Shepherding is core to member care. One of the better metaphors I have heard of late is that of the “member care tree”. This tree has shepherding as its roots, the main trunk is “member care” with the main branches being general member care, clinical care and pastoral care (yes, shepherd care is not the same as pastoral care – more on that another time). The key point is that all care is rooted in a shepherd framework. In all of our care, we shepherd people to God. See my early entry on the ultimate goal of spiritual formation, which is a goal of member care as well.
Following the shepherding imagery we can speak of flocks. Why think in terms of flocks? My conviction is that effective life-change comes over a long period of time in the course of everyday life. A person who has a long-term presence in other’s lives can bring the greatest influence. Thinking in terms of “flocks” as groups of people you want to encourage and equip over a long period of life can have profound and exponential impact.
Each shepherd has a flock, or maybe several small flocks. Who is your flock? Who is that group of people you tend to regularly and over a long period of time? Your flock may be a group of people within your organization. Or it might be people outside your organization. For myself, they are both. I am on the leadership team of my organization so the staff of my organization is one of my flocks. I have great joy in tending to my fellow colleagues within my organization. My wife and I also service workers internationally. Those select groups of people are our flocks as well. We maintain contact with them, journey with them, tend to them, care for them. That is what shepherds do – care for their flock.
Identifying a Flock
Your flock ought to be a group of people with whom you have good chemistry, those you love to love. They also must be a group of people you are willing to be pursuant of over a long period of time. Journeying through life is key to shepherding. Shepherds take the initiative. They pursue and gather the flock. They watch over, listen to, and get to know the flock well. John 10 gives us wonderful imagery to emulate.
Shepherds get themselves into trouble in two ways, both of which do not bode well for flocks. First, shepherds are to lead their sheep to pasture – that is to Christ. Shepherds bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus. We are not all they need. Shepherds get into trouble when they lead sheep to be dependent on them. We are to lead people to greater dependency on God. A second way shepherds get into trouble is when they say yes to too many needs. Good shepherding is not marked by frenetic running from flock to flock to flock. Excellent shepherding is marked by presence and attentiveness. Better to have a smaller flock than have too large or too many flocks. Ask the Father which of his he wants you to tend to and stay within that limitation. This is a protection for you and the sheep.
So, who is your flock? Any other lessons you have gained from your shepherding of people over long periods of time? I’d love to hear from you on this subject.