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What Should We Do with Our Ministry Regrets?

What do you regret in ministry?

I regret my years of acting with a complete lack of mercy, because I immaturely believed truth trumped mercy and that God not spiritually gifting me with mercy was license to steamroll and brutalize all in the name “being honest.”

I regret my years and years of arrogance, particularly in my early years at Youth Specialties, where my sense that I was so special seduced me into cold-heartedness and dismissiveness with the very youth workers I was called to serve.

I regret every time I have gone on the warpath, calling out someone’s sinfulness or stubbornness or plain ol’ wrongness, only to find out that I had only heard half of the story. Particularly, even though it was years ago now, I regret calling a woman out on my blog (so stupid of me!), hurting her deeply, inaccurate in my assumptions about reality.

I regret rolling over and being the lap dog when my supervisor required me to lay off another employee who, while flawed like the rest of us, deserved better. And I regret that, in my soul numbness during those days, I didn’t do enough to truly celebrate or honor him.

I regret (ooh, this one is difficult to admit) all those times I subtly flirted with girls in my youth group or played favorites with the teenagers I liked more (the ones who made me feel good about myself) or said something funny-but-hurtful to a teenager in order to get a laugh from others or undermined parents or made ministry all about me.

Argh. Really, I tend to be a chipper optimist who doesn’t live with much regret. But knowing I was going to write this post about regret, I thought it would be healthy to give a little heart and keyboard space to some ministry regrets. Those five paragraphs are what came out. Ack. Now I need a stiff drink, thank you very much.

Last year, I preached at my church on the subject of regret. Of course, the reality is we all experience regret. Even God experiences regret (see Genesis 6:5-6). And since regret is a common experience, it makes sense that all of us church leaders will also have regrets about actions and inactions in our ministry lives.