stage frightIt was my turn! Working on a team of 9, my opportunities to be on stage were limited; but finally it was my turn to do announcements. I had the list, and I rehearsed it several times, knowing that if I did a good job, I’d get more opportunities to speak from the pulpit.

Then the moment came. I stepped into the pulpit as the congregation finished up greeting each other. “Good Morning!” I spoke into the microphone, gauging my volume, watching everyone sit down. And then the unthinkable happened – my mind went blank. Even with the list in my hand, I gave perhaps the worst performance ever. Every word was halted, I couldn’t seem to complete a thought.

What do you do when your young leaders completely mess up? Are you tempted to pull them back “until they are ready”?

When we watch people fail, it hurts. Believe me. I could feel the entire congregation begin breathing again when I got off that stage.

Yet, for some of us, the only way to get good at something is to do it enough times that you have failed in every way possible. Once you’ve learned what not to do, you learn what to do.  How do you help the young people in your organization develop the skills to lead when they keep making mistakes? Better yet, how do you keep your congregation engaged while your young leaders are falling on their faces?

Here are some things that might help:

  1. Create a culture of learning. You set the tone for your organization. Do you display curiosity and growth, or do you only value perfection? If you create an expectation of growth, then there will be room for people to fall on their faces and get back up. If you have an organization that has already developed a culture of perfection, you will have to walk through the stages of change to help them adjust their expectations.
  2. Set up a system of coaching. My senior pastor was particularly good at coaching. Every time I got on stage, I had time with him the next day. Together, we would look at what I did right and how I could improve. We all improve with a coach who can point things out to us and help us grow.
  3. Pray over your team. God works from the inside, whereas we only work from the outside. I had deer-in-the-headlights experiences every single time I got up to do announcements. I could pray, and preach, but announcements baffled me. I froze every time. Then, one day I was in a worship service with friends, and I brought it up to God. As I worshiped, God gave me the answer. Instead of focusing on getting the announcements perfect, I needed to focus on loving the people. I would have done frozen announcements for years  if God hadn’t shown me that one important missing piece. When you pray for your team, God will help them find their missing pieces.
  4. Admit your own mistakes. Nothing will help create a culture of learning more than admitting that you are learning and growing yourself. When you make a mistake, promptly learn from it. Sometimes, you need to ask forgiveness, because sometimes our mistakes hurt people. More often than not, we just fall short of perfection. If you admit your mistakes, you will help others to accept themselves as learning and growing people. When they see how you fall short and continue to learn and grow, they will be able to pick themselves, learn and keep going.

There are some amazing young people in your church that need an opportunity to shine. Don’t be afraid to help them on their road to growth – you are laying the foundation of a great tomorrow.