Mistakes Were Made (But It Was Okay)

“There’s fear that we are going to make a mistake in our ministry. That we are going to start the wrong program. That what we do will fail.”                              The Rev. Reggie Weaver preaching 6-2-13

Mistakes Were MadeMistakes Were Made

This is a common scenario – especially in our smallest churches:

The congregation needs a new pastor and a Temporary Supply Pastor – maybe very part-time – is what they can afford.  Or they look for a FT Temporary Supply Pastor because the contract is for one year and they don’t know what they will need/want/have the capacity to pay a year from now.

The congregation is given from 3-6 Personal Information Forms/resumes to check out.  Among those, there are 1-2 who would be a good match for the church.

The search committee reads through them, listens to sermons, talks (and talks and talks) about the candidates.  And it takes at least 3 months for them to make a decision.  

In the meantime, those pastors are no longer available, the committee needs to start all over again, and the church is gasping for air and leadership.

Fearful churches are afraid to make decisions.  One false move – they believe – and everything will come crashing down.  So they don’t move.

For congregations on the cusp of closing, this is especially prevalent and ultimately deadly.  The very caution that slows down their decision-making is what kills them.

We are called to be bold.  Here’s what boldness looks like:

  • Try something and give it time.  If we try a new form of worship and it’s decreed that “everybody hates it” after one week, we have sabotaged ourselves, and we teach our leaders that we like the idea of change, but we have no intention of taking it seriously.  It comforts the risk-averse to offer a limited try-out time:  “We’re trying this for six months and then evaluating it.
  • Don’t blame people as in:  “Because the Pastor moved Sunday worship to 10 am, people don’t come anymore.
  • Shift the culture from win-lose to tweak-improve.  Healthy churches are on the same team.  It’s not the “traditional worship people” versus the “fresh expressions worship people.”   We all want to make disciples, right?  How does our worship do that or not?
  • Realize that Mistakes Are Our Friends.  If your church hasn’t made a mistake in the past year, you haven’t tried anything creative.
  • Know that churches channeling The Bubble Boy are boring.  They also look nothing like the New Testament Church in which people are observed dropping dead during stewardship season and crashing in boats.

Everywhere – even in the bleakest urban neighborhoods, the most rural outposts, the most cookie-cutter suburbs – there are people who need what the church offers . . . if what we are offering is authentic community, spiritual healing, and transformation  – Jesus-style.

Image is The Death of Sapphira by Poussin (1652)

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3 responses to “Mistakes Were Made (But It Was Okay)

  1. Heide Hackman

    What an amazing post/essay! Thank you so much for words of wisdom and encouragement!

  2. Jan,
    Many thanks for your reflections on life in the presbytery. As a Transitional Presbyter in Sacramento, I appreciate your honest faithfulness to the calling. Blessings on your ministry.

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