There is one sure way to never fail. That is to never take any risks in the first place. Taking risks is a part of life but it is also a part of ministry. Taking risks is the part of ministry that is a requirement for forward movement. We take risks when we realize a system that previously worked has now become dated. We take risks when we institute a new program that we think will help us connect with our community. We take risks every Sunday when we put kids and students in small groups that have never been to church and don’t understand our many unspoken rules. Risks are part of what we do. Risk management is how we navigate ministry wisely and make choices that will lead to impact—even if we have to fail along the way.
If you’re going to take a risk, these four things might help to evaluate if it’s worth it:
- Does the risk RESPOND to a void?
- Did you INVITE others to speak into the idea?
- Do you have a way to SHOW the results—good or bad?
- Do you KNOW what should happen next if the plan flies or fails?
There are enough risks in life and ministry to not take them unless there is a need that has to be addressed. Pointless risk-taking drains those who are working with you. Making a change when there isn’t a valid reason is just taking a risk without cause. If you see a void or a need, identify it clearly, and craft a response that is designed to address that need. The risk might solve other issues but the primary issue needs to be the central focus of the response. Identify the void. Evaluate the history and the reasons for the void. And then craft a solution to fill it.
A crafted solution should go through some filters before it is applied. Solomon warns us in Proverbs 15:22 that, “plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Invite other people to speak into your plan to respond. Invite supervisors, people who have been at your organization longer, and friends that know you well. You want the support of your managers. You want to know the history of the organization and how this void evolved. And you want to talk to the people close to you because they can give you honest feedback if the risk is a project you have the capacity to undertake. Every void cannot be filled by every person. Inviting others into the discussion can give an unattached perspective to risk evaluation.
If you have crafted a plan to respond to a void, and your counsel says go for it, make sure you have measures in place to evaluate whether or not the plan is working along the way. Benchmarks are important. Benchmarks encourage team members to keep going even when the end might be far off. Benchmarks confirm for trusting supervisors that you are headed in the right direction. Results will give you encouragement when obstacles arise and you get tired. If you’re going to take a risk, you want results that will say it was the right direction or benchmarks that will stop you along the way and help redirect your efforts.
Every calculated risk should have a Plan B and Plan C. What’s the next step forward if the plan flies? What should your team do if the risks fails? These ideas and plans that should be communicated to your team then everyone can be on the same page about what’s next. Then if that risk fails, everyone knows what to do next. This minimizes the time given to sitting in disappoint and points the team in the next direction. Knowing what is coming next can provide comfort in unsure situations.
Taking risks can be healthy. Risks keep the wheels of creativity turning. It reminds us that we aren’t in control of everything. And it gives God a chance to work when we cast our nets out on the water. Even with all that, risks should be calculated, purposeful, and designed to move vision forward in a way that rallies a team together and gives new life.