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12 Reasons Not to Blame Others for Our Ministry Failures

I don’t blame anyone but myself for my failures in ministry.

Why are people so surprised by that?

In last month’s podcast with Carey Nieuwhof (click here to listen), I described our church’s history, including a short period where we had sudden growth, followed by even faster and deeper collapse.

Carey asked me if I had a handle on why the collapse happened, so I told him two of the mistakes I made that contributed to it. He was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t blame anyone (like the big church down the street) or anything (like changing demographics) for the problems, but took the responsibility upon myself.

To which I responded, “If you don’t own it, you can’t change it.” The interview went on and I thought no more about it.

But that little exchange and my short answer to it have received far more feedback (all positive, thankfully) than any other aspect of the interview.


I think it’s because we live in a blame culture. And that culture has invaded the church. In fact, I know it has because I regularly hear pastors of Small Churches blame everyone from their denominations to other churches to the corruption of the culture for their church’s lack of growth and/or health.

We must stop doing this. Here are 12 reasons. I’m sure there are more, so if you know of any, feel free to add them in the comment section.

1. If You Don’t Own It, You Can’t Change It

If someone else is to blame for my problems, I’ve given them control. If I’m to blame, I can do something about it.

2. Blaming Others Is Easy, but Unproductive

Let’s say it actually is the fault of someone else. What changes after we identify that? I can’t change someone else’s behavior, after all. I can only change me.

Like Henry Ford said, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anyone can complain.” 

So let’s concentrate on who we can change. Better yet, let’s recommit our lives and ministries to the one who can change us.

3. Not All “Failure” Is Failure

My plans are not always God’s plans. It’s easy to forget that.

What we consider failure might be a door God is closing so we’ll start to look for the door he’s opening.

That’s what happened to me when I started taking a hard look at my own ministry.

Because of my changed perspective on failure and success, some great things followed in the wake of the numerical collapse of our church.

  • Greater empathy for other pastors
  • A new perspective on church health and growth
  • The ministry that’s bringing you this blog post
  • … and more
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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.