What do you do when you make a mistake in ministry? It’s inevitable. If you are trying to change, mold, and grow, then a few ministry misfires are bound to happen.
A new program doesn’t get the excitement you expected. Your live stream looks like security camera footage. A youth ministry game leads to a sprained wrist. Your lock-in doesn’t go as planned. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but sometimes your perfectly planned strategy doesn’t work. So what do we do when mistakes intersect with our ministry plans?
Let’s explore the wisdom of King Solomon in Proverbs 24 for some Biblical perspective on handling mistakes.
Advice from King Solomon
The Bible does not promise a perfect life. On the contrary, living in God’s Kingdom means we often find ourselves in the crosshairs of our own errors. That’s why Solomon laid out this proverb when passing his wisdom down to his son.
The righteous may fall seven times but still get up, but the wicked will stumble into trouble.
He was not writing these words to discourage us, rather this passage is the source of enormous encouragement. He’s basically saying, “yeah, you’re going to fail, but God’s people will not stumble into trouble, they will just get back up and keep going.” I love that and I pray I can live it out.
Proverbs 24:16 teaches us three timeless truths about how to handle mistakes in ministry.
Mistakes are inevitable.
Mistakes are inescapable. Solomon doesn’t say “if you fail.” He essentially says, “when you fail.” Do you see that? God simply assumes that you’re going to make a mistake eventually. Why? Because He knows you’re not perfect — and He’s perfectly okay with that. You will face failure at some point.
Since mistakes are inevitable. We should learn how to face them head-on. You must be willing to leverage your failures to reveal your vulnerabilities. This will help you rebuild, readjust, and reorient. God’s heart for you is not perfection, it’s progression. When approached well, failure provides us with improvements by identifying changes necessary for growth.
Mistakes can be beneficial.
The most important part of this verse is “still get up!” What does this mean? Mistakes can actually be good! It means you took a risk. It means you did something that scared you. Here is more good news. Failure is not a dead end, it’s just a delay. Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s actually a vital part of it. Solomon realizes something that we can often forget. Failure is not final. A misstep can actually be a stepping stone when approached wisely.
So, when you make a mistake, ask yourself these questions:
- What were my mistakes?
- Did any bad habits trigger it?
- What can I learn from this?
- What is my next move?
As you can see, when approached well, failure is actually a tremendous teacher. This brings us to our final truth from Solomon’s proverb.
Mistakes make you a better minister.
Our culture teaches us not to make mistakes. You can see this in classrooms across the world. Graders simply mark the blunders in red. They seldom highlight all you got right. The approach creates a complex relationship with our propensity for error. We fear it. We loathe it. Honestly, we pretend it doesn’t exist, even when it happens.
Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb and phonograph, famously fell in love with his failures. He saw each mistake as a sign of momentum in his personal life. When reflecting on his mistakes, he recounted, “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.” He went on to explain, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
This should be our mindset in ministry too. Please hear me. Success is progress. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes honest inventory and transparent assessments. When you commit to learning from your mistakes, you will become a better minister and leader.
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