I had the occasion over a couple months to ask some senior people in ministry the same question. Some were long retired. Others had 30, 40 even 50 years experience, but are still serving today. All would be considered to have finished — or be finishing — well.
Here was was the primary question:
Looking back, what were some of the biggest mistakes you made in ministry?
If you had it to do over — or you were advising me and others — what advice would you give?
The answers were so similar. I found myself putting check marks beside some of them. The wisdom was timeless. Even profound. Yet simple.
Here are 12 common mistakes in ministry leadership:
Failing to delegate.
Not seeing beyond yesterday or today.
Ignoring the real problems.
Refusing help when I needed it the most.
Not protecting my family enough and/or not continuing to date my wife.
Sacrificing my personal time with Jesus for my working for Jesus.
Celebrating only the spectacular.
Pretending everything is amazing.
Dreaming small dreams…or having no dreams at all.
Creating poor systems or having no systems at all.
Having too much structure or not having enough structure.
Not being vulnerable enough to a few close friends.
It was amazing to me how many of these are themes I consistently write about today. There is truly “nothing new under the son”. It was also encouraging what you can learn if you’re simply willing to ask. I’ve been a wisdom seeker all my life and I highly recommend it. Feel free to try this experiment at home with more senior ministers you know.
Of course, all of these have a story associated with them — as all good principles do. You could share your own. In fact, why don’t you?
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made — or are making — in ministry?