No Favoritism–The Science of Shepherding

There are people a pastor/shepherd has a lot in common with. Other people are almost a mystery. The basis of common interest of enjoying someone’s company includes:

  • Personality
  • Temperament
  • Mindset
  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Education
  • Value-system
  • Approach to life

Some People Never Realize How Wonderful Their Pastor/Shepherd Is 

The previous observation is “tongue in cheek.” Admit it, some people don’t like you. Oh well, I’ll admit it for all os us – there are people I don’t particularly like. Welcome to pastor/shepherding. We don’t get to pick our flock. The Chief Shepherd does the assigning. He may send certain challenging people my way to help me be a better Christian. An elder called such people our “grace builders.”

I’ve effectively pastored people who did not particularly like me.

Being respected and trusted is more important than being liked.

If you pastor even a few dozen people and you will likely pastor people

who you love but do not like.

The Youtube Vido clip below may well describe how a pastor feels at times.

Understand the Human Dynamics

Is a pastor/shepherd likely to have people he spends more time with?  Sure! Jesus did. Does a pastor have people who seem to be nearer to him? Sure, Jesus did.  John even described himself as, “the disciple who Jesus loved.” How do such relationships occur?

By the bond of investment!

Those who have worked with livestock know certain animals tend to become better known. The pet may be a calf rejected by its mother. Bottle feeding a calf will create something of a connection. In a similar way, helping people through the early stages of their Christian development may create a bond. Standing alongside a person as they overcome addiction or a troubled past becomes a special glue.

Due to Common Interests

Pastor/shepherds will lead some people to whom they relate well. These are people with whom you are a bit more comfortable. It may be like my experience with Curtis Thornton. He was our first convert in Vidalia, Louisiana. Curtis and I were the same age. We both enjoyed sports. He was easy for me to be around. We had common interests. I performed he and Sherlene’s wedding ceremony. Taught his mom and some siblings a Home Bible Study. Dedicated their son Benton to the Lord. We had and even today have several common interests.

Dedication to a Shared Cause

Not only were there common interests, there was a shared cause. Leaving an old life of drugs, Curtis quickly bought into everything at the Vidalia Revival Center! He prayed, worshiped with exuberance, taught Home Bible Studies, influenced others, helped with fireworks stands and fund-raising barbecues. We worked together. Because we had much in common and a shared cause.

But . . . Favoritism Is Not Allowed

A teacher’s pet who does not have to do the homework is everybody’s enemy. Under no circumstances can a pastor/shepherd show favoritism. Having people with whom you have much in common is fine.  What is wrong is “favoritism.” Favoritism as described below causes people to lose confidence in a leader. On occasion, I’ve seen favoritism.

Don’t Play Favorites With Your Family Members

You love your family. To allow your love for family to cause you to abandon principles is wrong. Such behavior will impair your ability to lead.

Let me give an example.  The pastor requires that any person on the platform team be in pre-service prayer. The pastor’s son plays the drums. The young man’s habit has become to arrive at church minutes before church starts. His reason. He has been working late. His father, the pastor gives the son a pass. Not having the same requirement of the pastor’s son is a grave mistake. The pastor is doing for his son what he would not do for another. Such behavior is favoritism. Favoritism erodes trust. The pastor may justify the behavior by saying, “Well, I know my son. I trust him. I’m sure he prayed earlier.” Or possibly the pastor fears that if the son is not involved in music it will lessen the son’s commitment. Neither justification or the will override reality. Reality is the pastor is treating his son in a favored way. Don’t do it.

Where family favoritism happens

Some prime and unfortunately too common examples of family favoritism.

  • Grandchildren who do not adhere to the lifestyle disciplines of the church continue to sing on the praise team.
  • High profile platform opportunities like singing the solo almost always involve the pastor’s family.
  • A pastor’s adult son or daughter are as unstable as water. Yet after a trip to the altar, the pastor’s unstable progeny are quickly designated as the leader of a ministry. No other returning backslider would ever be elevated in such a way.
  • The pastor’s family get a pass on the grunt work like church cleaning, lawn care, working in the nursery or church work days.

