MISTAKES I HAVE MADE IN MINISTRY

About a year ago I posted an article called “10 Lessons I Learned in Ministry.” I love talking and writing about ministry. I started my ministry as a youth minister at the young age of 20. Not long after that the desire to preach was SO overwhelming that I moved from youth ministry to preaching. I’ve learned through the years that it doesn’t matter what you do or what your title is, everyone is involved in ministry. I love ministry. I love helping others spiritually in their walk with God. During my 20 years of ministry I’ve made my share of mistakes. I thought today I’d share with you about some mistakes I’ve made in my ministry.

  • There have been times when I’ve tried to please everyone and make everyone happy. I learned early that pleasing everyone is an impossible task, you just can’t please everyone all the time. So don’t sweat it when you don’t.
  • I once believed that criticism would motivate people better than praise. Wrong!
  • I once thought people should be motivated by the fear of hell instead of God’s love. Wrong again!
  • I once felt that I needed to be seen by others as perfect. I thought ministers needed to be portrayed as people who didn’t have problems, struggles or temptations. Instead I’ve learned that people relate better to a minister who is transparent.
  • God forbid, I often put ministry in front of my family.
  • I spent too much time worrying about whether or not people liked me.
  • I once overlooked people who I didn’t think would be interested in the Gospel. More than once God has surprised me with people that I never thought could be reached. I’ve put too little faith in God and too much faith in myself.
  • I was once very issue oriented. Shame on me.
  • I didn’t delegate. By not delegating, I cheated others by doing ministry for them.
  • I didn’t dream big enough. Once again I didn’t put enough faith in what God could do.
  1. What mistakes have you made in your ministry?
  2. What mistakes have you seen other ministers make?

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
18 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Greg says:

    I think the not dreaming big dreams was one of my most blatant mistakes. Otherwise, except for putting ministry ahead of family (I was VERY intentional about not doing that and always had elders who supported me being a family man first), I’ve done all of the above. I would add to my list not seeing the kingdom of God as it really is. I thought for too many years it was just “us” and no one else. One thing I’ve seen in others that I never struggled with is an arrogant attitude. I know of one preacher who, when visiting another church such as on vacation, would be deeply offended if he were not asked to preach!

  2. nedra smith says:

    Trey, thank you for writing this post. I spent the past week concerned about some of the mistakes I’ve made with my life online and offline.

    Now I believe that it’s good I made the mistakes anyway, so that people can see that members of the Church of Christ mess up, too.

    So often, I’ve tried to be “perfect” and I just can’t be perfect. I messed up. I mess up, and I’m going to mess up. And that’s human.

    For now, I’m working on correcting some of those mistakes.

    Thank you again and have a blessed day. –Nedra

  3. Tim Archer says:

    Good stuff!

    I’ve let thoughts about “becoming known” or “who will this set me up for the future” affect ministry decisions. Yuk!

    Grace and peace,
    Tim

    P.S.–Naturally I did things like that and the ones you mentioned BEFORE becoming perfect…

  4. Jeff Foster says:

    Trey,

    I can certainly relate to many of the “mistakes” you listed, especially the failure to delegate (I get so caught up sometimes that I fail to perceive and appreciate the potential in others), and sadly, placing ministry before my family (and I am now facing the conseqeunces of this!).

    Here are some other personal failures in ministry:

    1. Not being patient enough and allow God to nurture and bring to fruition what has been started. I am results oriented, and when they don’t come quickly enough, I usually move on to something else (and have failed to perceive that things are just then coming together).

    2. Viewing the preacher-minister & elder relationship as a competition and two factions as opposed to a team.I’ve since come to greatly appreciate elders as mentors and partners in ministry, but there were many years early on where I approached them with a certain degree of cynicism (“Oh, they’re just trying to hold back the church”), or distrust (“They’re out to get me”).

    3. I placed way too much emphasis on formal education. There was a time early in my ministry career where I looked down on those who didn’t have the right degrees from the prestigious universities. Well, since then, I’ve had about 14 years of graduate school . . . and learned very little that was of practical use in every day ministry. I have come to have a deep appreciation and admiration of those who are self-taught, those who chose the preaching school route, and especially those who are vocational missionaries and/or those who have left secular careers to become preachers-ministers. My grandfather was a 50-year old cattle rancher and became a preacher . . . greatest preacher I’ve known.

  5. Shane Coffman says:

    I haven’t been in full time ministry very long (less than 2 years), so I’m really soaking up all the advice I can from guys like you and Terry Rush and Jim White and other friends.

    I feel so inadequate most of the time. I continually pray asking that His power be perfected in my weakness. Without it, I’m sunk.

    I have heard so many of you caution about putting ministry in front of family, and I can see how that could easily happen. There are so many things that pull at ministers from all sides – it is incredibly hard to say “no”, but it must be done. What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your family? I pray I have taken that lesson to heart.

    I am trying to be more up front in saying “I’m sorry” when I mess up as a minister. I think authenticity cannot be overstated. Our people thrive on that. The slick performers are of little value. Of the singers I serve with, I need to invest more in their life off stage than on stage. Encouragement is vital.

    I need to learn to delegate better. I’m trying to invest myself in training others. It is time well spent. Mentoring is valuable, both ways.

    Great stuff today, Trey!

