The Top 5 Ministry Excuses You Must Stop Making

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Are you making excuses or progress? (Because you can't do both.)

Excuses. We all make them from time to time. But we should banish them from our vocabulary forever.

And here’s why I believe that’s so critical:

You can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

Most of us want to make progress, but instead we make excuses.

I was reminded of that twice this week. The first time was in in this great post by my friend, Casey Graham.

The second time was the day when my 17-year-old son, Sam, and I were driving to his track meet.

He and his team have qualified as provincial finalists in the 4×100 meter high school relay.

Sam and I were talking about training and which school has the best facilities.

My son’s school has a gravel track.

It has no marked lanes.

It’s not great for training.

They have to estimate handoffs on the relay and practice their steps with best guesses because their track isn’t marked for any of that.

And yet his team has advanced to the provincial finals.

The team with the best track in the county (a multimillion dollar top rate install) has been eliminated.

I said I was surprised … Sam was too. He said as a rule, the team with the great facility rarely does well, and yet his school always places first or second, even with the inferior training facility.

The conversation reminded me of the power of excuses.

It would be so easy for Sam and his teammates to try less hard and convince themselves that they’ll never make it to the finals unless they get a track like other schools.

But they didn’t. They trained like crazy anyway, and went all the way to the finals.

The conversation convicted me again: You and I absolutely have to stop making excuses now.

Question: Ever notice that ministry leaders often have a whole list of well-rehearsed excuses as to why their ministry isn’t more effective than it is?

Tell me if this isn’t true:

The leaders who make the most excuses make the least progress.

The leaders who make the most progress make the fewest excuses.

So in the name of getting on with our mission, here are the top five excuses I’ve heard church leaders make. (And regrettably, in different seasons, I’ve made some of them.)

Carey Nieuwhof Carey Nieuwhof is Lead Pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto, Canada, blogs at and is host of The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast available for free on iTunes.

More from Carey Nieuwhof or visit Carey at

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  • Benjamin Conway

    Awesome one. Very inspiring and challenging for us in London, England. Thanks.

    • patriot_preacher



      • Simon Cox

        Amen, pray about against the evil spirit behind Islam. And don’t forget that you were once lost in your barbaric ways and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, you’d still be there. Love your enemies and bless them that curse you. Remember God so loved the WHOLE world. Share the Gospel with a Muslim with the same desire to see him/her saved that God has. Keep preaching brother!!

  • FuzzyMontreal

    Well put! So tired of hearing the whining and the excuses and playing the blame game. Doesn’t belong in church!

  • patriot_preacher



  • Tdp

    Excuses are like opinions (like the ones in this article) are like excuses, everyone has them. In the grand scheme of eternity they both count for nothing. What God’s Word has to say matters most.

    • Troy Fields

      Well, these happen to line up with scripture…after all think about a little snippet in Matthew when a person came up to Jesus and said he would follow wherever, three people came up and three people left because Jesus would not accept their excuses….

  • MER

    I laughed with number five: “If our church was in Texas, we’d have 10,000 people!” The church I serve IS in Texas and on a good Sunday we have 120 people! But they are 120 people God has called together for the purpose of bringing him glory! I’ve served churches in British Columbia, Colorado, and Texas. Excuses in each of those three places are a dime a dozen, and yes, I’ve used them as well, but we all must remember what Jesus said about building his church: “I will build my church.” He uses his ministers, but it is Jesus through his Spirit who builds his church. We frequently forget it’s not “our church”, it’s Christ’s church!

    • debrah

      last night as I was reading post of some FB friends as they were standing for life in Texas…I recalled how many times I’ve heard people say they wish they lived in Texas where it’s easy to be a Christian, a Conservative and Stand for Biblical World View…I’m not sure they realize that a good part of why it may be “easy” in Texas is because of individuals who are willing to speak up, stand up and do the work even if they are doing it alone…they step by step apply what they know is right.

      • MER

        Well said!

  • Jenny Bolt Price

    beyond excellent – we make excuses so we can be right about what is NOT happening in our lives, ministries, marriages – our being right limits God, and I am grateful for your clear communication on this. bless you as you RUN full out for Him

  • RRRR

    yep….JUST… that easy…same old 90’s leadership mantra….”just” do this and you will get this….

