90% of my ideas are terrible. No, for real. They’re really bad. What sucks is that I’m full of ideas. I’m constantly dreaming up how to tweak or completely transform our approach to student ministry. I generate so many bad ideas that my team often just tunes me out. I get the courtesy, “That sounds cool” with a plastic smile. Currently I’m doing my best to convince our team that what we need is a ginormous student building with 5 attached houses. I’m telling you it’s the future—for so many reasons. Someday when every church has a student building with 5 attached houses and our church missed the boat everyone will realize how innovative I am and promote me.
Here’s the thing about my ideas. While 90% of them are terrible and following them they could lead to immediate dismissal, the loss of thousands of dollars and probable hospitalization, 10% of them are genius. 10% of my ideas could potentially change the world. The trouble is that I can’t predict which ideas are in the 90% and which ideas are in the 10%. You really don’t want to guess wrong because great ideas invent the Internet and bad ideas take you to a Nickleback concert.
My guess is that whether you realize it or not, you also have more bad than good ideas. The thing is, if we could better discern the quality of our ideas we’d save ourselves and our teams a lot of grief. Nothing is more demoralizing than when the team is chasing down an idea that everyone knows is a dead end.
The good news is that somewhere along the line I stopped implementing all of my bad ideas. When? What was the big moment? It wasn’t a big moment but it was when my ideas were forced into community. When my ideas are stuck spinning within my own head almost all of them sound fabulous. However, when having to verbally explain and defend my ideas, 90% of them are revealed for what they are. Dumb. I know you’ve been there, when you realize that the words coming out of your mouth are exceeding illogical and you wish you never started talking in the first place—humbling.
Within the context of community (that is well intentioned debate over the validity of ideas) my 90% was revealed to be what they were and my life and ministry was protected from stupidity. The unforeseen byproduct of submitting my ideas to community is that my good ideas were refined and became significantly more awesome. “I like this idea that you call the Internets. But what if we could connect our gaming systems and play each other? And what if you took the “s” off it and just called it the Internet?” GENUIS! You might say that in the context of community my 10% became 90% better. If you’re not strong at math I probably lost you right there. I think I lost myself.
The point is, when you have the humility to submit your ideas to your community before implementing them you will uncover the fact that most of your ideas are terrible but a few of them are genius. Failure is not the best way to learn. Realizing that an idea is a failure before failing is a cleaner and less destructive way to learn. The moral of the story is this: if you don’t have an ideas community, get one! Honest community will save you from your terrible ideas and help reveal and refine your great ones.
Aaron Buer has been a student pastor for 10 years and currently serve as a high school pastor at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Read his blog here.