We All Make Mistakes: The Mailer Mishap

We All Make Mistakes: The Mailer Mishap

January 29, 2018 by

In celebration of Kelley’s new book, You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators, we’re talking about mistakes. Check out our ‘We All Make Mistakes’ Contest to share your story and enter to win a free copy.

If neuroticism were an Olympic sport, your girl would be on a Wheaties box. I’m the (marijuana-free) Michael Phelps of “What if something goes wrong?” I’m the Usain Bolt of “What if someone gets mad at me?” I’m the Nadia Comaneci of “What if I make a mistake?”

There’s not even a slight chance that our mistakes are going to get in God’s way.

I’m an optimist about most things, and I tend to give other people the benefit of the doubt—to a fault, even. But when it comes to me and my work? I’m ruthless. I rarely feel like I’m enough—good enough, capable enough, talented enough. The only way to quiet my wicked-mean internal critic is to try to prove her wrong by being perfect. At everything. All the time.

Great strategy, isn’t it?*

*That is a terrible strategy.

So, on a normal day, I can find myself in a pretty dismal headspace. Can you imagine the ball of laughs I become when something does go wrong and someone does get mad at me and I actually do make a mistake?

Lordy. Stop, drop, and roll up into the fetal position in the corner.

And it was in that state of mind that I had to call my pastor—my boss—and tell him I’d just made an epic mistake.

At that point in time, I was a church communications “pro.” I’d served many years in a local church. I’d done consulting work in multiple environments. I’d taught at conferences. I’d helped to plant churches. I didn’t know everything, but I knew quite a lot. Except, perhaps, how to use a ruler.

My Mistake

Allow me to explain: I was working with my third church plant, and we’d decided to include a series of direct mailers in our marketing plan. (Don’t you dare judge me. It was an intentional, focused effort, and it was the right plan in our context.) To save money, we chose to design, print, and prepare our mailings ourselves. I read up on Every Door Direct Mail, double- and triple-checked all the rules and regulations, and ordered our postcards.

When they arrived a week later, I decided to quadruple-check everything (because hello neuroticism) and, to my horror, I discovered my postcards were 1/16” too short. It wasn’t the printer’s fault, either. It was my fault. Somehow, I designed and ordered the wrong size. That small of a difference, .0625”, should be insignificant, but the United States Postal Service isn’t kidding around with their regulations. I knew I was in deep trouble.

In a blind panic, I called the lovely people at the USPS and explained my predicament. They were super kind and sympathetic, but still ended the call with, “We’re awfully sorry, ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do.”

I ended the call, sat on the floor of my home office, and said, out loud, “Pastor Jimmy is going to kill me.”

Fessing Up

When I managed to stop hyperventilating, I picked up my phone and called him.

“Heeeey, Jimmy. Sooooo, I need to tell you something,” I began, my internal critic cackling the whole time.

After I apologized approximately 463 times, the line was quiet. “Are you there?” I asked.

“So, we’re not going to have mailers for the grand opening?” Jimmy replied.

“Well, we have the mailers. We paid for them. They’re in my office. But they’re basically useless.”

“OK,” he said.

“Jimmy, I am so sorry.”

“Kelley, I know you are. And you know what? It’s OK.”

You know when a dog is caught off guard, and she looks up at you and tilts her head to the side, all “Wait… whut?” That’s totally what my internal critic did.

“What do you mean ‘It’s OK’?”

“I mean, it sucks,” he said. “But it’s also OK. We’ll be fine, anyway. God’s got us.”

“You mean I’m not fired?”

“No, you aren’t fired! I still need your help!”

And then we laughed. And then it was over. I made a gargantuan mistake, and I survived. And the church survived, too.

Stuff Happens

Here’s the moral of this little story: Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s our fault, and that sucks. But there’s not even a slight chance that our mistakes are going to get in God’s way. Let’s not be careless, of course, but let’s also not try to earn a gold medal in self-loathing when the inevitable mistakes occur.

It’s OK. God’s got us.


"We are all failures, at least the best of us are." -J.M. Barrie

Post By:

Kelley Hartnett

Kelley Hartnett spent more than a decade working in established churches and helping to launch new ones. She recently launched Tall Tree Collective, which helps nonprofits craft messages that inspire people to get behind their cause. Kelley formerly served as the membership director for our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site and is the author of You've Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators.
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