"He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out" (John 10:3).
Have you ever met someone and five seconds into the conversation you've already forgotten their name? You're not alone! On average, the human brain can only remember about 150 names and faces without prompt. Memorizing the names and faces of an entire church congregation can be quite the challenge! Here are five ways to get to know your flock.
1. Learn their names and use their name in conversation. It takes effort to learn a lot of names and faces in a short period of time. While sitting in our first deacons meeting (at FBC Mount Sterling), I wrote down the names of each deacon as they introduced themselves. As each one spoke during the meeting, I looked back at their name to associate the person with their name. By the end of the meeting I was able to identify all of the deacons by their first name without using my notes. It's hard work, but worth the effort.
2. Listen to their prayer requests. People share prayer requests about the things that are most important to them. When people fill out a prayer request card, share a request after the worship service, or share during Wednesday night's prayer time... it is important to listen to their requests. Pray for them the next day. At your next opportunity, follow up with them by asking about their request.
3. Look at them in their eyes. The people in your flock deserve your undivided attention. It can be difficult to focus on the person you're talking to when others are walking past, waving, and whispering "good sermon" as they pass by. Without intending to do so, we can look over the shoulder of the person we are talking with and miss what they are sharing. Do your best to shut out the distractions around you and focus your attention on the person in need of your attention. Those who made the effort to seek you out and speak with you deserve your undivided attention.
4. Laugh with them. Be authentic with others and laugh. It's always good to have a funny ice-breaker when getting to know others. A friend of mine uses the ice-breaker, "What was the worst job you ever had?" This gives you an opportunity to learn about the person and laugh with them. You might want to invite them into your home to create this opportunity. We've done this through "Dessert for 10" and "Christmas Open House" at our home.
5. Locate common ground. Identify areas of interest of those in your flock. If they have an interest in hunting, cooking, photography, painting, under-water-basket-weaving, etc., ask questions and listen to their interests. Take an interest in the person through their interests.
Here's the key: lather, rinse, and repeat. These five ways to get to know your flock are only the beginning. Relationships are built over time. Your flock really needs to know that you care about them and they want to be known. Just remember the shepherd "calls his own sheep by name and leads them."
This blog post is the follow-up to "5 Ways to Get to Know Your Pastor."
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."