Shepherding Ministry Overview
Leading People to the Chief Shepherd
Shepherding in the church is tending to the welfare of Christ-followers by watching over, nurturing, and guiding them. Having assessed the condition of the flock, shepherds will do what is needful to lead them to a greater Christ-likeness.
The Benefits of a Shepherding Ministry:
When shepherding is intentional, regular, and consistent . . .
Communication is deliberate;
Sheep are most productive when they are properly tended to (nutrition, protection, shelter, water) and cared for (affection) by the shepherd. The ultimate goal is that sheep produce wool, offspring, or good meat. So, the objective for the church is to help people become more Christ-like and bear fruit. This happens best through a shepherding ministry.
Shepherding can happen at various levels, by people in different roles, and in different ways.
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While each of the above may not be a primary shepherding ministry, they do involve an aspect of it and the person may take his/her role beyond to a deeper investment into the lives and welfare of those to whom he/she is ministering.
A Network of Shepherds:
In reality, shepherding may be best facilitated by a network of shepherds within a church. As you can see in the images to the right, the needs of the flock are great and consequently shepherding is a big investment of time and effort into the lives of people.
The pastoral staff cannot possibly provide personal and consistent care for each member of the body.
If shepherding comes from a variety of sources, or multiple avenues as listed above, as opposed to one shepherd over someone, it will:
- minimize some of the abuses that can come when pride and control issues set in a shepherd
- help the person not be as quick to substitute "a" shepherd for the Chief Shepherd
- help prevent people from falling through the cracks .... i.e., If the pastoral staff cannot meet a need or provide guidance, perhaps a Sunday School teacher or small group leader will. If a person is not in a small group, someone else in a different venue will be there to help.
- increase the potential for people being ministered to in ways that fit the moment or that best fit their specific temperament, background, or learning style. A variety of shepherds will multiply the ways people are served. Each shepherd will have different gifts or gift-mix, temperament, passions, background, etc., and hence a different approach.
- help prevent burnout as one person does not have to do it all. Meeting all the needs of all the people would quickly drain a shepherd.
The Chief Shepherd:
Those involved in the shepherding ministry of the church are more like "under-shepherds." The sheep are not ours. They belong to the Lord. We need to remember that it is about Him, not us.
He is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) who is good (Jn. 10:11) and great (Heb. 13:20) and the guardian of our souls (Heb. 13:20-21).
We are vessels through whom He works. We simply provide the conditions conducive to growth and productivity. The Lord is the One who causes the believer to grow (1 Cor. 3:7) and to bear fruit (Jn. 15:4-5).
Shepherding Ministry is not about getting people to follow us but rather to follow Him. Shepherding ministry must lead people to the Chief Shepherd and His power and provision. If it does not, it is unhealthy and will tend to produce dependent or crippled sheep rather than whole and productive sheep.