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I was Wrong, pt. 2  //  Why admitting you're wrong to your team might be the best thing to do for your ministry.

15 Jul Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on I was Wrong, pt. 2
I was Wrong, pt. 2

We’re in the midst of a series by Rick Rhoads on the value of admitting you’re wrong. To check out the first post of this series, click here. – Editor

“It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.” – Dale Turner

The Lock-In to End All Lock-Ins


I remember the meeting like it was yesterday. I was a young, ambitious youth pastor and I desired to reach more teenagers for Jesus. I had gathered together my team of youth leaders and threw out the ideas of having a “large” all-night lock-in.   This particular event would serve as our outreach programming for the following spring. The idea was received with enthusiasm until I told them where we were going to host the event – the local YMCA.

I told my leaders, “We’ve rented it… for the whole night… and we’re going to fill it!!!” What was I thinking? The reaction from my team was immediate.

One leader said, “Do you know how large that facility is?”

Another leader said, “Do you think this is the best use of our time and resources?”

As each concern was stated, I had an answer or so I thought! The goal was simple. Rent the YMCA, have students invite lots of friends, have around 40 leaders prepped and ready, have a bunch of people pray, and then… open the doors. What could go wrong?

Well, the night of the lock-in came, we opened the doors, and the students came – around seven hundred to be exact! It was crazy. In fact, in all my years of ministry I’m not sure I’ve ever been a part of something so energetic, chaotic, and perhaps reckless, and I was the one leading it.


Well, the night came to an end, and from a leadership perspective we survived, barely. My leaders served hard, students had a memorable experience, and everyone went home. That week in our follow-up leader’s meeting I knew there was something I needed to say. In fact, it needed to be said before anything else happened. As I opened the meeting, I simply said, “I was wrong, please forgive me for not listening.”

Lessons Learned from a Dangerously Successful Lock-in

1. Outward expressions reflect an inner reality.

Every ministry leader at some point in their journey has made a mistake. The decision seemed so right at the time, but then as the situation unfolds, things fall apart, others are hurt and leaders are isolated. In this moment, leaders often display what is in side of them. What I mean is, the act of admitting you were wrong is an outward expression of an inward reality. Many in this moment have the tendency is to power up. Not admit that they are wrong. Once this occurs, there has been a significant message communicated about the leader’s interior life and subsequently, exterior relationship with others.

2. Credibility can be gained when we admit we’re wrong.

In the middle of a bad decision, often everyone knows. Sometimes the bad decision is even palatable. If the leader acts as if nothing is wrong, or shifts blame in any way towards the team, credibility is lost. Just the same, if the leader senses what ‘s happening and calls the situation for what it is, credibility is gained. Admitting your mistake in the middle of a disaster can be powerful for both the leader and team unity.

3. Servant leadership is more than what we do – it’s how we listen and receive.

Servant leadership recognizes there are many on the team who can lead just as well, and in many cases even better. Their unique gifts, talents and skills are essential to the team’s effectiveness. Healthy servant leadership begins the day by inspiring all around them to bring their best, because you need them. Servant leaders inspire great loyalty, develop deep teams and accomplish significant kingdom movements. Servant leaders listen to their team, admit their mistakes and quickly resource their team in finding a solution to the problem, resulting in a deeper level of trust and respect.

As I finished saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me for not listening.” There seemed to be a collective sigh in the room. The act of admitting I was wrong opened the space for true and authentic conversation to take place. As we left the meeting that night, our team was stronger, relationships were intact and my understanding of healthy leadership grew significantly.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.