I messed up! Now what? There have been many times in my ministry I have thought this to myself…
Whether it was poor communication, whether a students feelings were hurt, whether a parent was upset, or whether it was ______ (you fill in the blank), we have all messed up haven’t we? Mistakes are inevitable in youth ministry and depending how much experience we have does not always change this reality. As a youth worker I am called to be diligent in all I do and act professionally even when others don’t think that youth ministry is a profession….
But, how do I recover from the times I mess up?
1) Own Your Mistake: In many church settings, it is easy to live on the defense and never want to admit when we mess up. Somehow we think we might lose our job if we do so. However, as the years go by, I am finding that people respect leaders to humbly accept their mistakes and take full ownership of the mess.
2) Say Sorry Quickly: When we mess up, it’s imperative to catch the people we have impacted quickly so that a small fire does not become a wildfire. When we say sorry it’s important to have no conditions or “buts” about our mistake. Just recently I told some students, “as your youth pastor, I blew it on this one, and I am sorry”. It’s hard to say sorry to students, but there is massive value in teaching them to how to own mistakes in a world that plays the blame game and passes the buck… They need Godly people to model how to own their mistakes and say sorry quickly.
3) Take the Hits of Others: If you are in charge of a program or under the authority of a lead pastor, it is crucial that you become the frontline for hits and frustration. Even when my incredible volunteers have a bad day or make a mistake it’s important that I own their mistake as their leader. It’s also important that I support my lead pastor and take the flack if someone is ever upset with him.
4) Look Back and Learn, Look Forward and Grow: It’s inevitable that we will make mistakes, but it’s crucial we don’t repeat them. When we mess up in ministry, it’s important that we review our mistakes without beating ourselves up. It’s path of the course and we will grow and learn some good lessons. Ask God to show you what you need to learn. Surround yourself with veteran youth workers who can help you review. Many veterans I meet and hang out with have some great (and sometimes funny) stories of mistakes and struggles. But they also have a great deal of wisdom from their mistakes too. Take some time to get to know some ministry veterans in your area and review your mistakes with them… It might be encouraging as well as insightful…
What would you add to this list? How do you cope with ministry messes?