A Lesson in Defining the Win



By Travis Hill

When’s the last time you failed? And it was entirely your fault? You see, I’ve been in the middle of a pretty interesting transition at my own church over the last few months, one that has stretched and changed me, going from one position of comfort to a position of leadership, tough decisions, and more. I was excited when it was happening, when the suggestion came to me, but I was also scared. I could potentially fail in this new endeavor, but fortunately I have been surrounded by some of the most incredible people.

And what made all of this more difficult? It happened right at the beginning of our 30 Hour Famine kickoff. The dates were set, the brand new, super awesome packets were in, and we were ready to rock and roll here with Student Ministry. Each year, we try to do something a little different to bring in the congregation. Two years ago our senior pastor donated his old beat-up truck so that we could literally sign it to raise money; last year we created sponsorship packets where adults could engage with students. And this year? Well, because of the transition, so far I had nothing. One student approached me about hosting a benefit show, and I was quite leery. Have you hosted a benefit concert before? Boy, is it tough work! So, I let the student run the show. Did I mention that this student was a mere 14 years old?

I told her if she was wanted a benefit concert then she would have to do the work to put it together. Obviously, I told her that I would help her through the process with some of the logistics, but it was really going to be her doing. She began asking the worship leaders at our church, boldly going up to people she had never met to get them involved. And remarkably, they all said yes. The stage was set (quite literally), the music was picked, and the musicians were ready to go. The last bit fell on me.

Three weekends before, we had decided the benefit concert would actually be during the 30 Hour Famine event. It was the first time we had truly invited the congregation into our space during our event. I got on stage to do announcements, bringing the student who organized the show with me, and we discussed why we do 30 Hour Famine and why the show was important. She did such a fantastic job of explaining the “why”.

Fast-forward three weeks and the show was about to happen. And weren’t many people around. In fact, aside from our group of super hungry teens, pre-teens, and leaders, there were maybe a dozen other people there. And it was disheartening, honestly. Was it my fault? Probably, to a degree. The music was still great and the student speakers shared from their hearts. How about the 8th grader who learned to play the ukulele a couple of months before, but really wanted to sing and play “Oceans” by Hillsong at the concert? Let’s be honest, she was the highlight.

But did we raise hundreds of dollars at the benefit concert? No. Honestly, I don’t think we raised even one hundred dollars. And in the world’s eyes that would be a failure.

But what happened instead? Students got on stage and lead when they could have said no. Teenagers could have been more concerned about what other people thought of them and decided that they didn’t want their voices to be shared. The 9th grade girl could have opted out of putting together the benefit show because it was too difficult. So sure, we didn’t raise a considerable amount of money, but the real win was in the empowerment of students. I failed them in bringing in loads of money and people, but I would like to think that I really helped them succeed even more through giving them the control we typically don’t.