I’d say early in a leader’s career dumb mistakes come from immaturity and exerting some people-pleasing rather than God-pleasing skills. As a person matures with experience, these mistakes probably occur due to pride and a need for continual growth and learning. No matter why we make the mistakes, recognizing them as mistakes helps to avoid them and the ensuing consequences.
I’ve served more than 33 years in different churches in various roles and have made lots of mistakes. I didn’t make these mistakes with ill will or with an evil heart, and neither do most pastors. However, we make them, and sometimes they are, well, just dumb. Here are some of the dumbest mistakes I’ve made.
Assuming everybody understands what I meant.
Just because people remain silent when I share my idea does not mean that they get it or agree with it. I’ve learned the hard way that I must pry feelings from those who don’t speak up when I share a new initiative. Otherwise, their concerns will show up later and probably surprise me.
Getting defensive when somebody didn’t buy into my plan.
Sometimes I’ve unintentionally conveyed to others that every aspect of the church vision must start with me. And if it’s not my idea, it must not be from God. Perhaps in the Old World top-down command-and-control style of leadership that thinking worked. It doesn’t in today’s environment.
Believing that my position as pastor automatically elicited trust from the church.
Positional leadership does not guarantee trust from potential followers. I’ve learned that church people only give a certain level of trust in leaders, often low at first. And most likely the trust they have extended to spiritual leaders has taken a hit in the past. I’ve learned that I must go the extra mile to build trust with those in the church.
Not communicating enough.
I’ve heard mega-church pastors such as Rick Warren say that because vision leaks, he revisits the church vision every 30 days. He’s right. We must continually communicate not only the vision, but other important issues in the church as well. We almost can’t over-communicate.
Thinking everybody will love, remember, and apply my really great, God-anointed, exegetically sound sermons.
I used to think that a well crafted sermon I spent 25 hours preparing would light up the hearts and minds of those who were in church that day. Unfortunately, the mind can only absorb so much and if those who listen to my sermons get and apply one insight, they are doing well. I’ve since tried to find ways to make a few cogent points really stick through brain-based communication insight. You can read my blog here about brain based preaching.
Failing to realize the concept of “uninformed optimism.”
The bell curve of change tells us that initially those in a church tend to be excited about a positive new idea or initiative. It’s called uninformed optimism. In the listeners’ minds the idea initially seems really great. However, that optimism often only lasts until they realize what the change may cost them (inconvenience, more money, etc.) That new phase is called informed pessimism. I’ve since learned to prepare myself for some eventual pushback when the realities of the change finally set in. Tempering my expectation has helped me manage my disappointment when the resistance comes.
Pause and Reflect:
- What dumb and dumber mistakes have you seen other leaders make? Why were they dumb? Did you see yourself making these same mistakes?
- What are some things we can do to either avoid making them or to overcome the consequences they cause when we do make them?
- What can we as leaders do to help emerging leaders avoid these mistakes?
– Charles Stone