5 Leadership Actions To Take After A Ministry Train Wreck

A few weeks ago, I was stressed out of my mind.

I love when a plan comes together, but this wasn’t one of those moments.
I had a musician cancel, last minute. During the service, we lost track of the click. No one in the congregation seemed to engage with the songs.
My voice was weak and tired and I felt like everyone was staring me down in disgust. I swear I saw a few tomatoes fly past my head.
I wanted to crawl in a hole and forget this service ever happened. Ever been in a situation like this?

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Sure, moments like this always seems like the end of the world from our perspective. We’re creatives. When we don’t perform well our identity is at stake. We rise and fall on what we view as success.
But it’s important to realize that these moments will come. Train wrecks will happen. Are you prepared for them?
Through many train wrecks, I’ve learned that moments like this can be more of a blessing than a curse, if you respond properly.

5 Steps to Take After a Ministry Train Wreck

Here are 5 ways you should respond to ministry train wrecks:

1. Own the Responsibility – When something goes wrong it’s easy to start pointing fingers. But leaders own the mistake. They recognize it as a blind spot in their leadership and they get comfortable with the most uncomfortable phrase: “I’m sorry.” Don’t run. Don’t hide. Don’t make excuses.
2. Know Where Your Identity Lies – It’s important to know who you are before you set foot on a stage. That way success won’t sway you from your identity as a son or daughter of God. Failure won’t cause you to doubt your calling. I love Bob Sorge’s words in Dealing With the Rejection & Praise of Man:
I noticed that Jesus had the habit of praying after His ministry successes. For example, after feeding the five thousand, He immediately departed for the mountain in order to pray. It was my custom for many years to invest all my prayer energy before ministry and, then, after ministry to ‘crash’(relax). But Jesus gave Himself to prayer in the natural ‘down time’ that comes after ministry exertion. Not only did this guard Him from temptation, but it was also His opportunity to be renewed in His Father’s affirmation. This was the time when the Father would tell Him, ‘Good job, my Son!’
3. Tweak Your Systems – Oftentimes, failure happens because we haven’t followed through with our systems. Or, our systems need tweaked. It’s important to know the difference when nothing goes according to plan. Ask, was this a systems failure or was this part of the natural ebb and flow of ministry life? Tweak your systems if need be, but don’t allow failure or success to sway your identity.
4. Redefine Success – It’s in those moments when nothing goes according to plan that we have the opportunity to redefine success. In my situation, I was overly obsessed with looking and sounding good. I was completely focused on flawless music execution. A better picture of success would have been for the people of God to connect with their Maker in worship. Looking good, sounding great, and everyone leaving complimenting my musical brilliance is a sad success, but one I’m all too often obsessed with.
5. Teach Others – Don’t you wish you could just sweep your failures under the rug, forever forgotten? Yes, except that you would lose the one thing that gives you influence. Part of what makes a leader a great leader is that they learn from their failures and teach others through it. They don’t hide what went wrong and always put their best foot forward. They use the mess-ups to invest in other leaders, teaching them how to respond and deal with difficulty.

So next time you are faced with a ministry train wreck, don’t lost heart. Own responsibility if you dropped the ball, and tweak the necessary systems. Know your identity isn’t based on any success or failure, but on God’s love for you. Be reminded what true success is and teach others through what happened.
So while you don’t want to seek out train wrecks, know that they present an incredible opportunity for growth.
What about you? Let’s be honest today.
What was your last ministry train wreck? I know I have a few others I could share.
What did you learn from it? You can leave a comment

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