Have you watched your favorite football team painfully lose a key game? If they had just (fill in the blank). For most of us, it’s so easy when we’re watching from the comfort of our home to focus on all the moments that could’ve been turning points. We have time to sit and think of all the ways the game could have gone with various what if scenarios running through our minds. The truth is we have all made mistakes, whether on the field, in the workplace, or in our daily lives. With that in mind, here are some lessons I’ve learned based on the mistakes I’ve personally made in ministry over the last 30 years.
Spending too much time on the wrong people
A leader has to steward his or her time and energy the same way one stewards other resources. I’ve heard it taught that there are four categories of people in your church: core, committed, congregation, and crowd. They’re not all the same, and it’s important to learn how to discern how much to invest in each group.
Assuming I should handle the difficult communication
In a similar way that God gave Moses his brother Aaron to be his spokesperson, pastors need leaders around them to handle some of the difficult conversations in the church. There’s a reason why doctors don’t usually give shots . . . they need to represent care and hope for the patients. Before giving a verbal “shot,” ask yourself, “Is this something that someone else should do?” Protect your ability to minister in service as a symbol of life and leadership to the people and let others handle the hard conversations that don’t require your involvement.
Hiring outside our church
I know in some situations it has worked but not for me. I believe there’s wisdom in hiring someone who is planted in your church, running with the vision, and has already proven themselves by being a dedicated volunteer.
Underestimating the effect I can have on people
I didn’t realize how big the “hammer” in my hand was, and I learned I didn’t need to swing that hard. The more people respect you and look to you for validation, the more power you have to invalidate them. It’s often better to have another leader talk to them rather than me. If I talk to them, they can feel like they’re being called into the principal’s office, and it becomes a bigger deal than it needs to be and distracts from the point of the conversation.
Trying to answer my critics
There’s a difference between people who have helpful, legitimate concerns versus people who are just criticizing the situation. Don’t spend time trying to answer critics. It’s exhausting, demoralizing, and doesn’t change anything.
Each week, football teams have to walk through the storm of criticism, and coaches and players review every play that was made so they can learn and build a winning team. From my own experience, losing a game seems to always teach me more than winning a game.
The mistakes we make can help shape us into the next level leaders. Wherever you find yourself on your leadership journey, I hope you can learn from my mistakes and that you will learn from your own. There are so many incredible things to accomplish in this life. Let’s not get caught up in the mishaps and mess ups.