Every church has one.
Some Museums of Failure are monuments to trying new things for the sake of the Gospel/reaching unserved neighbors/being faithfully creative. And some are monuments to being stuck in TWWADT (pronounced tow-WAD-ti The Way We’ve Always Done Things.)
The original Museum of Failure is in Helsingborg, Sweden but now their exhibits travel throughout the world. Among the failed items featured: the plastic bicycle (“it was unstable and it broke“), the Twitter Peek Phone (“it only tweets and people had smart phones for that“) and the DIVX disposable DVD (“to replace rental DVDs but consumers hated it“.)
One of the differences between a thriving church and a dying church involves what their Museum of Failure looks like. Every church has one. What does yours look like?
The Museum of Failure in a Thriving Church might look like this:
- The closet full of 200 plastic flamingos once used for fundraisers by the youth. The youth raised money when Person 1 paid to “flock” Person 2’s yard in the night. Person 2 woke up to find a sea of pink birds in their yard with a sign saying “You’ve been flocked.” Flamingos were removed by same youth the next night to recycle for the next flocking. Hilarious.
- The Starbucks-esque set up in the church basement once used to try a coffee house for Sunday evening worship.
- The box of leftover “I Spent the Night with Dave” t-shirts which had once been given to volunteers who took turns sleeping in a reclining chair in front of a church member’s memory care room door to keep him from wandering the halls each night. This saved the family having to hire a 7 pm to 7 am nursing assistant.
The Museum of Failure in a Dying Church might look like this:
- The church parlor that no one is allowed to use because there’s fear someone will spill coffee in there and the church ladies want to keep it pristine as a memorial to Miss Myrtle. She taught a Bible study in the parlor for 27 years and the furniture was given by her family after she died.
- The Peach Festival that everyone hates but we’ve been doing it July 4th Weekend for 32 years so we have to keep doing it. People know our church – not because we show our community what the love of God looks like but – because of our peach ice cream. Without the Peach Festival, we are nothing.
- The Music Room that contains files and files of four-part music, choir robes for every age, and handbells event though our congregation hasn’t had a choir – much less a handbell choir – for over ten years.
We teach children that failure is a bad thing but if we fail after trying something new, we’ve learned so many things: what works and what doesn’t work, how to improve on our idea, what’s needed and what’s not needed.
If our congregation hasn’t failed lately it could be because we haven’t tried anything new. Fun summer activity: do a failure assessment of your church this week. And then toss a few (hundred) things.