37 Mistakes I Made as A Church Leader

What Can You Learn From My Mistakes?

Leading people is a challenging and rewarding process. It takes heart and skills that few possess well. There is much to learn as you lead. However, you often learn best from your mistakes. Perhaps, my mistakes will help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Some of you who knew me during my pastoring years may say, “Only 37?” Yes, I know. But, I don’t want to make this post too long.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes as a pastoral leader. I…

  1. Thought pastoral ministry would be life-giving. (In reality, ministry drains you. Only God energizes you.)
  2. Devoted more time to study than prayer.
  3. Did not know the hearts of people.
  4. Talked a lot about God but didn’t really know Him.
  5. Let the opinions and feelings of people affect me too much.
  6. Too often neglected to nourish my own soul.
  7. Thought preaching would solve people’s problems. (Telling people things does little to change their lives.)
  8. Put too much trust in programs.
  9. Too often taught what I did not live. (I needed to admit this but didn’t. In reality, I often taught Bible theory.)
  10. Tried to take people where I had not gone myself. (Related to #9.)
  11. Ignored 2000 years of church history affecting almost everything I did.
  12. Preached sermons that were too long. (Some enjoyed it. Some tolerated it. Some hated it.)
  13. Tolerated cynical people instead of understanding their perspective and dealing with them truthfully in love.
  14. Failed to follow up.
  15. Took criticism too personally becoming defensive too easily.
  16. Thought I knew what I was doing.
  17. Failed to ask for help.
  18. Was too sensitive about the wrong things.
  19. Sacrificed who I was as God wonderfully designed me.
  20. Expected too little from people.
  21. Desired accolades from my peers.
  22. Didn’t value humility for myself and others.
  23. Did not highly value the teachings of Jesus.
  24. Did not deal with my own internal garbage that often stunk up my ministry.
  25. Put too much value on the sermon. (I was taught to “sermonize” a certain way. I didn’t know any better. I wish I had.)
  26. Thought a theological system was the solution to understanding the Bible.
  27. Made more judgments on people than asked questions of people.
  28. Was far too judgmental/contemptuous towards people.
  29. Sought the approval of others. Loved the “atta boy.”
  30. Tried to control/guide peoples’ journey instead of joining God’s journey for them.
  31. Did not choose my battles well – dealt with skirmishes as if they were wars.
  32. Did not take seriously enough my own relationship with God.
  33. Didn’t speak the truth in love because I really didn’t know love.
  34. Was much too dogmatic about what I thought was the truth.
  35. Relied too much on commentaries and books.
  36. Was driven too much by my own agenda thinking it was God’s agenda.
  37. Often placed ministry concerns above family concerns. This mistake continues to haunt me.

Which of these do you relate to? What can you learn from my mistake? How can you be or do differently? Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “37 Mistakes I Made as A Church Leader

  1. As one who did know you in your ministry days and have since (finally) gone into full-time pastorate, I can truly appreciate the genuine thoughts and reflections you shared. I could even hear your voice as I read each one. They made me reflect and think how most of the 37 could be said by almost all who take the surprisingly lonely journey of shepherding the flock. Thank you for the valuable lessons you taught me in our time together, some of which were even theological (your expose on 1 John 1:9 was brilliant). As we continue on what I really want is just to hear Him say, “Well done.” Thanks, Keith.

    • Thanks Jay. We did have our “moments” didn’t we? I am grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and long-suffering that covers a multitude of sins & faults. :-). Many good memories! I pray your ministry is going well even as you often muddle through. “Well done?” I’d be happy with “Nice try, come on in. It wasn’t about you anyway!” :-). Glad we can keep in contact. Thanks for engaging with The UnCommon Journey. Thanks be to God for all things! Keith

  2. I have been ordained for 30 years. As I reflect on the churches I have pastored, I worried more about making the people happy than making God happy.
    So few of the relationships have even approached honesty, even with colleagues. No one is trying to be a hypocrite, but being vulnerable is too risky. Without honesty there is no change or growth. So we have to demonstrate our spirituality by the number of books we read, or the notebooks we fill with devotions, or our deep sermons.
    Thanks for your candidness and help for the journey.

    • Hi Pastor Greg. Thanks for the words of honesty. The ministry does funny things to us as you have pointed out. However, I really wonder how to do it any other way. So much pretense & so little humility. I guess we just pray for God’s mercy, trust His grace and goodness, and muddle through. Thanks for being a companion on the journey. Keith

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