Some years ago I did a little book entitled "The 10 Dumbest Mistakes College Ministers Make". In it, I tried to address common mistakes. One friend even said he thought he could pick a chapter that was written about him. Another suggested that each chapter of that book could have begun with a picture of a Campus Minister who was a perpetrator. But, the best comment was the one who said, "Finally Arliss is writing about something he knows about....dumb mistakes!".
Recently I began to think what are the dumbest mistakes I have made in College Ministry....to this point. It is quite humbling to look back and try to list your failures and mistakes. Confession is good for the soul. But, I am sharing mine so that maybe you won't make the same ones. Here goes....
1. I hired an Associate based on a resume but sensed there was no personal chemistry.
It has long been my belief that we should always try to hire the best. A resume came to me that was a dream resume. This person looked like the All American of College Ministry. This person's list of references was a Who's Who of College Ministry. After running references, I invited the person for an interview. We did not click chemistry wise. But, I felt it would be wrong on my part to not hire this All-Star of College Ministry. I felt I needed to put my personal preferences aside and do what was best for the ministry. I did and it was an epic failure. I learned that someone can be supremely talented and qualified to do a job and not be the right person for a particular position. It not only did not work...it was painful.
2. I hired someone because everyone knows that, "Anybody is better than nobody.".
That is a false statement. I hired an Assistant one time who was not up to the standards of the previous ones who had served in our Assistant roles. But, this person was the only one who was available and desperately wanted the job. Here is why "Anybody is better than nobody." is false. When there is nobody, you know you must do it or it won't be done. When there is somebody there, you are assuming that what had to be done was done. It takes more time to clean up someone else's mess than it often does to do it yourself.....with far less ramifications.
3. Not giving student leaders from a previous philosophy the opportunity to step away.
Many years ago I went to a position where the previous leader had a different philosophy than mine. I inherited
the Student Leadership Team the previous leader had selected. It was the most emotionally painful year
of my life....including my year in Vietnam. I realized after that painful year that I should have laid out my vision and my philosophy and said now anyone can walk away with no hard feelings. But, if you stay, this is where we are pointed. I feel I did a disservice to them, not just to the ministry and my own ground off teeth.
4. Using guys who were not prepared to lead Freshmen Discipleship groups.
I have long believed we need to reverse the trend of guys not being willing to serve. I have worked at developing guys. In selecting students to lead our freshmen groups, I wanted to put up both guys and girls who were great Christian role models for freshmen. We had plenty of strong girls, but we were short on strong guys. So, I put some guys there who were not prepared to be there. It was a mistake. Develop guys but don't put them in a role just because they are a guy.
5. Not taking all my vacation days.
After a period of years I began to accumulate a lot of vacation days, but I never felt I could be gone all those days. It was a combination of dates I felt I had to be on campus and just the never ending things that need doing. I cheated my wife, my girls, and myself.
6. Going with talent over proven commitment.
I've written previously about selecting a Freshmen girl to our singing group who was an incredibly talented singer over an upperclass girl. The upperclass girl had served the year before and had done well in every way. She wanted to return, but we went with the incredible talent. Within a month, the freshman girl had walked away and so had the upperclass girl. Talent never trumps character and commitment!
7. Talking students into taking leadership roles.
I learned that that when you talk them into it, you will have to continue talking them into it and.....they often quit and walk away at the worst possible time. Again, I learned "Anybody is NOT better than nobody.".
I am sure this list just begins to crack the surface of my dumbest mistakes and I may need to do a whole series on it. But, I may even try to list some things I did right. What were your dumbest mistakes and have you learned from them?