What A HUGE Mistake!  Six Lessons I Learned From it.

What a huge mistake!

I moved to my new office at Vanguard College recently. My daughter and I were decorating it with all my Coca Cola memorabilia. I‘ve been collecting Coke items for years.  I have bottles and cans from all over the world and from different eras.  One of the cans in my collection is a can of original Coke, before Coca Cola made one of the biggest mistakes in it’s history. 

Coke Disaster

On April 23rd, 1985 Coca Cola introduced New Coke.  They had changed the formula and it was a huge mistake by the company.  There was a massive international outcry and eventually they returned to their original formula.

It caused me to think about the mistakes I have made in ministry.  Mistakes are a part of life.  I don’t think that I’m alone in this. No matter what you do, you will make mistakes.  The challenge is to learn from them and move forward.  Here are some lessons I’ve learned about making mistakes in ministry:

1. I learned to apologize and make correction.

It is humbling to say sorry and admit that you were wrong.  It’s important to make sure that when you’ve made a mistake that you recognize what the mistake was, apologize and make any corrections that are needed.

2. Mistakes can teach us what works and what doesn’t. 

There have been many times when I planned an event and thought that it would be the greatest youth event of all time, only to have just a few kids show up.  Taking a step back and examining a situation can be valuable to moveg forward.  You have to be willing to ask the difficult questions: “What can I learn from this experience?” and “What needs to be done differently next time?”  A mistake is not helpful unless we are able to learn from it.

3. Humility is learned by mistakes.

Proverbs 11:2 states: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  There’s nothing more humbling than a public mistake.  Mistakes teach us much about ourselves and especially when they show us how we need to change.

4. Mistakes don’t mean that we are failures.

If making mistakes means that we are a failure, then I would have been finished in ministry after a couple of months.  After a mistake, I learned to pick myself up and move forward.

5. Mistakes can help us to give grace.

In leadership, not only will we make mistakes ourselves, but there will be volunteers, students, and parents who will make mistakes as well.  It’s important that we encourage others when they fail.  We need to help them learn the lessons we have learned (the hard way).

6. We can be an inspiration to others.

When we can share about our own failures and mistakes, others will hopefully learn from us.  I have a book in my library called All-Star Bloopers. It’s a collection of stories of veteran youth pastors and some of the “bloopers” they’ve made in ministry.  It’s so nice to be able to say, “I’m not the only one”.

 To Err is Human

There’s the saying “To err is human”.  We all make mistakes, it is a part of being human.  It is important that when we do we acknowledge them, correct them and move forward.



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Matt is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has over 20 years of student ministry experience all over the country. He has 3 kids. His 2 girls are in their teen years so he has lots of opportunity to put his student ministry years to good use at home everyday. He's completing a Masters in Adolescent and Family Counseling.


  1. David Powellsays:

    Great message, Matt. Too often I think we make a mistake and feel so humiliated that we throw in the towel. Nice, timely, practical advice!

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