One Terrible Leadership Mistake We Make as Pastors (And Leaders)

By April 17, 2018Church, Leadership

There are many leadership mistakes we make as pastors. I’m certain I make one nearly everyday.

This post is only about one mistake. Only one, but one of the worst.

And, frankly, I’m as guilty of this one as anyone. I think most of us are prone to making this mistake. In any realm of leadership.

Here is one of the worst mistakes pastors make in leadership:

Allowing a few negative voices to overwhelm us.

Have you been guilty of that mistake?

Be careful. There is a Biblical principle here.

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)

When we place our focus on a few negatives, it injures everyone.

  • We cater to them.
  • We try to appease them.
  • We worry about them.
  • We neglect the greater good.

And, in the end, here’s the strange part I’ve seen –

We usually find out nothing we could have done would have made them happy anyway.

Negative people are often negative for reasons other than something you did as a leader.

They are hurting. Of course, we need to love them, pray for them, and help them as we can.

But, when we let their negativity control us, in the process, everyone loses.

The bottom line is this mistake drains your energy and valuable resources as a leader and keeps you from investing fully in people who are believe in the vision, support leadership and are ready to help you build a great church.

It’s counterproductive. At best.

So, be honest with yourself.

Is your leadership of the church being dominated by a few negative voices?

And, I’m not say we shouldn’t listen to negative voices. We grow this way. I have written before that I even listen to anonymous voices. I’ve written about the Right Ways and the Wrong Ways to respond to criticism. I’m not afraid of criticism. I just believe we just have to be careful to filter them in a healthy way.

For example, when you deal with critical people, ask yourself:

  1. Are these people generally positive, supportive people – or are they negative, divisive people?
  2. Is what they are saying helpful? If you took their suggestion, would it improve the overall vision of the church?
  3. Do they represent a larger audience or are they lone voices? You need to know if the criticism is representative or personal.The fact is some people will never be on board with the direction of the church and you can’t do anything about that. Sometimes they represent a larger audience.

Your answers to those type questions should change the weight of their negativity you own and the attention you give to their complaints. And, frankly, the amount of time you spend appeasing those complainers.

And, I know if you’ve been yielding to the few negative voices this post might sting a bit.

On the other hand, if you’re one of the negative voices – the kind who is wasting everyone’s time – well, you don’t like me much right now. I just called you out. Sorry about that.

But, the goal of this blog is to help us lead better, and I know from experience, when I give too much authority and attention to negativity I am not leading at my best.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Like most pastors I struggle with the negative voices. All it seems to take is one negative comment or voice and my Sunday is ruined. One thing that I heard Chuck Swindoll say once was that every Sunday he would “let something go.” He says at least every Sunday someone says something rude, inappropriate, or hurtful and instead of fighting and arguing he just lets it go. That has helped me a lot.

  • Ivan Solero says:

    Ron,
    Great article! I believe if a pastor is being critiqued for what he is preaching and being biblically correct, then the pastor should/must answer the query and give a response. If there are continual queries based on what they are preaching then there needs to be a revisit of what thematic issues the pastor is bring to the table that is being off and also there should b a visit of where the congregation is spiritually as a body. Other church business matters I believe should be made public where some if not all should weigh in. Transparency neutralizes the few bad apples, and if the pastor is not aligned he is responsible to give a reason or someone in church leadership address it. This is where I have seen the biggest issue, lack of transparency and public information. A lot is done behind the curtain, and that is a big mistake. If pastors want people involved and dedicated transparency is key.

  • Great Post. One of the positive things that can arise from becoming aware of a negative voice is you are able to stop and examine the things that you are doing. Am I doing things right? Am I consulting the right persons? On my part, I welcome negative comments, but I don't allow them to affect me if I see that they are just meant to distract. My point is sometimes, negative voices are meant to check whether you are going on the right direction or not. Just my thoughts though.

  • Aaron Reed says:

    Ron, nice article. I find that much can be learned from listening to the "negative voices". One of the things it helps me to determine is whether or not we have communicated completely, or if there are some unresolved issues of which I need to be aware. For me, I think the most difficult part of working through the "negative voices" is truly understanding what it is that they are negative about. I have learned that they may be speaking out about one thing, but it is actually something else that has stirred their pot! Thanks for the thoughts!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good word Aaron. Yes, we listen, but we filter. Some people have an intent that's not for good — and we shouldn't let those voices crowd out what God is trying to do. I love how Nehemiah handled this. Hope you are well.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • Yes, that's a great pitfall! In my experience, "negative voices" generally want you to fail, not succeed. Those who are genuinely interested in seeing the church thrive find ways to give constructive advice in more affirming ways. Good thoughts.

  • Thanks Ron. Great article and very much appreciated. Helps us to realize that leadership is a journey of the things we do right and the things we do wrong and hopefully we learn some lessons along the way. Keep up the great work!

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