Favouritism is a word I heard a lot at school, perhaps you did too; but as you’ve grown older you perhaps don’t experience it anymore/much. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not there.
Over the past couple of months a group of guys started attending my youth ministry here in Sandton, Johannesburg. Over a short period of time it came to my knowledge that these guys belonged to a dance group called “Genesis”, so naturally I want to get them up front and give them opportunity. They performed at our “Lip Sync Battle” last year and it was awesome, I saw the thrill and vibe that they created and how pumped it got the youth group.
Without realizing it, I began to favour these gentlemen. How do I know? A few things pointed this out to me:
- I always gave them opportunity to serve
- I invested time into them and their ideas only
- They featured more in our promotional videos and adverts than the other teens
- I frequently made time for them, but not so much the other teens
Thankfully I had picked up on it and planned to rectify it before it went on for too long.
My favouritism hadn’t yet become outwardly visible to the youth group, as far as I know, but one of my leaders had picked it up and she gently explained why it appeared that I was showing favouritism; to which I explained why I agree with her and that I had picked up on it and had a plan in mind to avoid it.
Why is it Harmful?
1. It isn’t biblical
The moment we pick up that something isn’t biblical; we should see red flags and stop-signs.
In Luke 9 the disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest, knowing this Jesus immediately stepped in and took control of the situation. He went on to say in vs. 48: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (NIV).
We as leaders need to constantly remember this and remind ourselves of this: No one in our ministry is greater than another. No one in our ministry is more important than another, more talented than another, of less value than another. They (we) all need Jesus and all need mentorship, love, care and opportunity.
2. It undermines the Value of others in the ministry
When Favouritism becomes evident, people within your ministry begin to feel undervalued. They may not want to share ideas with you anymore or even want to share what they are struggling with because they feel you no longer have time for them.
There may be some within your ministry or leadership who are burning with the desire to share their idea/vision with you, but you are too busy with another group of people to notice them and hear them out, and you may therefore be missing out on the opportunity to start something incredible, but more importantly, you are definitely missing out on the opportunity to make that person feel like they are a part of that ministry.
3. It suffocates the ministry
As they feel less appreciated and undervalued, people no longer feel they are needed, and no longer want to serve. Should they attend another church where they feel appreciated and valued, you will almost certainly lose them and as a result over time your ministry will fall through and you will be left with just the handful of people that you favoured.
4. It takes away ministry opportunity
As much as you will be ministering to and caring for that person/group of people, you will be missing the opportunity to minister to the other people within that ministry.
Looking back on my involvement in church work, I see how much time I spent with people, listening to, sharing, and discussing ideas. That time spent was priceless and I grew closer to those people in building up those events/ideas. People want to feel and be heard and when they are, they feel more “part of” rather than “attendee”.
How to Avoid showing Favoritism
People just want to be heard and want to be a part of the ministry. We have a saying that we’ve drilled (not literally) into the heads of the teenagers here at our Youth Group: Youth Ministry is when the YOUTH do the ministry. So when they come to me with an idea, even if it sounds silly or ridiculous, I listen anyway and force myself to consider it even if it is crazy.
If the idea is “stupid” or crazy, that’s fine, but don’t reject it completely. This person has been bold enough to share their idea, and how you receive it will determine how much they share in the future. This is your opportunity to guide them and work alongside them in their ministry.
2. Make room in many areas
What do I mean by this? I mean not everyone is musically inclined or a good reader, or good at designing cool posters, but they’re brilliant when it comes to sound and tech management, so get them involved in the multimedia side of the ministry.
Try and create a ministry that caters for all types of people: The extroverted, introverted, arty, sporty, academic, hands on and every other kind of person you can think of.
3. Be Intentional
Be intentional when it comes to involving everyone. If you feel that some people may be feeling left out or aren’t as involved, be intentional about chatting to them and finding out what their thoughts and ideas for the ministry are. Be intentional about asking them about their interests and where they would like to get involved. Your pro-active attitude in this area will be more appreciated than you think.
At the end of Matthew, Jesus leaves His disciples with the command to go and make disciples of all Nations/ethnicity’s (If you’d like). Jesus is saying go and make disciples of all peoples and by showing favouritism we go against this command. Part of making disciples of all nations is receiving and loving all people; regardless of how we may see them or how the people in our ministry see them.
Some people’s ideas may be better than others, but everyone has an equal role to play in God’s church and in His mission, so don’t damage that by favouring one person over another.
I hope you found this encouraging, challenging, and thought provoking. Feel free to comment your thoughts and questions.
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