All leaders will mess up once in a while. Unless you are Jesus you are not going to go through ministry without making some mistakes along the way. If you are new in the trenches of youth ministry, you must accept that there are going to be some failures ahead of you. If you are a veteran, the same is true for you too. (Just don’t keep repeating the same mistakes).
But what can we do after we have messed up? It might seem like a mountain to climb, but credibility can be regained. Being Leaders by Aubrey Malphurs presents some helpful and practical ways that we can look to regain credibility. Here’s a summary of some of the main ideas:
1) Admit Your Mistake And Acknowledge Responsibility: Just like Adam and Eve, we still try to hide or cover up our mistakes. However, some of the greatest leaders I know are quick to admit their mistake and own up to where they failed. It doesn’t make their leadership weaker, it actually build credibility since followers are seeing a human side to the leader as well as not having to deal with the disconnect of what really happened. Trying to cover up our mistakes only creates a bigger disconnect.
2) Apologize: Yes, this should be a given… But is it for us? Saying sorry is so key in this whole process for a few reasons. First, it communicates real empathy with the person you have let down or wronged. Second, it often opens the door for them to express themselves and let go of any lingering hurts. Third, it gives them a much needed opportunity to forgive you for your mistake. So many leaders in churches are trying to lead people who have not forgiven them. Why? Because the leader never said sorry… Now, we all know that people should forgive because they are commanded to, however, wounded people do not always act in the correct way.
The simple act of saying sorry can be the doorway for a leader to be forgiven by a follower.
3) Accept The Consequences: Malphurs makes a great point when he asserts that although Christian leaders should be forgiven, they might not always be forgiven quickly. When failure occurs in our leadership, we need to be realistic that we are often dealing with followers who feel hurt and dejected. This might not be the first time they have been let down by a church leader in this way. Their ‘over the top’ reaction might be a result of previous hurts getting dredged up all over again. We must accept that their reactions, lack of forgiveness, and lack of trust are path of the course when we fail them.
Earning back credibility will take time. If we admit our mistakes, apologize to the right people, and accept the consequences, the timeline is much shorter.
As I said at the beginning of this post, there is no way we can avoid mistakes, they will happen. However, our students, parents, volunteers and co-workers need transparent, authentic, Godly leaders who are quick right their wrongs. Most followers don’t expect perfection, but they do want to see someone who takes ownership of failures when they happen.
What would you add to this list? In what ways have you lost credibility and had to earn it back? What advice would you give a youth worker who has lost credibility with their followers?