But what does it look like to shepherd?
Before we can answer the what question, we must answer the who question. Who, exactly, are we responsible for? There are four types of people we must shepherd:
- Key leaders
- Regular attenders
Obviously, we can’t shepherd everyone ourselves. We must prioritize. Scripture tells that pastors to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Therefore, I believe focusing your shepherding on key leaders will help you shepherd the whole flock (i.e. your local church). Regular Attenders and Visitors aren’t caste-offs, however. But you will reach them most effectively when your key leaders and members reach them! Other leaders must be raised up so that pastors can focus on their primary calling: being devoted to the word of God and prayer.
A popular discipleship principle is to adopt the model of Jesus with the 3-12-70 principle. Jesus had twelve disciples. But Jesus seemed to include Peter, James, and John into special events, like the Transfiguration, more than the other disciples. They were his three. Are you shepherding your key leaders? Three questions to ask in evaluation:
- Who are your three? Who are those leaders you will invest in most?
- Who are your twelve? Who makes up your general “team” to help you with ministry?
- Who are your seventy? These would be the people who minister in your areas of oversight.
Pastors are responsible for their flock, their members. Although membership isn’t spelled in one specific verse, the New Testament presents a pattern which strongly suggests church membership. Otherwise, you will spin your wheels investing in those who aren’t really committed to your church. Are you shepherding your members? A couple of important questions to ask about your membership are:
- Is our membership roll up-to-date? If not, how do we bring it up to date?
- Is it worth investing in software to help us shepherd?
- Is each member being cared for? Are they in a small group or another ministry where someone knows them?
Regular attenders are those who will come fairly consistently but haven’t made the plunge into membership yet. A key to being a growing church is to create a pathway for regular attenders to become “all-in” members. Are you shepherding your regular attenders? Some questions to consider?
- Do we know how many people are regular attenders? If not, how do we figure this out?
- How do we move attenders to become “all-in” members?
- Is the next step into membership clear?
Hopefully, someone will visit your church every week. In some ways, you are responsible to shepherd them. You do this by giving them a pathway to become more deeply invested in the church and a “regular.” Remember, all of your high-capacity leaders and volunteers were visitors at one point. Again, tracking who your visitors are so that you can follow up with them is key. Are you shepherding your visitors?
- Are we a welcoming church? Do we have volunteers dedicated to welcoming visitors?
- Do we have a plan for follow up?
- Is the next step to becoming a regular clear?
Knowing what we’re supposed to do as pastors is only half the job. We must be clear on who we’re responsible for and how we will reach them. Shepherds care for and lead their flocks. Pastors must do the same.
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Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. – Acts 20:28-29