There is a side of favoritism pastors must come to terms with or risk finishing their race poorly, if at all.
By Mark Dance
Early in my first pastorate, someone advised me to avoid favoritism by treating all my church members the same. It took me several years to root this ministry myth out of my system.
Like any myth, there is a seed of truth within it. The dark side of favoritism is when injustice or prejudice stains a relationship. God’s children are forbidden to play favorites based on wealth, power, or appearance (Exodus 23:3; James 2). God does not show favoritism when He rewards or punishes us (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6).
But there is another side of favoritism pastors must come to terms with or risk finishing their race poorly, if at all. We are called to prioritize some relationships by investing ourselves more intentionally into them than others.“The dark side of favoritism is when injustice or prejudice stains a relationship, but pastors are called to prioritize some relationships.” — @markdance Click To Tweet
I want to suggest five of my favorite relationship groups that keep me fresh.
For a season, you will be the pastor to both your spouse and your children. I also pastored my wife’s parents for a decade. Your family members are your most important church members and should never have to wonder where they stand with you. While the rest of the world tries to figure out their work/life balance, we are not left with an option to fail here (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
Our wives do not need to compete with our parents, which is why Moses and Jesus told us to leave them (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7-8). Nether do they need to compete with our kids.
There are still many pastors who are convinced they should not befriend church members because of a fear of favoritism. Although I concede that there are risks to church friendships, in my experience, the danger of isolation far exceeds that risk.“Your call to ministry is not a sentence to solitary confinement for you or your spouse, so take a risk and let someone into your life.” — @markdance Click To Tweet
For example, this past weekend I celebrated my birthday with a house full of former church members. We laughed and cried together past midnight as we recounted fond and funny memories from our 14 years together. Your call to ministry is not a sentence to solitary confinement for you or your spouse, so take a risk and let someone into your life.
Wash their feet, kick their pants, but don’t ignore or neglect your staff. I have made that mistake many times. It makes as much sense as neglecting your marriage for your kids’ sake.
Jesus often sequestered His disciples from the crowds to eat, worship, teach, encourage, or send them on specific ministry assignments. “Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach” (Mark 3:13-14, CSB).
When the first twelve disciples were overwhelmed with the tsunami of souls at Pentecost, God sent a “special ops” unit of laymen who successfully helped history’s first Christian church avoid a split. They became commonly known as deacons.
Deacons, elders, teachers, and any committee/team leaders are part of God’s personal growth strategy for the pastor who still needs to devote himself to prayer and the ministry of the Word. They are also part of your life, so love them like the sibling they are.
I could elaborate on what self-care really is, but for the sake of this article, I will define it as simply taking care of yourself. Jesus used the Great Commandment to communicate the priority of loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. Secular self-care can be selfish, but biblical self-care is strategic.“Secular self-care can be selfish, but Scriptural self-care is strategic.” — @markdance Click To Tweet
Love every person God puts into your path without the bias of prejudicial favoritism. But be intentional about who God surrounded you with so you won’t marginalize those whom God has called you to prioritize.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.