  6. Falantedios says:

    This past Sunday AM, the brother presiding over the Lord’s Supper spoke over the bread the following words: “If you’re not partaking of this supper, you’re probably not a Christian, so you are going to burn forever and ever and ever without end. Let us pray.”

  7. Brie says:

    Falantedios- holy. cow. That is awful.

    Something I have been guilty of is displaying a shocking lack of grace with other people and with myself. I also don’t share my time very well (especially since my son was born), or my husband either, for that matter. We do work at camp together, and I still work with him every week with our kids. It’s just the weeks where he’s gone three nights in one week with them that get hard. Luckily, those happen only once in a blue moon. I worry too much, instead of just focusing on taking care of people that need to be taken care of. What a waste of energy!

    As far as stuff other people did:

    Someone I love very much once changed his sermon in the car on the way to church to preach on Ecclesiastes and vanity because I wore a short sleeved dress to church for Sunday morning services.

    In Oklahoma. In the middle of the summer. Just short sleeves, mind you. The rest of it would have passed muster in a convent. My immodesty was specifically bought up in the sermon. Blech.

    I was eleven years old, and now I’m 26, so this one stuck with me a bit. He’s loosened up a bit since then…

  8. preacherman says:

    Trey,
    The mistakes I have made in ministry is working to much and neglecting my family. I now have two days off a week where I get to spend time with my wife and 3 boys who are 2, 5, and 7.

    Anothe mistake I have in ministry is thinking I had to do it all on my own. I know include God in everything. I include God in all the choices I make. I include God in the topics I preach. I include God in helping me prepare my sermon. As minister we must includge God in every aspect of our ministry.

    On thing I do know that I didn’t do before in ministry is take care of myself. Even Jesus took care of Himself going off to solitary place to worship and pray and meditate. I believe we as ministers must do the same. We must take care of ourselves both physically and spiritually.

    Over the year God has helped me to become the pastor that I need to lead the church. I think it is important for us to allow God to help us to become pastors, caring for and leading the church in the way that God wants us to. According of course to His pleasing and perfect will.

    One thing that I have learned over the years is how to read more and study more about the culture and how the Church needs to change in order to be missional to the changing culture.

  9. David Kirk says:

    Trey: Have a great week!

  10. Brandon Voss says:

    Trey: It sounds like you have grown in spirit and in wisdom as a man. It’s when a preacher slips into the shues of a servant is when He truly can get to know God. I am very proud of you!

  11. roadtripray says:

    Trey,

    I really appreciate your post. It’s very helpful for new pastors to learn from those who have made the mistakes. I’m certain I’ll make plenty on my own, but I like having a heads-up on potential pitfalls going in.

    Thanks,
    Ray

  12. Lin says:

    Trey,

    Even though I’m not a minister, I have been on the receiving end of some pretty destructive behaviors that I won’t go into here, since I’ve already written about that sort of thing on my blog.

    I only wanted to say that I am impressed with your candor and honesty, because far too many ministers have a “holier than thou” attitude over their congregation members, and that is only one of the reasons I no longer attend.

    I’m proud that you have spoken about this.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Noone is perfect…except for God…and we aren’t him. I think everyone can relate to your mistakes in their own life. Thank you for sharing..steph

  14. Terry says:

    Great insights, Trey!

  15. Robert Lukenbill says:

    One mistake I have made when looking for a preaching job (this applies to right now cause I am looking) is I take it personally when a congregation doesn’t select me for an interview or just to talk further about the ministry going on there. I need to be more patient and lean on God trusting him in all things.

    Also, I too have been guilty of preaching too much hell fire and not enough heaven.

    Praise Jesus we have his blood to wash away our sins!

  16. TREY MORGAN says:

    Wow, I’ve been gone all day. Just walked in and read through all the comments that you have left today. What amazing wisdom you have shared. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this. The comments on this post have made excellent!!!

  17. johndobbs says:

    Trey, I’ve made all of those mistakes and more. I’m glad you’re writing about this.

    Before I start, Nick … my brother … what an awful thing for someone to say … such a judgment … I am sorry you had to experience that. Knowing your heart I know it hurt you.

    I think my biggest mistakes could be summarized in two areas:

    1) Not helping other people use their gifts to serve God. I have too often dreamed up some plan for “the church” and then been p-d-off when no one would jump on the bandwagon with me. Why would I do such a thing. It’s embarassing. Instead of searching out the talents of the congregation, I thought I knew what they needed to do – gifted in it or not.

    2) I spent too much time alone. Hurricane Katrina was an awakening for me in this area. I have compared myself to Rip Van Winkle … but there was a time when I spent much too much time alone in the office … viewing “visitation” as a ministry job instead of as an opportunity to love and care for people. As an introvert, I felt it easier to stay in my cocoon and read … connecting with others through the internet / phone … but not out in the community. Major mistake.

    In spite of the fact that ministry is people-oriented, it can be a lonely profession. I read a recent study that suggested that 70% of pastors in America have no real friends. That’s a startling number.
    It also means that a lot of people are missing out on a friendship with someone who should be blessing their lives.

    Those, I think, are my two biggest ministry mistakes.

  18. TREY MORGAN says:

    Nick – I meant to say something yesterday, but I’m with John. Should have NEVER been said and the man you said it hopefully was visited with by elders following the service.

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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Husband, father and cancer survivor & Senior Minister for the Childress Church of Christ. Tweets about life, marriage, Texas Rangers and randomness.
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