My kids like to use the phrase” “No Offense,” as a way to tell others about their inadequacies. For example just the other day I heard my 6th grader say this to her sister: “No offense, but you aren’t really that good at art.” Later in the day brother to sister: “No offense but, you have an attitude.”  I think you get the idea.  We have tried to explain to them on more than one occasion that sticking “No Offense” in front of a hurtful statement, still hurts someone’s feelings.

Ever had a “No Offense” moment as a youth worker?  It’s when we mess up blatantly or unwittingly but still know we have steam rolled someone in the process.  Maybe you mishandled a parent, when they deserved your rage because if they had actually READ one of the notices you sent home, they would have known better.  Perhaps, you undermined senior leadership and they found out about it.  It could be you made a “WHAM” (whopping, huge, aggravated, mistake) and you know it.

What matters as a leader is less about what we have done TO mess up and what will we do TO deal with it?

1.  Take Ownership Of Your Part

Venting to your peers they will not argue that the parent or senior leadership was wrong.  However, what part did we play in the misstep?  Stop pointing fingers at everyone else, and own what you have done.  We don’t have to take the blame for everyone, but the Holy Spirit brings conviction when we are wrong, and it is obvious in our heart. This means we are willing to repent (or turn away) from what WE did.

2.  Genuinely Say Sorry

Ever seen someone say the words, “I’m sorry,” through gritted teeth?   Yeah, you know they aren’t feeling it.  Truth is you may not be feeling the apology either.  However,  taking the “high road” means we own it and then smooth out out our part in the story.  You can’t control the other party, but you can come with a repentful heart in what you did wrong. Hurting someone for the right reasons, is still a wrong approach. My daughter knows she isn’t a great artist, but her sister making fun of her was mean.

3.  Have Integrity

There are times when we “fall on the grenade.”  These are the times when we don’t think we were wrong.  There are two questions we need to ask in that situation: 1. “Does this person (like a parent or senior leadership) deserve our respect no matter what?”  2.  ”Is it worth me damaging, breaking or losing a relationship?” There are times when integrity dictates we “do the right thing,” which is to own it and apologize, regardless on if we were right or not.

4.  Next Time

Ever notice how many movie and television plots revolve around someone messing up and then not being able to properly confess it?  We keep thinking, “Why did they run again?   It’s not an unfixable mess. Rarely is anything “that bad.” Instead we ask ourselves,  “If I land in this same scenario in the future, what will I do next time?”  Every time we fall down, it really is an opportunity for growth and transformation into the image of Christ. Next time, handle it differently.

No offense, but you messed up. We all do, and we will again.  Christ just wants us to stand up and deal with it. Worse case scenario we are reminded acutely our need for a Savior.

What do you do when you have messed up?

A couple of weeks ago this tweet came across my phone:

93 years Ago today the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Sadly the church still has a way to go on recognizing women leaders.

— Pete Wilson (@pwilson) 

What was interesting to me was the slew of comments that followed.  There were all sorts of ideas about whether or not women should be pastors, or follow “culture” or if this idea of women in church leadership was “Biblical.”   Pete’s responses were gracious and void of malice.  My favorite response was this one:

Nope. Not sure how you came to that conclusion from one tweet. Esteeming women and their God given purpose is a Biblical value.

The whole exchange really sat in the back of my brain.  It’s interesting that Pastor Wilson was not making a stand as to whether or not he felt women should take the pulpit or be in charge, he was saying that if God has put a call on your life, and you happen to be a woman you shouldn’t be looked over. (The idea that we draw conclusions from 140 characters is another post all together.)  I want to make it clear this post is not meant to be a theological debate.  I have heard very solid Biblically based arguments for all sides of where women should sit (or stand) in church leadership.  All I can give are some thoughts from a woman who has been in family ministry for 22 or so years.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives.  A plan for good and hope to prosper and not harm us.  That plan might include marriage.  Or not.  It might include children.  Or not.  It might include being called into “paid” ministry.  Or not.  It might mean that plan is to become an international missionary, or be the first person to swim from Cuba to America.  What I know is that whatever this plan is,  it does not go away.  It’s inclusive to all the seasons we go through.  Yet, somehow our culture often dictates for women in ministry it is supposed to “look” a particular way.  If it does not work out that way, something it “wrong.” Too often we are talking about our opinions and not the Bible at all.

I know that when I look at my daughters, Moms, women and girls growing up in my ministry, I want them to know how much Christ loves them.  When they grasp how high, wide and deep that love truly is my prayer is that the greatest cry of their heart would be to love and serve Him. Then I pray the Lord would help them understand that as we do everything for the Lord, as we serve, we lead. It will mean a variety of things wherever God places them. They may or may not be celebrated for it here on earth, and that has nothing to do with gender.  However, this journey with Jesus is the most important one we have.  For me he broke my heart for the least, the lost and the last.  I long to see families who are falling apart, put back together.  In this he has given me places where I lead.  I also agree with Pete’s original tweet, and I could tell you stories of ways I have been pushed down, stereotyped, and that people- who love Jesus- have been down right mean.  When I look at my girls,  the ones in my home, the ones in my youth group, my greatest desire is that they are willing to walk this life with Christ.  I trust He is big enough to lead them correctly and they will know when they seek him with their whole hearts.  Sometimes, I think we as people need to get out of His way.

I would love to hear from other women in ministry, what are your thoughts?

Learning should not stop the day your ministry begins. Becoming an effective leader requires you to be stretched by shortcomings in order to become the best leader you can possibly be. Lifelong learners become stretched by shortcomings when they become aware of their shortcomings, make a conscience effort to learn from them and open themselves up to correction.

Becoming aware of your shortcomings
It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of making the same mistakes over and over again. That happens when you become comfortable with a certain way of living. Whether your shortcoming is that you jokingly make fun of people or that you are always late, you have first got to recognize the shortcoming so you can get on the right track.

Conscience effort
After recognizing your shortcoming you’ve got to put forth a constant conscience effort into making a change. If you are constantly conscience, you are able to catch yourself before falling. You will catch yourself and be back on the right track. Accountability is very helpful as well in staying on track.

Open to correction
All of us can use a little correction now and then. Opening yourself to correction allows you to grow in ways unimaginable. People who are open to correction are teachable; they are the lifelong learners who are stretched by their shortcomings. Put aside your pride, you do not always know what’s best. Be ready to listen the next time someone corrects you.

Though you may fail at a particular task, it is important you get back up and try again. Lifelong learners are aware of their shortcomings, make a conscience effort to learn from them and open themselves to correction. With a desire, you too, can become a lifelong learner stretched by your shortcomings.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.