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Why Church Planters Should Practice Favoritism

By Mark Dance

Early in my ministry, I was advised to avoid favoritism by treating all of my church members exactly the same. It took me several years to root this ministry myth out of my system. 

Like any myth, there is an inherent 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 (see Exodus 23:3; James 2). God does not show favoritism when he rewards or punishes us (see Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6). 

But we are also called to prioritize some relationships by investing ourselves more intentionally into some than others. This form of favoritism is living out God’s clear pecking order for our lives and ministry.

Family First

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 and life balance, we are not left with an option to fail here. 

Pastors belong to the only profession on the planet which requires someone to win both at home and work (see 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). Paul uses the term “manage” which is translated as “lead” in Romans 12. 

Ministry Staff

Most new churches are led by volunteer or part-time staff, but regardless of whether they are on your payroll or org chart, they deserve to be next in line behind your family. Wash their feet or kick their pants, but don’t ignore or neglect them. I have made that mistake many times. That makes as much sense as neglecting your marriage for your kids’ sake. 

The thirst for one more new soul will hopefully never get quenched, but never forget people who are serving faithfully week after week. 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).

Lay Leaders

History’s first church plant was obviously exhausting. When Jesus’ first disciples became overwhelmed with the ministry success at Pentecost, God sent a Special Ops unit of laymen who successfully helped this young church avoid a split. They became known as deacons. Deacons, lay elders, and committee/team leaders are part of God’s personal growth strategy for the pastors who always desperately need to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. 

Church Members

Pastors of new churches can become easily enslaved by the expectations of their members. Those who allow member overreach will eventually regret it. There is a chance your family already does. 

Nobody likes to wait for their turn, but not all ministry or members are equally important. God expects you to play favorites, starting with Him. You are called first to your first love. Second in line is your second love, and close behind are your children and parents. Practice favoritism when you get home by taking your cape off and freezing your phone for a few hours. As your new church grows, make sure your are managing your home at least as well as your church. Good managers won’t marginalize those whom God has called us to prioritize.


Mark Dance

Mark Dance (@markdance) has decades of pastoral experience. He speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats–often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers encouragement at MarkDance.net.


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