"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."
"I was a stranger and you took me in" (Matthew 25:35).
I am thankful for the many people in my twenty-five plus years of ministry that "took me in." Each time a pastor moves to a new church, he is a stranger to the church and community. One of the best ways a church can get to know their pastor and his family is to invite them to join you. Here are five ways to get to know your pastor and his family.
1. Invite your pastor and his family to lunch on Sunday. Believe it or not, your pastor may not already have plans for Sunday lunch. A simple invite to join you at a local restaurant would be a welcomed opportunity. If he does have plans, keep asking or make plans for the following week.
2. Invite your pastor to join you at a sporting event. I still have the ticket from a UK vs. UNC basketball game in 2004 in which a church member invited me to attend with him. Through the years I have been to dance recitals, wrestling matches, horse shows, high school football games, band competitions, and more because of a simple invite. This doesn't have to be a ticketed event. Invite your pastor to watch "the big game" on television with your family.
3. Invite your pastor and wife to join you at something you enjoy. I have friends who have annual traditions (many at Christmas) and have invited us to join them in their traditions. For example, one couple invited us to join them on a "drive thru Christmas light show." Another couple invited us to join them for a Christmas concert. Another couple invited us to join them for Christmas at "Old Salem" in North Carolina. Your pastor and wife would enjoy spending this time with you.
4. Invite your pastor and family over for dinner. It doesn't even have to be fancy. In fact, the paper plates and plastic-ware would be just fine. Your pastor isn't there because of the fine china, but because he genuinely wants to get to know you. He might even enjoy sharing in one of your favorite card or board games.
5. Invite your pastor to a community event with you. Your pastor may not be aware of all the local events in a community. He certainly may not have time to attend them all. However, if he is attending the event with church members, it would give him an opportunity to spend time with you. I've been invited to Christmas parades, Relay for Life, community festivals, the county fair, and more. Your pastor will enjoy these events much more if he is attending them with someone from the church.
Here's the key: lather, rinse, and repeat. Don't just make one invitation. Relationships are built over time. Your pastor really does care about you and wants to get to know you. Just remember, he's the "stranger" and "take him in."
It saddens me each time I hear of another pastor who has lost his ministry. Sometimes they leave ministry due to burnout. Sometimes they have been hurt so deeply by the church they cannot continue. Sometimes they love the things of the world too much. Whatever their reason, they have abandoned their post. Scripture offers us a great contrast between two men in ministry... Demas and Mark.
Demas is only mentioned three times in the Bible. The first mention identifies him as a "fellow laborer" with the Apostle Paul (cf. Philemon 1:24). The second occurrence only mentions his greeting to the church at Colosse (cf. Col. 4:14). His third and final mention indicates he has abandoned the ministry (cf. 2 Tim. 4:9-11). My conclusion... don't be a Demas. ;)
Paul doesn't provide the details as to why Demas has abandoned the ministry. Perhaps a moral failure, the persecution was too great, or some other reason. Paul simply says that Demas' desires were a worldly focus.
The same passage that indicates Demas' abandonment (i.e. 2 Timothy 4:9-11) also indicates a desire for Mark to join Paul in his work, "for he is useful to me for ministry." There is a great contrast here between Demas and Mark. Mark abandoned Paul on his first missionary journey, but found redemption and ended strong. Demas began strong with the Apostle Paul but abandoned him for the things of the world. My conclusion... be more like Mark.
Ministry is hard work and your pastors need your prayers! Pray that God will protect them from moral failure. Pray that God will protect them from persecution. Pray that the church will actually be an encouragement to their ministry as opposed to a discouragement. If you don't want a "Demas" for a pastor, pray for him.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."