I didn’t blog last week. A new post did not appear last Monday. I could choose to keep it quiet and hope you didn’t notice, but I want you to know I am sorry. I have this covenanted with you to post every Monday, and I let you down. I cannot promise this will not happen again, but I can assure you it will not happen often.
Mistakes are part of ministry as an associate pastor, lead pastor, or any staff position. We’re human, and as the saying goes, “to err is human.” We cannot expect perfection, so the next best thing is learning how to handle our mistakes.
Maybe you spaced a meeting and someone waited half-an-hour at Starbucks for you, or you promised to write a letter of recommendation but needed a reminder. Maybe you missed a hospital visit, said something stupid during a counseling session, broke a confidence you didn’t know was a confidence, or something else. Has a memory of one of your mistakes created a pit in your stomach yet?
I was recently confronted with a mistake that hurt a member of my congregation. I admire that he came to me to let me know how I had hurt him. It was hard to hear, and, I imagine, hard to say. I’m sure there are others I have hurt over the years who left the church I was serving without telling me. Because of that, I am aware this conversation was a gift – not one I’d asked for, but a gift none the less.
In situations like this, our instinct is to be defensive, believing we can make the wounded party understand why we did, or didn’t do, what caused the problem. Don’t bother. When dealing with emotions, reason does not play a major role. Reasons will not help. No “explanation” will undo the hurt. Despite all of your training, you cannot make it better. All the leader can do is take responsibility for their (in)action and apologize.
I’m not asking you to bear the sins of others by apologizing for something you did not do. Nor am I saying to comfort the overly-sensitive by accepting blame for their feelings. I am instead encouraging you to own up to the hurt you have caused.
Don’t try to explain it away. Take responsibility and apologize.