Risk It All or Not At All?


What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

I’ve never considered myself much of a risk-taker.  I tend to be too calculated, too strategic, too thoughtful.  However I’m beginning to rethink that.  I think I tend to confuse spontaneity with risk-taking. In fact, I would venture to bet that we all have a tendency to make this assumption.  We think that the out-going, gregarious, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, spontaneous types are the risk-takers.  But I think that’s a limited perspective.  While I do believe the spontaneous types can be risk-takers, I also think that we deliberate, calculated types can be big risk-takers as well.  The process just may be a bit different.  Ultimately, whether you’re deliberate or spontaneous, good risk-taking comes down to how you approach the process.  Healthy risk-takers are the people who turn organizations around, rebuild communities and change the world. Unhealthy risk-takers often create a lot of hype, but I wonder if they really influence change or just create messes?

As I’ve reflected on my life, I’ve discovered that I’ve taken some HUGE risks.  I’ve pursued dreams that people thought I was crazy for believing in.

  • I moved 1000 miles away to college when I was 18 to a school where I didn’t know a soul and didn’t own a car.  (A big leap for a girl who lived in a town with a population of 200 – seriously 200!)
  • I quit college after my sophomore year to take an unpaid internship at the company I had always dreamed of working for.  I moved to Nashville with everything I could pack in my 1992 Saturn with no money and no place to live.
  • I resigned from an amazing job at that same company where I had worked for eight years, left behind a career path that had me in line for executive status in a few years to take a position at this church called Cross Point.

I have a tendency to not consider these decisions big risks because each and every one of them was well-thought-out, prayed over and acted upon cautiously.  But in looking back, these were huge, critical milestones in my life that if I hadn’t taken the risk, my course of life would have looked very different than it does today.

We hear all the time that leaders are risk-takers, but I think oftentimes we fail to give that challenge any context or definition.  I would clarify that I believe leaders are healthy risk-takers.

Healthy risk-takers:

  • are thoughtful/careful
  • always count the cost
  • evaluate and understand the risk and what’s potentially at stake
  • have thorough dialogue with those involved or affected by the risk
  • weigh the cost of failure
  • know who it will affect and how
  • attempt to learn all that can be known and accept what can’t
  • surround their decisions in prayer

I don’t believe you can lead without taking some risks.  It’s part of what makes you a leader – the willingness to make the decisions that no one else will make. But I would also challenge that taking risks is not easy.  The best risks are the ones that are agonized over, evaluated and then confidently acted upon.

What healthy risks have you taken lately?

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  • Jewel October 13, 2009  

    Jenni — huge risks, but those you listed all seem (from the outside looking in) to work out fabulously and “good” without regret or consequence…I wonder if there are “healthy risks” that could be a mistake or not turn out the way you thought or have some type of regret, turmoil, tribulation or difficult time associated with them….just because we pray over those decisions doesn’t always mean they won’t take us down another path or life won’t turn out as we thought…i think healthy risks that are mistakes can lead us in a different direction than we thought, but ultimately to God’s will as well????

    Glad you’re back!

  • jan owen October 13, 2009  

    REsigning from my position at my church after a tenure of 11 years in obedience to God’s leading.

    A little farther back, taking the risk to ask for a sabbatical.

    Before that, taking the risk of reproducing myself and building up a line up of leaders that are capable and strong. It was an unnerving process that has been full of great fruit!

  • paulaswift October 13, 2009  

    Continuing to re-invent my business in trying times – and hoping that it pays off to make up for lack of income the last 6 months!

  • Nick October 13, 2009  

    3 years ago I left a paycheck & a full time youth pastor position simply because I felt God moving me away from it and into a volunteer role at a church plant. I thought it through and prayed over it, but I had no idea the reasons or the outcome.

    I turned down several positions since that time. One was potentially with an AMAZING church….

    September 13th I planted a church. I stepped out with no money & just my family. So far, God’s provided us with exactly what we needed in finances & equipment and 23 adults that helped us launch. I guess it remains to be seen if this one was a healthy risk 🙂

  • rick cadden October 13, 2009  

    my biggest risk? I moved with my wife and 2 small kids from Corpus Christi after being there all my life to Arlington, Texas to take a job that fell through when i got there. A risk in itself! I then risked starting my own company from scratch in a town i knew no one in except my brother. Long story short the business doubled in size every year for 5 years until i sold it. Scary but God saw me through it all. Great blog site by the way!

  • Jenni Catron October 13, 2009  

    I love hearing some of the risks you guys have taken. So cool to see God working through them.

    @Jewel, I think @Rick Cadden’s story is a good example of what you were talking about. That could be a whole other blog post.

  • Rindy Walton October 14, 2009  

    A little over a yr ago I left a very secure, well-paying job as a physical therapist, sold my house & left the only town (also small town) to move to an area I had never been to as part of the leadership to plant a church. The church didn’t launch & although I could return to full-time PT and have been offered other ministry positions, I’m ‘risking’ by following God’s lead away from some of these opportunities. In the midst of the ‘risk’ and uncertainty right now, yet knowing it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be!