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Failing Forward

By Ben Abu Saada on November 16, 2009

Recently I attended a fantastic conference put together by WorshipTogether.com.  It was a "mini-conference" with the intention of pumping vision back into the worship leader and members of worship teams.  While it was very brief...it was something I needed personally and really came at an integral time for me.  The conversations there brought back to remembrance the cause I have been called to as a Worship Pastor.  There were great insights and reminders for me, one of them being the need to remember every leader must allow space and openness for failure.

iStock_000003356644XSmallFailing Forward

Since taking on the role of worship leader at our local church some seven - eight years ago, I've learned that some things will always be.  There will always be a desire to achieve perfection...and there will always be failure. Balancing these two certainties in ministry can be quite an act. There are a few principles that can help.

Each week there is a review of our weekly services between our Senior Pastor and myself.  We sit down and walk through the most recent worship service talking about anything from reviewing the time, the flow, the technical, the spiritual, the good, the bad, ugly and amazing.  We've been doing this for many years now and find it very helpful in our desire to continually improve the worship experience at Grace ChurchOne of the factors we understand as being important, is the need to fail.

I've had conversations with fellow worship team members, fellow ministry leaders, fellow worship leaders and leaders in general about this topic.  It's difficult to grasp the importance of allowing failure to happen during a weekend service. Some folks are of the belief that there should NEVER be a mistake made...and if there is one...heads must role. Not exactly the best environment to thrive in. There are others who believe, "Hey...it's just the church man....let it ride...it's not a rock concert".  This one is not helpful and will ensure disaster week in and week out.  While it's true church is not a "rock concert", the attitude of letting the same failure happen each week is not bringing your best before the Lord.  Really both attitudes can be cancerous to any team environment.

A principal that I've adopted and truly believe in, is the need to allow team members to "Fail Forward". Taking a risk by letting a "green" musician step up and fill a gap, even if conventional wisdom might tell you to NEVER allow that person onstage is creating an attitude of "failing forward".  Taking a risk by allowing a unique stage setting be implemented...even if it means the band will have to readjust how it sees the other band members is creating a culture of "failing forward".  Or perhaps adding an element to a worship service that might seem out of the ordinary or completely unorthodox to what your church body is used to.  Whatever the case, I've learned that an environment of being open to failure is critical. If you don't take those risks, you might be missing out on something amazing that could become an integral part of your worship time.  Allowing a younger/newer musician on the team to play that solo, or lead that song, gives them that one additional step in their ministry service journey which molds them into a more mature musician...and more importantly, a more mature Christ follower.

When you adopt an attitude of openness to failure, you begin to create an environment on your team that allows people to take risks without the fear of rejection.  I've tried hard to communicate to people on our Weekend Service Team (lighting, audio, video, band, stage etc) that it's ok to fail...just make sure you're learning from the failure. Make note of the environment surrounding the moment the failure happened.  Asking questions like these:

  1. Where did the preperation breakdown happen?
  2. What ways can I change the environment around me to influence a more positive experience?
  3. What ways can I respond differently to the failure?

I'm sure we could each come up with our own list of questions...these are just a few.  Whatever your questions are, make sure you're asking yourself something in order to ensure you and your team are "Failing Forward". If we aren't failing...we aren't taking enough risks to improve ourselves and the ministries we lead.

For a righteous man may fall seven times

And rise again,

But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

(Proverbs 24:16)


Originally posted on Ben's blog on April 15, 2009.

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Ben Abu Saada

Ben Abu Saada

Ben has been a part of the All About Worship team since Fall of 2008. He serves as Worship Pastor at Grace Church in Overland Park, KS. Ben also serves as a part of his parents humanitarian organization to the West Bank called Seeds of Hope. He and his wife Addie live in Olathe, KS with their three daughters. Ben requests prayer for the teenage years quickly approaching.