1 Peter 5:2 – Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…
If there is one image that we see throughout all of Scripture to describe the role of a pastor, it is that of shepherd. As pastors, we are called to shepherd the flock of God — knowing them, feeding them, leading them, and protecting them with deep love, great patience, tenderness and toughness. Shepherding is the primary work of the pastor. So the question is this: practically speaking, how can we make sure that we as pastors and elders are faithfully carrying out this calling to shepherd the flock of God? Might I suggest adding the most important meeting you may not be having: A monthly shepherding meeting.
Here’s the reality, in order for us to be effective over the long haul in our shepherding efforts as pastors, meeting at least once a month with other pastors and elders for the sole purpose of shepherding is vital. The following three meeting “movements” can hopefully be helpful in guiding your shepherding meeting schedule:
Meeting Movement #1: Discussing the Good Shepherd
In order for us to rightly understand our role and responsibility as shepherds of God’s flock, we must first understand our primary role as under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd. We need to remember that ultimately this is the Good Shepherd’s work. He is the Chief Shepherd and we are called to follow Him first and minister to others only under His authority (1 Peter 5:4). As a result, begin each shepherding meeting with a brief time of teaching or study and prayer, together spending time with and submitting once again to Jesus, the Good Shepherd over our souls and the souls of those we lead.
Meeting Movement #2: Discussing the Flock
Along with discussing the Good Shepherd, an effective shepherding meeting should focus on discussing the health of the flock, both on a “macro” (entire congregation) and “micro” (individual persons) level. There are several important discussion items concerning the flock during this movement:
- Review new information cards and note prayer concerns for the flock, praying together for them.
- Update information on individuals, including changes in address, phone, e-mail, etc.
- Note any drift toward inactivity among members or regular attendees.
- Identify and rejoice in the various evidences of God’s grace in the lives of individuals and families.
- Assign new members to specific pastors or elders for intentional shepherding care.
Shepherding Tip: At least twice a year, as shepherds, do an annual review of your flock. During this review celebrate what God is doing through the shepherding ministry and recommit yourselves to pursue the weak, wandering, and stray sheep. You should also evaluate where each of your sheep in the congregation are in regards to their personal, spiritual health. This will include an evaluation of worship attendance, community group commitment, and ministry involvement.
Meeting Movement #3: Discussing the “shepherd”
Shepherding is tough work and it takes a team to do it well. To help your pastors and elders follow through on their shepherding commitments, take time regularly to lovingly hold one another accountable, pray for one another, and speak intentional words of encouragement to one another. The following questions can help with this as they focus on four essential shepherding functions: knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting the flock:
- How well do you know the sheep you are overseeing and caring for?
Do you know their occupation?
Do you know their greatest concern at this time? Something for which to pray?
Do you know their general spiritual condition at this time?
Do you know the children in this family? How well?
- How well are the sheep under your care being fed?
How well-fed would you consider your flock to be?
How could the “diet” of your flock be improved?
Is your flock taking advantage of the opportunities available to be fed?
Are YOU being an example of hungering and thirsting for God’s Word?
- How well are the sheep under your care being led?
Are YOU leading as an example of godliness to your flock?
How is your family life? Your marriage?
Are you following through on your church commitments?
How is your prayer and devotional life?
Have you met with any individual sheep to help give them Biblical counsel?
Have you met with any individual sheep to cast vision to them about your church’s mission and vision?
- How well protected are the sheep under your care?
Are you aware of any wolves that are seeking to lead your sheep astray?
Have you needed to lovingly confront any wandering sheep?
Have you needed to give private instruction and warning from the Scriptures to any particular sheep?
The shepherding task is one of great privilege and challenge. The sheep will require our attention. The only question is whether the attention we give will be marked by loving, grace-filled, proactive shepherding, or unloving, unintentional, reactionary leadership. Prioritizing a consistent, monthly shepherding meeting for the sole purpose of “flock care” will help to assure that your church leadership faithfully puts into practice the kind of Biblical shepherding that God expects of His church and its leaders.
Mark presented this material at Engage 2017, Acts 29 US West’s annual conference. You can read posts from other speakers at Engage on our blog.