So What’s the Risk/Reward Ratio?

I recently sat in a circle of disciplemakers when concerns arose over opening doors too quickly. One person expressed fear over tossing people into deep water where they might drown. I immediately thought of a father who allowed his infant son to swim before he could walk.

Reward Outweighs Risk

The dad released the boy into warm water not more than 30 inches away from the mom’s waiting arms. The child instinctively held his breath and began paddling toward the mother. He came up giggling. They did this several times that evening to the joy of both the child and parents. Years later when the boy took swim lessons, he entered the program with none of the fears evident in the other kids. And, he grew into a strong surfer as a man. The parents did well by providing that early, minimal exposure to water. The strong rewards far outweighed the limited (minimal) risks.

The fear that kicked off discussion among disciplemakers was really about overloading someone with more than they could handle. You could compare that to pressing an infant to swim the length of a pool. The parents in my story launched the boy on a journey of less than three feet. The depth of the water made no difference as you only swim in the shallows at the top of the deep. What did matter was the length of the swim. A child would only hold their breath for a limited amount of time and strength would run out quickly. But the boy readily took to the short swim.

Fearing the Deep End of the Pool

The same holds true in discipling potential leaders. The guy who initiated the discussion fears that initial ministry assignments might be too complicated for his disciples. While we talked this through, another person spoke up to describe how he was challenged to tell what little he knew to just one close friend—a short swim. Later he led a circle of three people. Eventually, along with two others, he practiced preaching a 15-minute-sermon for his mentor—a little longer swim. However, the day after the practice session his mentor’s wife gave birth… You guessed it! The young guy preached his 15-minute sermon in church that day. A little longer swim.

The issue here is the risk/reward ratio. Each step from sharing with one person to preaching in church was a short swim as everything that went before conditioned the individual for the next risk. The key here is to embrace risk while limiting any downside. Ask people to dive in the deep end of the pool, but keep the swim short enough that they don’t drown.

Have you ever tossed someone into a situation where they couldn’t cope? Have you been surprised by a person’s hidden abilities that you didn’t anticipate? Tell us about it in the Comments sections below…

COMMENTS: It’s your turn!

Tagged as: