By Carey Nieuwhof
Leader, it’s okay to play favorites. This statement may sound controversial, but stick with me for a minute.
The assumption in most churches is that you should treat everyone the same. That’s what’s fair. You should have the same amount of time for everyone on your team and everyone in your church. You should be accessible. No one should be your favorite.
I want to challenge this approach.
A Biblical Perspective
Recall the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. Jesus spent time with the crowds, but He often left the masses and focused on His 12 disciples. Of those 12 disciples, He spent even more time with Peter, James, and John. And in Matthew 16, Jesus specifically recognized Peter as the one on whom He would build His church. While we don’t think of it this way, Jesus played favorites.
So what does playing favorites look like in terms of your leadership? I learned the hard way as our church grew that I couldn’t treat everyone the same. Treating everyone the same simply doesn’t scale.
The Pareto Principle
What you must do is figure out who produces the most results under your leadership. It’s likely that 20% of the people you lead are producing 80% of your results. This is called the pareto principle.
The challenge for most church leaders is that we don’t spend enough time with that top 20%. We spend most of our time with the bottom 20%. For example, if you’re a worship leader, then there’s probably someone on your team who didn’t show up for rehearsal or showed up late or unprepared. Or maybe you have a small group leader who said something inappropriate or chased a theological rabbit hole. You’re going to spend time and energy following up with this person to address these issue.
If you’re like most leaders, you have some frequent fliers in your ministry that you’re meeting with all the time. The reality is if you’re meeting with them all the time, then they’re not making progress. The pareto principle suggests you spend way less time with this crowd and instead spend your time with your best leaders.
If you look at your calendar, you’ll likely find that you’re not spending time with your best leaders. Why? Because they never ask for it and there are no issues to address with them! But what happens when you spend time with the top 20% is that they do more and they get better because of your investment. Then, all of a sudden, the entire worship team improves because you’ve invested in the worship leader. Or your groups ministry gets stronger and grows because you’ve invested in a small group leader. Your best leaders are now even more motivated to do a great job. And that’s why you need to play favorites.
Adapted from Carey’s exclusive Ministry Grid leadership courses.