If you’ve ever led a children’s ministry you’ve probably accidentally double-booked a room, a role or a service. Such a mistake can only point to you and your ability to organize. But even the most organized leaders make these simple mistakes. For me it happened twice with the same couple. I can go into all the details and excuses but the fact of the matter was…it was ultimately my fault. These are the steps that I took to make amends.
Apologize, and apologize again later.
There is such a thing as over apologizing, which I don’t recommend. My point in this is to apologize right away but then let some time pass and apologize again later. The first time you apologize verbally they hear the apology but due to feelings of disrespect or under appreciation, these initial apologies can roll right off. The point of the second verbal apology (which happens at a later time) is the communication that you are still aware of your mistake and this time they might be in a better mood to accept the apology.
Admit, don’t deny it.
The buck stops with you if you are the leader. Disarm people by admitting the mistake out-right. Do not try to explain (unless asked) how this is not your fault or give a silly excuse to get you off the hook. Leader-up; admit you did wrong and explain how you are fixing it.
Fix your system and never let it happen again.
It doesn’t matter how many times you apologize or admit your mistake, if the system is flawed it will happen again. For me, I messed up twice…with the same people. You must take some time to identify the mistake, figure out what part of your system broke down and repair it. Most of the time the problem is with communication. Be proactive and enhance your communication methods. Sometimes the error is in data entry so design procedures to ensure the data is correct. We all have systems for a reason, and when these systems break…it can decay our leadership influence.
Write a card.
I’m big on hand-written cards. I firmly believe that receiving an old fashioned, hand-written card in the mail adds something more than an email or verbal apology. When you write a note of apology admit what went wrong and how you fixed it. I typically send the card a couple of days after the event, usually after the issue is fixed.
Leaders are bound to make mistakes. What establishes an excellent leader is one who admits those mistakes and designs measures to prevent them in the future. Volunteers have other things they could be doing. The last thing you want to do is disrespect them or waste their time. We need to love our volunteers and utilize their time and gifts effectively to forward ministry.