What might you do differently?

13 09 2013

101460737 21-16-28In the process of interviewing pastors who have  recently retired or ended a call and I’ve  discovered a pattern of regrets related to how they wish they would have spent their time, energy, resources and political capital.

As you view this list, consider which comments resonate with you and your particular setting :


  1.  “I tried to please everyone and in the end, pleased  no one.” Pastors who seek to please everyone and avoid conflict often create some of the most intractible and dysfunctional congregations. When problems are not addressed forthrightly, they diminish morale, lead to an atmosphere of hopelessness,  and allow problems become  powder kegs that eventually blow up.
  2. “I failed to delegate.” Pastors regretted not raising up sufficient leaders to caring on the ministry beyond their pastorate and therefore failed to leave a legacy for sustainable ministry.
  3. “I allowed the energy to dissipate.” Momentum is a challenge to build initially and even harder to get back if you ever lose it. Pastors often fail to celebrate short-term wins that are essential for building and maintaing momentum. Pastors need to excel in naming the bright spots of their organization and building upon them.
  4. “I didn’t make my family a priority.” In many cases pastors built their ministries while their family dynamics and structure crumbled. Unfortunately, too many pastors sought to repair the damage it’s too late.
  5. “I made friends with the status quo.” Pastors filled with regret stated that they slipped into the mode of accommodating the need for maintaining the status quo rather than becoming the change agent their congregation needed.
  6. “I avoided the real problems.” Real problems almost always involve people and rarely are they the problems that initially surface. Real problem are often related to perceptions, expectations and assumptions rather than actual facts. Pastors commented that they needed to be more intentional about learning ways to find out what people are really thinking, but weren’t willing to verbalize.
  7. “I helped people fight fires but didn’t teach others how to prevent them.” Gathering feedback on results and learning from successes and mistakes is almost non existent in most congregations. Pastors stated that they rarely followed up on unmet expectations and therefore, missed golden opportunities to learn, grow and correct mistakes in the future.
  8. “I focused on what was missing rather than what was present.” Several pastors said they wished they had spent more time celebrating their strengths rather than  shoring up their faults. A few pastors mentioned that they wished they had spent more time learning about what they do best and then developing plans for more fully using these gifts.
  9. “I was too small minded.” Pastors stated that their visions for what God might do within their congregations was too limiting . One pastor lamented, “I left my congregation as a sleeping giant, vastly underutilizing its capacity to be a transforming presence in the community.” Pastors wish they would have spent more time recognizing God’s abundance and the extraordinary things God could do through ordinary people.
  10. “I failed to nurture the faith lives of my staff and congregational leaders.” A few pastors mentioned that they hadn’t nurtured the faith lives of their primary leaders and wished that they had sent more time befriending and equipping them to be authentic, available and affirming Christ-followers.

What might you do differently now to avoid ministry regrets later?



3 responses

25 02 2014
Jeramy G

I think what Constance and Jeremy both named is super important, and has implications for how I do my job as Youth Director. I constantly need to be reminded to pour just as much energy into the spiritual vitality of my leaders as I do the students.

I only have one cup to pour out of, my leaders are (kind of) many. I’d rather have multiple cups pouring love, grace, and authenticity onto students rather than just my one.

I also really resonate with #s 1 and 2. I don’t like disappointing people and always feel like I’m inconveniencing people when I ask for help. Even after having multiple examples in my own ministry when I delegated responsibilities and people thrived and loved their new responsibilities, the next time is always so hard for me…not that I’m stubborn at all…

23 10 2013

Reflecting upon #10. Our pastor is the only one who leads devotions in staff meetings and I’m going to suggest we each take a turn. Each person has such a unique way of encountering scripture, why wouldn’t we want to learn from them and in turn, ourselves.

14 09 2013
Jeremy Hall

im not pleased to see it on the list of regrets but i am pleased to see a well read blog talking about it… #10: in my experience one of the most neglected roles of the “senior/head” pastor, to be the chaplain of the staff. So many times when i talk with young pastors, or church planters they are shocked when i tell them that one of their key responsibilities is the spiritual care of their leaders.

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