When you come right down to it, the heart of shepherding and success in shepherding for that matter, boils down to the importance of relationships.
This is quite clear in the dynamic that Jesus established in John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me.” This remarkable statement acknowledges the blessing of knowing the Lord and being known by Him. Of course, this relationship comes to us at His initiative by grace through faith. The Lord has changed our hearts so that we have now “heard” Him and “follow Him” (John 10:27).
This relational dynamic of “knowing and being known” is central to the relationship between undershepherds and the sheep as well. This is the reason that “microshepherding” is so important. If macroshepherding includes our “corporate,” congregation-wide responsibilities to the flock, microshepherding focuses on the personal relationships we need to have with the sheep to be effective in ministry. This is time spent getting to know the flock.
Two questions to ponder. When did you grow the most as a believer? Wasn’t it when someone invested their lives in you personally to help you grow in Christ?
I can remember with great affection the Campus Crusade workers who spent time personally discipling me when I first became a believer (also through the ministry if Campus Crusade!). Sure, they were the fill-in-the-blank follow-up materials but they key was the relationship. Then there was the missionary’s wife who met with Barb and me to teach us the Bible.
The second question: When were you most effective in helping someone else grow as a believer? If you are like me, it was when you took time to invest in someone personally. There are names that immediately come to my mind as I think about those whom I had the privilege of serving in this way.
Though it is arguably easier to spend all of your time going to meetings, making decisions, or even conducting ministry, your effectiveness with the sheep is grounded in knowing them and letting them know you. How will you know what ministries to plan if you don’t know the gifts and passions of your people? How will you know where to go next in teaching or preaching if you don’t know the needs of your people? How will you know how to advise and counsel them if you don’t know them? How will you know how to help them if you don’t know their weaknesses struggles?
This is the reason that regular contact with your people is so important. Take some time today and reach out to one of your sheep.