6. Forgetting that perception is reality.
Whatever people think of you, good or bad, is real to them. Make sure they know the truth about you and your ministry, and make sure the truth about you and your ministry is good. If one person decides to believe something insidious about you or your ministry, then shares that belief with others as a “prayer request” or outright slander, you’ve got a battle to fight. And it’s amazing how battles can quickly get out of hand (if your name is Trent Lott, you understand this intimately). You’ll eventually lose the war, so make sure that perception is the truth by confronting misperceptions and “making peace with your enemies.” (Luke 14:31-32) When a perception problem springs up, head directly to your senior pastor’s office first so you can clear it up before it gets to him.
7. Getting “a little crazy” a little too often.
When you were in college, it was fun to do crazy things in your car—but the fun stops when it involves your teenagers. My students still tell stories about a former volunteer who thought it was cool to drive on the grass to avoid the long line of cars stacked up on the off-ramp to Six Flags. That same volunteer once drove a group of us home from a Yankees game in the church van. After he forcefully nudged his way into traffic, two guys jumped out of their car and banged on our windows, looking for a fight. They were probably drunk, it was New York City, and it was after the Red Sox beat the Yankees, but it wouldn’t have happened if he’d made wiser choices as a driver. Always be safe, and always be wise.
8. Marginalizing powerful parents.
When Powerful Parents Attack—it could be a show on Fox, but it’s not entertaining when it happens to you. Your Church magazine ran a series about forced exits a few years ago. They found that it takes only 3 to 4 percent of a congregation to spark a staff member’s firing. Know who the “power parents” in your church are, and do your best to make sure they’re on your side. Don’t succumb to pressure or let them bully you, but bend to their desires when it’s a neutral preference issue, not a core principle.