What my dad taught me about hogs—and fundraising!

Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever...
— PROVERBS 27:23-24a
Photo Credit:  Stephen & Claire Farnsworth

Flocks of sheep and herds of goats were the economic engines for shepherds in ancient Palestine. Careful shepherds paid close attention to watch for injured animals or signs of disease. They studied the habits of each animal; they knew them well.

Why study their flocks? Because “riches are not forever.” Sheep and goats don’t automatically stay healthy year after year. Losing even one is costly.

The word ‘condition’ can be translated ‘face.’ And that’s what I learned from my dad—the hog farmer.

We raised huge white sows that gave birth to piglets twice a year. My daily chore was to let the penned-up sows out of the hog house to feed and then to usher them back into their correct pen to nurse their piglets. It was scary! Putting a mother sow into a pen that was not hers created panicky open-jawed snorting and piglets squealing. The sows even tried to root open the gate or crash the pen. Chaos!

But I couldn’t distinguish one white sow from another—they were all white—big white angry sows in a hurry to be fed and return to their babies. I finally resorted to marking Roman numerals on their backs with red chalk as they rushed by me to the feeding floor. My dad admitted it was difficult, but he said, “Look at their faces. Their faces are different.”

Maybe my dad knew Proverbs 27:23. I often saw him staring at his hogs or milk cows as they fed. Just looking at them. “Boring!” I thought. But I get it now. He was studying them, “knowing well the face of his flocks.”

Okay, you are not a farmer, but you have a “flock” of giving partners. Do you:

  •  Assume they will never stop giving? Oops!
  •  Know the giving patterns of each one?
  • Take time to think about your flock and how to encourage them?

Like the shepherds of Palestine, your flock is your economic engine. They are not ATM machines! They are real people with real needs and fears. Study their faces!