    • Troy Fields

      There was none of the “Just do this and you will get that” in this article, there was “If you are doing this, you can never expect to get that” it is a challenge to grow and to stop making excuses.

    • Old n’ Rich

      Hey, pal, you’re right. It’s a great excuse for you to use – the 90’s!!!!!. I have to admit that you’re the first I’ve heard using the 90’s leadership style as a straw man. Write a book about it.

  • Mar Komus

    1, 2, and 5 seem akin to each other in some ways. The underlying current being its opposite, “Bloom where you’re planted.” I say, do the best you can; effort is the key. Why? Because the whole “bloom where you’re planted” philosophy misses the fact that not all CAN bloom where they are planted. Do palm trees grow and flourish in tundra? I can just see one of those “bloom where you’re planted” types trying to get an avocado seed to grow in the northern regions of Canada: “C’mon, little guy! I put you in the ground! I water you! BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED! Aw, it’s no use; this seed is obviously flawed.” Sometimes a change in context really does help! “Then why don’t you move to Texas…” blah blah blah. Other circumstances can prevent a person from moving and doing just that.

    I would agree that a vast majority of people really are just making excuses. But let’s not take that and use it as an excuse to browbeat those who truly aren’t making excuses.

    • Mitchell Shields

      I apologize for being so frank but, your post is an excuse. As an Association Missionary I hear these and other excuses too often. And you can take any example to an extreme and it will fall apart.
      Brother, God will never put us someplace that He will not work.

      • Mar Komus

        Your last line is the only one worth reading. You should have kept the rest to yourself and followed up with something like, “As an Association Missionary I find myself praying the Lord works miracles in the lives of ‘misplaced’ missionaries so that, indeed, we might find avocado trees in full bloom even in tundra.” You’ve probably even prayed along those lines, though not in those words. I would respect a reply such as that. My experiences and those of others would lead me to disagree with you still, but I would atleast respect your reply.

        If you hear these things “too often,” then have you considered alternatives as to where the problem might lie? I worked for someone who had a very high turnover rate under his management. Of course HE was never the problem; the workers were all just bad hands. After working for him for a while and noticing some poor leadership skills (to put it mildly) I met some of these workers and they started spewing out their hatred. As it turns out, he was the bad apple–one of those people who makes life miserable for everyone and then wonders why his life sucks. I don’t think you’re that guy in the least. But you might think through how many times you’ve had discussions that break down to wielding the old “submit to your leaders” verse. Or anything akin to “it’s our way or the highway.”

  • Duane G Henry

    Excellent article. I was about to bypass it but so glad that I didn’t. Thanks for writing and thanks for posting.

  • Grady Walton

    If their church was in Texas? That’s funny, I thought most pastors wanted their church to be in my home state of California. LOL

  • Dave Ekstrom

    Yeow! That was good and on target. But how did you bug my office?

  • Pat Dale

    Great article!

  • Joram Kosgei

    I hate making excuses as a leader,I pray that God may enable me to do progress in his holy church and in the entire nation,because its by his will that we progress for his glory.

  • John Thompson

    One person can’t do that job. Remind yourselve that you are not by yourselve pray and speak to God, and listen not only wiyh your ears but wyour mind and soul. God wants a relationship with you. you need to be patient and work in gods time. There are really lots of Christians in the body of Christ that want to save and share the peace and contentment of eternal life in the kingdom of God.

    )Our goal is to complete the work of the kingdom of God for his church Give your life to God and work as directed by Him.
    John Thompson

  • Vincent Aja

    So many books have been written on leadership or how to be an excellent leader, no day that is passed by without books on leadership written And there is no day that is passed by without great numbers of people preaching and teaching on leadership. And again all the higer institutions feed people on good leadership on daily basis. Upon all these there are leadership vaccums as people were losing confience in their leaders both in the secular world and ministry. And we continue to idnetify all the problems. Why is this so? Because no matter how we try we are imploring the secular ideas whlie leaving to put the Scriptures into practice. It may never be the issue of vison or the excuses but:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mathew 20:25-28). As we begin to put this rule into practice the excuses will vanish.