I have made lots of mistakes in my work and ministry.
Looking back, these were often the times in which I learned important lessons about life and ministry.
Some years ago we lived in North Alabama. I was preaching for a congregation that seemed to attract many people who had struggled with various addictions. In addition, the congregation was attractive to men and women who had experienced some sort of spiritual setback in their lives. Quite often they were coming back to church for the first time in years. Many were learning to follow Jesus as adults.
At the same time, I was a young minister with a wife and two small children. I had just finished three years of academic preparation at ACU. I was eager, sincere, and wanted to do good.
However, I really had no sense for what I needed to do. Every day, I was scrambling to keep up with the counseling demands, preparation for sermons, and the other needs of a small church. Because we were a small church, the responsibilities were extremely varied.
I did not know how to structure a week or even a day so I could address some of the big picture items in our church. Instead, I was scrambling to simply get through the day. I was carrying out my ministry the only way I knew how. I had no sense for looking ahead or what would help the church months and years ahead. I was just trying to get through each busy, intense day. In all honesty, some of this busyness probably also fed my ego.
That was many years ago.
At this point in my life, I can see several mistakes I made during that time.
1. I made the mistake of thinking that ministry was about being busy doing good things. One can be very busy and really not address the most important matters needing attention.
2. I made the mistake of thinking that by working hard I was doing what I needed to do in my ministry. Yet, while I may have been working hard, I was not working smart. As a young minister, I needed more time for prayer, reflection, and study that didn’t demand a class or sermon to come from it. I don’t know any disciplines more important for any minister.
3. I made the mistake of not being transparent with a few older and wiser ministers about the pace and work schedule I was trying to maintain. I did meet with more experienced ministers on occasion. I would ask questions, seeking to learn and grow. That was a good practice. Yet, I wish I had asked for others to look at my schedule and calendar and give candid opinions. That would have been helpful.
What mistakes have you made that taught you the most?