These things seem minor. To the “Great Shepherd” and his flock, they aren’t. Ezekiel indicted failed shepherds. His indictment was primarily about shepherds being motivated by self-interest. Every person in the church has a similar feeling about their children and grand-children. If you give your offspring special treatment – in any way, the flock expects you to treat their offspring in the same way. In matters of principle and in leading a church to healthy growth – good pastor/shepherds do not favor family members.

In matters of principle and in leading a church to healthy growth – good pastor/shepherds do not favor family members.

Playing Favorites With People

I’m not particularly oriented toward “hanging out with people.” I mentioned earlier that Curtis and I played golf. Actually, we worked on church projects far more than we golfed. In a similar way, Jesus had a working group. There were the twelve disciples. Jesus also spent much time with an even smaller group. Jesus strategy seemed to work well. Peter, James and John became cornerstones of the New Testament church.

A good question to ask regarding Jesus behavior with His inner circle is, “What is the motive?” The significance of the work drove Jesus. He spent strategic time with people who were keys to the future. Jesus was not playing favorites. He was accomplishing what He came to do!

Sum it up this way. As a pastor/shepherd, there will be people you enjoy. A few people may make you almost go running for cover. For such to not be the case would defy human nature. Be wise! Even as you enjoy the company of particular people don’t play favorites.

 Four Suggestions for Not Playing Favorites

#1 – Never position an “inner circle” as “us against them.”

I’ve got an acquaintance who pastors this way. He pastors by pedigree. People of the right culture or background and those who have been supportive (almost to the point of subservience) are permitted in the small Pastor’s Golden Circle. In this particular situation, the group becomes ears collecting information for the pastor about any negative thing being said. Such behavior smacks of being a cult of personality. A “us” versus “them” mentality creates perpetual distrust within the flock. People are constantly looking over their shoulder.

#2 Don’t gossip

Sharing counseling information or any other private information with a “favorite” will eventually be a disaster. Telling a favorite about who tithes and who does not is not acceptable. Sharing the amount of money given creates a platform for jealousy or covetousness.

Keep confidences! Always!

I’ll take to my grave many unfortunate failings of precious people.

#3 Keep Your Own Confidence about Time Spent with various people

The Bible teaches, “Forsake the appearance of evil.” Wisdom decrees, “Forsake the appearance of spending a lot of time with a few select people.” Be careful to not flaunt or bring into conversation the time you spend with people you enjoy.A good approach is to spend time with favorites like I spent time with Curtis. Not many were jealous of Curtis being with me as we set up a fireworks stand on a hot June afternoon.

#4 Carry Burdens to the Lord and Not to an Inner Circle

Your favorites don’t need to hear about negative things that happen in the church. Even things directed toward you. At times people will dislike decisions you make. They may react. Those sparks of minor frustration can turn into a forest fire. To pour gas on a spark just tell someone in the “inner circle” about the difficulty. The “favorite” may well rise to your defense in ways that make matters worse.

Your goal is to be reconciled and at peace with any person who you currently have a problem with. Reconciliation becomes more difficult when other people get involved. If the “fire” spreads other people may decide to choose a side in what has now become a “church fight.”

If you deal with the difficulty alone, you may well accomplish complete reconciliation. However, if you share the problem with someone in your inner circle that person will tend to always harbor a grudge. The grudge remains, even though you and that person have long since reconciled. Your behavior will have added restlessness to the flock.

Pastor/Shepherds Who Show No Favoritism Lead Healthier Churches

Some of the concepts I’m addressing here are in my book Healthy Church – Start Here!  Those who have read it give a good review to Healthy Church – Start Here!  Each of 18 reasons church plants do not survive or churches do not grow are addressed in the book.  You can lead a healthy growing church.

I also recommend the late Ralph Reynolds book If the Sheep Could Speak! It is available at the Pentecostal Publishing House website.

Posted in Church Planting, Disciple-making, Growing a Church, How To, Leadership, Pastors, Preaching, Uncategorized, Young Preachers and tagged , , , , , , .

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