Human error is a reality we face in nearly every segment of life. Our drive through order is wrong.

  • The pants we bought are the right size, but they don’t fit.
  • The cashier gives us the wrong amount of change.
  • The email doesn’t go out when it is supposed to.
  • We forget about the meeting we scheduled two weeks ago.

Human error happens to us and human error happens because of us.

Human error can be broken down to two primary causes: ignorance and ineptitude. Ineptitude happens when when we have the correct knowledge or skills, we just apply it incorrectly. Take this medical example for instance:

Americans undergo an average of seven operations in their lifetime, with surgeons performing more than fifty million operations annually. We have upwards of 150,000 deaths following surgery every year – more than three times the number of road traffic fatalities. Moreover, research has consistently showed that at least half our deaths and major complications are avoidable. The knowledge exists. But however supremely specialized and trained we may have become, steps are still missed. Mistakes are still made.

Studies show that half of these surgical related deaths are avoidable, amounting to 75,000 annually. This is a horrifying statistic, but it has nothing to do with training. It has nothing to do with skill. The medical community is better trained and more highly specialized than ever before. The real problem is that the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safety, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.

Ineptitude is when you know what to do, but executing the task correctly has become overly complicated.

Checklists rarely help against the things we don’t know. However, checklists help us effectively execute tasks when situations become complicated.

Being a Children’s Pastor means you are many things. You’re a jack of all trades.

  • At times, you’re a counselor.
  • At times you’re a graphic designer/video editor.
  • At times you’re a motivational speaker.
  • At times you’re a data analyst.
  • At times you’re an IT director.
  • At times you’re a pastor.

This is the job. As varied as the job is, there is no way to remember everything. Updating the web registration for camp each year requires specific steps, otherwise it doesn’t work. Turning on the audio system has to be done in the correct order, otherwise you could damage expensive equipment. Eliminating duplicates from your spreadsheet is impossibly long, unless you remember how to run that function in excel. When you don’t do these things every day, you never master them. You require aids that help you complete the task, otherwise it takes twice as long and mistakes will be made.

Think about leading your volunteers. Let’s say that you have 30 small group leaders. You give all of them a form where you ask them to write down the name of every kid in their group and their parents cell phone number. At the end of the service, you’ll be missing at least 10 forms. Don’t blame them, leading a small group is hard. Crazy hard. Every week, we find duplicates in our database from check-in. We ask our check-in volunteers to search before creating a new entry, yet duplicates still happen.


Ministry is complex and there’s simply too much to remember to get everything right all the time.

We need help and probably the best tool available to us is the proper use of the checklist.


This post is part of a larger series on moving your ministry forward using the often neglected tool - the checklist. In this series, we unpack how a system of checklists can actually help us take our ministry to new levels. Plus, we want to share dozens of actual ministry checklists you and your team can implement right away. Click on the link below to explore this topic and pick up some helpful resources!