I tossed and turned throughout the night. Sleep did not come easy as I stressed over the upcoming meeting the next morning. I had been frustrated for a while and hoped the situation would resolve itself. It did not. It only got worse. What was my mistake? I waited too long to take action. Fearing conflict, I avoided having the difficult conversation. My delay only complicated the issue.
Mistakes are inevitable in life, and ministry is no exception. It is important is that we learn from our mistakes. Making mistakes is a process of growth, and if leaders are not making mistakes, they probably are not doing much. Is it okay to make mistakes at your church?
While not all mistakes are the same, and not all mistakes carry the same consequences, there is no doubt they are an essential part of our maturing as church leaders. As I reflect on the past 22 years as a pastor, I have identified six mistakes I have made.
1. Waiting too long to deal with difficult situations
As I mentioned, prolonging difficult discussions has been a mistake I have made. When I reflect back, I can see that delay usually caused the situation to get worse. It definitely caused me more stress, anxiety, and work.
A fear of conflict is the usual culprit. Difficult conversations are emotionally draining and easy to avoid. I have learned that avoiding hard conversations does not make the problem go away. You probably will not enjoy these conversations, but they are necessary for effective relationships and ministry outcomes. I agree with Patrick Lencioni's assessment that the absence of conflict is a clear sign of a dysfunctional team.
2. Not spending enough time developing leaders.
John Maxwell is correct. There is a lid to your leadership. The only way forward is to take the necessary time to develop effective leaders. These individuals may be paid staff or volunteers.
This mistake is one of my biggest regrets in ministry. I now view leadership development as one of my primary tasks, and am working to spend time with our leaders every week.
3. Not paying enough attention to my physical and emotional health.
Surveys have shown that most pastors work long hours. We are willing to work hard due to our love for Jesus and His church. Where we have not done so well is in taking care of our health.
In recent years I have realized how much I have neglected my health. A tendency to say "yes" to every opportunity, invitation, and request have caught up to me. Recently I made several small decisions that have made me a healthier pastor.
4. Comparing myself to other pastors.
I wish I could say I have never fallen for the comparison trap, but I have. I am ashamed that at times I have gauged my "success" in ministry on how well my ministry colleagues are doing.
I am learning to get my validation only from God. Comparison is a dangerous for many reasons, but it usually leads to discouragement, negativity, and criticism.
5. Not protecting my family time.
One of my regrets is that I have sometimes prioritized ministry over family. As a result, my family felt neglected and ignored during those times. There always seems to be a crisis to solve, a meeting to attend, or an unfinished task. It has never been my intention to neglect my family, but my lack of intentionality has at times made them feel they were not a priority to me.
Here are some things that have helped...
6. Not delegating enough.
Delegating responsibility, and not just tasks, is an area in which most of us need to grow. I tend to be a "doer." I'm a self-starter, and I easily get locked into "getting stuff done." The problem with this is that I can only do so much, and I rob our staff and volunteers the opportunity to serve and grow.
I have paid a price for not making delegation a big enough part of our leadership strategy. If like me, you have felt overwhelmed at the amount of work on your to do list, a lack of delegation might be one of your pastoral mistakes too.
My list of mistakes could go on and on, but these six stand out as some of the big ones I have identified. If you have made mistakes as a pastor, you are not alone. Learning from our mistakes is a critical part of our growth as pastors.
Question: What pastoral mistakes have you made, and what have you learned from them? Leave your comment below.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past