Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Significant Cause of Failure in Ministry

I attended a workshop this week for further development in the areas of training and consulting. One of the instructors is an extremely accomplished businessman, consultant, professor, and researcher. A portion of his instruction was devoted to causes of business failure.

Research was cited during one session that was both enlightening and alarming. According to said research, the underlying causes of business failure in the U.S. are as follows:


  • 45.6% - Incompetence
  • 19.2% - Unbalanced experience
  • 12.5% - Lack of managerial experience
  • 11.1% - Lack of experience in the field
  • 10.1% - Unknown reasons
  • 0.7% - Neglect
  • 0.5% - Disaster
  • 0.3% - Fraud
A quick calculation reveals that over 88% of all business failure is due to incompetence and/or a lack of experience. If one considers that a portion of the 10.1% of unknown causes may relate to these factors, the actual percentage may approach the 98% figure.

It is abundantly clear that most businesses fail because the people running those businesses simply do not know what they are doing. Worse yet, they don't know that they don't know what they are doing. These people don't set out to fail. They don't believe they are going to fail. No one would invest time and money into a business venture unless they are reasonably convinced it will succeed. The people who are vested in these businesses undoubtedly believe that their knowledge, products, ideas, services, etc. are unique and worthy enough to achieve success. Yet many businesses do, in fact, fail. And the vast majority of them fail due to incompetence and a lack of experience.

As I processed this information my thoughts began to shift from the business world to ministry endeavors and the work of the church.

While the statistics may not be precisely comparable, it would naive to think that there is not a significant degree of commonality. What follows are some random thoughts regarding the relationship between incompetence and/or lack of experience as a cause or hindrance for failure in church work and ministry endeavors.

A burden and a passion for ministry is a prerequisite for success in God's kingdom. Without these one can never advance in the work work of the ministry. However, a burden or a passion alone is not enough. If one truly has a passion, he will do whatever it takes - learn whatever needs to be learned, do whatever needs to be done to see the work of the kingdom advance. Often someone feels that God has given them a burden for a particular area of ministry. That's great! The next step should be to become equipped to fulfill the work of that ministry.

The work of the ministry is a spiritual endeavor first and foremost. That point cannot be underestimated. But one would be greatly mistaken to promote the notion that spirituality alone is all that it takes to be competent in ministry. Certain skills must be acquired and developed.

To give but one example, a Pastor will need to know some things about about leadership, training, management, supervision, accounting, counseling, education, and some other fields. He need not be an expert in all things. Certainly he can (and should) retain the services of professionals to aid in many areas. But it requires a general business knowledge to do even this. He must obtain adequate knowledge to make good decisions in these areas.

No amount of hard work will compensate for a lack of competence. Good ideas cannot come to fruition if one has not acquired the knowledge and skill to execute them. This is true at every level and in all areas of ministry. Lifelong learning, training, and development are absolutely crucial to the success of ministry. This should be done through formal and informal means. One who will not commit to further learning and development has destroyed the potential for his ministry to be successful.

Important duties must not be given to individuals without the competence and experience to accomplish them. Instead, they should start in an assisting role while they are provided the proper training and opportunities to build their knowledge and experience. Qualities such as loyalty, commitment, consistency, accountability, and so forth are absolutely essential for consideration of a church leader. But these qualities in and of themselves without the leadership and technical knowledge and ability is a recipe for failure.

In today's world there is no excuse for incompetence. Countless resources and opportunities are available to learn the information needed to build the knowledge to make informed decisions. But, it is an active process that takes time and effort. This process begins by one coming to the realization that there is much he does not know and needs to learn. The moment we begin to think that we know everything there is to know is the moment we begin our decent into failure.

1 comment:

Scott Phillips said...

great blog. You have got this blog thing down good.