I hate making mistakes.
I’m definitely not a perfectionist, but when I sacrifice a key value for our ministry, I’m far from excited. Here’s my latest ministry mistake: last weekend, we had three kids from the same family get baptized. The family was still in the main church service and missed the whole thing. The parents, grandparents, two aunts, and an uncle all missed this really cool event for their family.
What a colossal screw up.
Where’s what I did in the aftermath of a mistake:
I own up, fully, without making excuses (more about excuses in a moment). In this case, that meant seeking out the parents, looking them in the eye, and conveying my sincere regret. They didn’t come looking for me, I could have “escaped” without talking to them. Honestly, I was tempted to do so. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I knew denial wasn’t going to make anything better.
I identify what when wrong, without making excuses. The difference between reason and excuse is intention and conviction. When we go looking for reasons why the wheels fell off, we can have two different mind sets. The excuse mentality looks to avoid blame and create sound bytes that get you off the hook. Authentically looking for reasons is the opposite: it seeks to discover new pathways so the same mistake isn’t repeated.
I want to do my best to make it right. If his case, I found out that video was taken of the baptism, and I’m going to make sure that video gets to the family. It’s a poor substitute, but it’s the best that can be done.
I don’t take responsibility for their response. It is, of course, irrational for me to think that I can compel a positive response from others. While the family was gracious (but definitely not happy!), I know this isn’t usually the response from the person I’m apologizing to. I can’t control the reaction, I can only accept it with humility.
I do my best to move on without guilt. it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to keep punishing myself. Hanging on to the shame produces a poison that keeps us from surrendering our ministry to God. It diminishes our capacity for action. A leader who doesn’t act in fear of making mistakes isn’t much of a leader. Why? Because the mistakes will always come, maturity doesn’t stay stuck in the past.
How about you? Use the comments below to tell us about a mistake you’ve made and how you like to respond.