failure, formation, youth

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