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I Notcied a Typo inn the Bullitin: Let’s Talk About Making Mistakes

I Notcied a Typo inn the Bullitin: Let’s Talk About Making Mistakes

Posted July 10, 2018 by Dave Hartwell

Our church was nearing year-end and finalizing the budget. I wrote an email to the congregation asking that they prayerfully consider their pledges for the coming year. I scanned the email for any glaring mistakes, decided it looked good, and I hit send.

Then came the replies.

"I’m glad we're playfully considering our pledges!!" read one. Another said: "You might re-read the email. I'm 'playfully' working on my budget…"

Clearly, through an unfortunate combination of haste and auto-correct, the email said "playfully" instead of "prayerfully." I felt a little sick to my stomach. I knew this was not a world-ending mistake, but it was a mistake nonetheless. And I don't like making mistakes.

Fortunately, our pastor is fast on his feet. "Go easier on yourself,” he said, “no one got hurt. Besides, I think we can do something with this."

I wasn’t sure what he meant by "do something" until Sunday. During the service he announced the need for pledges, addressing the "playful" error head-on. He said, "While we certainly hope you pray about your giving, we do actually encourage you to be playful. The Bible calls us to be cheerful givers, which means we are to give gladly, freely, and happily. The budget is a serious aspect of the church, but it's also a visible record of our delight as a congregation. We could be a little more playful in our giving."

Most years our church gets a 60% pledge rate. That year we got 80%. The episode taught me a little bit about church budgets and a lot about responding to mistakes.

Church communicators work out in the open: we write web copy, bulletin announcements, social media posts, and mass emails. Sometimes we make a mistake. Mistakes are inevitable; how we deal with them isn't. As this "playful" event—and many others like it—taught me, there is value in leaning into mistakes instead of retreating from them.

Here's what I mean by leaning in:

1. Accept that mistakes happen.

We are human, and humans make mistakes. Striving for excellence is a good thing, but perfectionism is a dangerous trap.

2. Own your mistakes.

I often want to hide from mistakes and hope no one notices. That's bad communication practice and bad life advice. There's a technique for when your car slides on icy roads. To regain control, you're taught to turn into the skid. It's counterintuitive, but it works. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become driving in slippery conditions. The same holds true in communication. The more you own your mistakes (turn into the skid), the better you become at handling them.

3. Apologize when necessary.

The prayerfully/playfully mistake didn’t warrant a big, public apology—no one was directly hurt by it. That won't always be the case. Sometimes we miss an announcement, overlook someone, or embarrass someone else. In those cases, and many others, don't hesitate to offer a genuine apology and do your best to make amends.

4. Embrace mistakes as opportunities for greater engagement and connection.

Embracing a mistake can take many forms. One way to embrace a mistake is to call attention to it in a humanizing way, like sending a follow-up email with "oops" as the subject. Another way to embrace a mistake is to offer a prize for whoever first notices a typo in the bulletin. You can also use this as a recruitment opportunity (that member who keeps mentioning typos might make a great bulletin-editor).

Got a good mistake story? Share it in the comments. I’d love to know I’m not alone.

Filed under: Communications

About the Author

Dave Hartwell

Dave is a church communications coordinator living and working in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through his work he supports staff, leadership, and congregations in providing resources and practices to effectively communicate their shared ministries. When he isn't thinking about church communications he enjoys golfing, reading, running, and playing team trivia (even then, he's probably still thinking about church communications a little).

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Comments (6)

  • Kay
    9:46 AM
    Wed, Jul 11, 2018

    Thank you for this!  I love the “playful” mistake.  smile

  • Cheryl Brunkow
    12:32 PM
    Wed, Jul 11, 2018

    We had nationally-known speaker/author Lee Strobel coming for a weekend, and we had been promoting his “Surprised by Truth” message everywhere. Our proofing system worked really well—until our final bulletin, where we had “Surpised By Truth” printed as the message title. We caught it halfway through printing bulletins, and reprinted them, so our mistake was only known internally. But to this day, whenever there’s a typo, we all yell, “SurPISE!!!”

  • Rachael
    8:34 AM
    Thu, Jul 12, 2018

    Thanks for this. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one typo in our bulletin every week whether we catch it or not raspberry

  • Adam Ranck
    10:46 AM
    Fri, Jul 13, 2018

    I personally feel the human moments like this aid our communication greatly! It both breaks the overly professional level that everyone strives to that catches people’s attention (though maybe not how we’d want) and is a means of helping people understand there are just people like them on the other side.

    I actually had someone within our community regularly note any typos we had in our worship slides or suggest better English in our phrasing. At first it was hard to stomach, but like you mentioned, I realized this person obviously valued the right use of words, so I asked them to basically do what they’re doing already, and they agreed. It’s been a great help already and I’m learning through it.

  • Lora
    1:01 PM
    Wed, Aug 1, 2018

    Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to know I am not the only one who makes typos. It seems mistakes get more recognition than things we do right, I feel it’s why it is a little hard to take when they are pointed out.

  • Pam
    9:00 AM
    Sat, Aug 11, 2018

    In my life before I became a church communications admin, I was an instructor for a large bank.  I sent out a memo to everyone offering a “Refresher Curse”.  Pounding my head on the desk when I realized that the word should have been “Course”. Spell check can’t help you when your mistype is an actual word.  You still have to read through EVERYTHING yourself and if you are lucky have someone else put their eyes on it too!  Sometimes even that doesn’t help, last week our newsletter had an employee anniversary article that misspelled the persons name…that person proofread the newsletter and didn’t catch it.

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