The F-Word and Leadership


Ten years ago a friend and I brought a dream into reality and started a coffee bar at Denver Seminary. We had dreams that Kurios Koffee would someday get bought out by Starbucks and we would get some extra cash. For two years we made just enough money to break even and enjoy free coffee. We even jumped into coffee catering and brought our coffee equipment to weddings and church events.

Then Denver Seminary decided to move to a brand new campus in Littleton and I bought out my business partner as he was moving out of town. I took out business loans to fund new equipment for a bigger space at the new campus and was excited for what could be at the new space. Kurios Koffee incorporated and the business systems went to the next level. 

The summer that we moved into the new seminary campus I also accepted a job as a full-time youth pastor in Littleton. This meant that we now had to hire employees because I couldn’t work the shop as much. That’s when things started to change. Hiring employees meant higher costs because we wanted to abide by the tax codes and do it right. We looked at ways to increase business but we weren’t seeing the amount of students at the seminary that we had hoped.

Two years later my wife and realized we were in a deep financial pit. With the loan payments for the new equipment and paying employees, we were much further in debt than we realized. We sought advice and prayed then realized that our only way out was to close the coffee shop and bring it into bankruptcy. I called the bank and suddenly realized that we personally were linked to the business accounts because I took out the loans before the business was incorporated. It wasn’t just the business that was in deep financial trouble; we were in deep financial trouble.

I had failed.

I was $60,000 in debt with a mortgage, a wife and two kids.

My identity as a man was crushed.

And I didn’t know how to deal with it. In my ministry education in college and seminary, I wasn’t taught how to deal with failure. I didn’t know how to cope with a failed business in a culture that praises success.

The closure of the coffee shop led me on a journey of self-discovery and internal struggle that would last for almost five and half years. To this day God is still working on my soul and I’m discovering things about myself and my identity as a child of God that would never have been possible if I hadn’t failed.

This spring, I am working with a great team of folks that organizes conferences around the country centered on this idea of failure and how God works through these tough struggles. On March 6-7, J.R. Briggs and his team will be leading the EPIC Fail Pastor’s Roundtable here in Denver.

The roundtable is not for everyone. It’s not the cool conference with the successful mega church pastors and the hipster worship bands. It’s raw and honest. It’s for the pastor who struggles with porn and has to run from the shame every time he preaches. It’s for the pastor whose church grew from 200 people to 50 people. It’s for the failed church planter who now sells insurance. It’s for the leader whose marriage has been scarred from too many hours at church and critics who rip her to shreds. It’s for the seminary student who wants to learn the realities of ministry from those who have gone before.

To find out more about the idea behind the Epic Fail Conferences, read this from J.R.

Read more about the Epic Fail Pastor’s Roundtable in Denver this spring here.

Failure is not the end of the story. It’s just a chapter in an ever unfolding story of how God shapes and forms us.


About joelnewton

I am a husband to Hillary, a father to Anna and Norah

Posted on January 15, 2013, in Church Leadership, Leadership Development, Personal and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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