This mistake has to do with not confronting students with their sin. In one season of ministry I had a handful of students who were making choices, choices I think are still affecting their lives today. These choices were really harmful to themselves and others. When these issues first came to my attention, I did not immediately confront them or ask them questions about their behavior. Over time, the life choices these boys were making got more serious. When I finally was asked by the parents to confront these students, they did not respond to the questions I was asking. It wasn't that I was rude or judgmental. I actually had good credibility with these students. The saying about "nipping it in the bud" would have been better with these guys. By the time I was talking with them about the choices they were making, they had already made up their minds that it was no big deal. The lesson I learned from this is to have the hard conversations early. This still might not change the choices a student is going to make, but for me, it gives me peace that I did not let something ride out too long without confronting it. I have since learned to be more proactive on issues with friends, family, students in my ministry, and even parents of students. Confrontation is not a bad thing, it can and should be done with grace and gentleness. And as I've learned, sooner than later is always better.
I think one of the biggest mistakes I have made and then learned from is how important it is to keep Jesus at the center of everything. There have been a handful of times in my career when I have allowed the business of ministry to impact my personal relationship with Christ. It's easy to think that all the time we spend preparing for messages, praying for students, even being at church count as personal time with Jesus. I have learned the hard way that these times don't really develop the soul. Yes, they are good things and will help us in our ministry, but if we never stop to ask how our soul, spirit and relationship with Christ are doing, we may be setting ourselves up to fail. Most often for me this failure looks like being short with people, not having patience with my wife and kids, or becoming negative with students. What I have learned is that if I am actively taking time for soul care and spiritual growth, not only does my walk with Christ become healthier, so does my marriage, relationships with my kids, and even my ministry. Taking the time to be with Christ is so important that I schedule it into my calendar now. Working on my own Rule of Life by having a plan and goals of what I want and need to be focusing on really help me. I don't feel guilty or have the need to be legalistic about any of the spiritual habits. I simply hope to be growing in any one of the areas at all times. The goal is that you are always growing in some way. Make your relationship a priority over everything else you do. If you start to see yourself spending less time with Jesus, stop everything else you are doing and find the time to connect back with Him.