A few years ago, a friend loaned me a book by Bill Hybels entitled Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, with 76 short and succinct chapters with different leadership tips he’s learned over the years. I found parts of the book helpful, other parts not helpful, but one chapter really stood out to me.
Towards the end of the book he encourages leaders to “never beat the sheep”, because he knows that this is a temptation for anyone in a leadership role. We don’t get the results we want, so it must be the sheep’s fault. To get them in line, we want to “beat” them in order to straighten them out and whip them into shape.
He talks about a small groups pastor who came into his office one day furious at his volunteer leaders because not even half of them had signed up for a training retreat. Upon further investigation, it turns out that the retreat was really expensive, really far away, and being held at a really bad time. Maybe the problem wasn’t with the sheep after all!
If your sheep aren’t responding the way you think they should, put down your stick and ask a few questions first. See if you served your sheep well, because when they’re served well, they tend to serve well in return. Never beat the sheep, my friend. A word of loving admonition every once in a while might be appropriate, but put the stick away. Permanently.
Worship leaders need to hear this word. We can get really frustrated with our sheep from time to time and think that if we could only whip them into shape then we’d see the results we want.
Maybe it’s our congregation. They always come to church late. They don’t engage in worship very much. They talk during the songs. They don’t come to mid-week worship nights.
Maybe it’s our worship team. Attendance at monthly meetings is always lousy. The drummer is always late to rehearsal. They don’t prepare at home.
Or maybe we tried something new. We invited our team on a worship conference and no one signed up. We asked our team to read a chapter of a book on worship before they came to rehearsal and not a single person did. We announced worship team auditions several months in advance and no one came forward.
In every case (and in almost every one I speak from experience), the temptation is going to be to want to beat the sheep. Send a stern email. Make it required or else they’re off the team! Give a glare during rehearsal. Never offer the opportunity again just to punish them.
But most of the time when you don’t get the results you wanted, it’s an opportunity for you to step back and take a look in the mirror. We can be too quick to pick up the stick to beat the sheep. Address your own issues first, do some tweaking and some re-grouping, and then love your sheep as well as you can. They respond to that a lot better.