4 Common Mistakes That Will Cause Your Church to Struggle

Let’s face it, leadership isn’t easy.

If leadership was easy, more people would lead and lead more successfully. But leadership is nuanced. It’s relational, situational and most of the complex stuff isn’t limited to one right answer.

Leadership is often the fine art of the right decision at the right moment for the right people.

The same decision in the same situation at a different time with different people could be disastrous.

We all make mistakes. That’s part of the territory if you are a leader.

Fortunately, there are a number of foundational principles and leadership values that if consistently followed will dramatically reduce the mistakes we make, or at least lessen the level of their impact.

In fact, we’ve learned so much from these principles that we know many of the common mistakes.

So why do we repeat these mistakes?

There are several reasons we repeat mistakes.

  • We are tempted to take an easier or shorter path.
  • We are under pressure that we want to avoid or escape.
  • We are convinced we can do it on our own.
  • We did not learn from past experience.

Sometimes we repeat mistakes because the church is larger, the stakes are higher and the pressure is greater. The remedy is to never stop growing. Don’t allow all the demands on your time to crowd out time for you to invest in your continued growth as a leader.

Sometimes we lack the faith that we can ever truly be a better leader. But I’m writing today to tell you that you can.

You can become a better leader.

If we could have a cup of coffee together, I’d share some of my leadership mistakes and we could talk about how you can avoid some of your own. But for today, let me share four of the more common mistakes that if you put your mind to it, you can avoid.

4 Common Mistakes:

1) Choosing performance over reliance

Performance mode is a great temptation. It comes from a good place, the gifts, talent, energy and drive God gave you. But when that replaces reliance upon God as the source it’s always a mistake.

Performance rather than reliance is essentially doing things God isn’t asking you to do and carrying a load He doesn’t need you to carry. It’s when we take ministry into our own hands and out of His.

I describe it like trying to “muscle” things forward. If it’s not working, you just push harder. (I’ve done this way too often.) Don’t misunderstand, working hard is necessary, but that’s different than performing so you look good or gain a certain amount of success.

Whether under pressure, tempted by pride, or it could be your sincere zeal for the church, be careful not to allow performance to override reliance upon God. Your real source of power.

2) Allowing outside pressures to dampen inner convictions

Culture sets a current tone that can put a subtle squeeze on the church. Are you holding strong to your convictions?

From political and economic pressures to macro societal trends slowly devaluing the gathered and organized body of Christ – (the Church,) we feel the pressure.

At a minimum, leaders can become discouraged, and it’s not uncommon to throw in the towel and quit even though one’s heart still carries conviction to build the church.

A pastor said to me, (paraphrased) “I’m afraid to speak freely . . . hesitant to speak my convictions. People get angry or leave. It goes against my nature to run people off that we worked so hard to welcome in.”

I understand! It’s so easy to offend. But the church needs you to hold steadfast to your convictions.

Yes, speak with grace and the heart of a shepherd, but be strong and speak the truth.

Deep down people are looking for answers, they desire a way of life that actually makes sense on a spiritual level.  You have what they are looking for.

Where are you tempted to allow outside pressures to curb your inner convictions?

Hold fast to your convictions:

  • Don’t surrender your vision to pressure.
  • Don’t pull back on teaching God’s Word
  • Don’t hesitate to live out your values.

3) Avoiding difficult decisions to keep the peace

We understand difficult decisions – they contain factors such as; someone is likely to get upset, a substantial amount of money is involved, we might look foolish, it impacts a lot of people, or the outcomes are uncertain but incredibly important.

Sound familiar?

So we can be tempted to delay or even avoid making the decision.

Your dilemma – make the decision and blow up the peace or don’t make the decision and stall progress.

But you know the right thing to do.

Keeping the peace over choosing progress is a false choice, because in time, peace turns to stagnancy which causes greater unrest than your tough decision.

It’s important to remember that tough decisions only become more difficult the longer you delay in making them.

What decision do you need to make this week?

Is there a major decision that you need to make next month?

What is preventing you from making a difficult decision?

  • Do you need more information?
  • Do you need wise counsel?
  • Do you need more courage?

Define and determine what you need to make the decision, move through those steps, and make the decision. It’s not easy, but it is that simple.

4) Indulging preferences over priorities and values.

I’ve not met a leader who hasn’t made this mistake. I certainly have. It’s human nature and comes from a God-given part of your wiring and personality. You have preferences.

  • When hiring someone you may prefer high energy over steady and consistent.
  • When selecting officing options you might prefer open space over cubicles.
  • When choosing a small group model, you might prefer affinity groups over bible study groups.

Leaning into your preference as a leader is OK, as long as it doesn’t violate your priorities or values.

Let’s go back to the short list of examples.

  • When hiring does your preference override your cultural values?
  • When making a major purchase, does your preference override financial priorities?
  • When choosing a small group system does your preference align with your organizational priorities and values?

When a preference overrides a priority or a value, it becomes indulgent and is always a mistake.

Where are you tempted to allow your preference to interfere with your values or priorities?

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