Although the spiritual gift of shepherd-teacher is not a requirement of guiding a Step 2 group, it sure helps. Paul listed a distinct gift of teaching (see Romans 12:7). Those with the teaching gift generally prefer standing before a large group – the bigger the better – as compared to those with the gift of shepherding, who prefer sitting among a smaller group.
We can think of three requirements of shepherds in the Bible, and those same requirements are still in effect today for those of us who lead Bible study groups:
- Love for the sheep. Sheep were not typically raised for their meat in Bible times, but for their wool and milk. A flock might be less than twelve sheep, and the shepherd would be with them constantly for the majority of their natural lives. Shepherds usually named their sheep, knew their personalities, and called them by name. As shepherds of God’s people, how much more should we know our people’s names, their stories, their needs, and how God is transforming them?
- Constant vigilance. David fought off bears and lions in his role as a shepherd (I Samuel 17:34-37). Predators like wolves, jackals, and hyenas were a constant menace to shepherds, as were robbers. A shepherd had to remain on guard constantly. Likewise, you must remain constantly on guard for the things that harm your group members. Always ready to fight for them. Always on the lookout for the Evil One and his schemes that destroy lives.
- Sense of stewardship. Shepherds were not the owners of the sheep, but were stewards for an owner. As such, they were accountable for each of the sheep in their care. Perhaps this is why a shepherd would risk his life to rescue a sheep (or its remains) from the mouth of a wild animal (Amos 3:12). The shepherd was responsible for the life of each of the sheep entrusted to him. As shepherds, we are entrusted with God’s precious people, and we should have a strong sense that we are responsible to God for them. The members of your group belong to Him. You’re the shepherd.
Today’s post was an excerpt from the book 3 Roles For Guiding Groups (p.22) that David Francis and I co-authored. You can get copies 3 ways:
- Purchase your own hard copy here
- Download a free digital version here
- Get a free digital copy at iTunes
Here are some final thoughts on how to be a better shepherd teacher:
- Spend more time with those you teach. Shepherds could tell you all about the sheep they tended. Can you do the same with the people in your Bible study group? If not, the first thing you might want to do is to intentionally set aside time to get to know them.
- Accept your role as a steward. The people you teach are just temporarily yours. They belong to God, not to you. Recognize that everything is for a season, and that the people in your group are going to advance and move on to another class. Release them. See them as God’s sheep, not yours. And certainly don’t adopt a mindset that believes the people are yours – they aren’t – they belong to Jesus.
- Stand guard. If you sense that someone in your group is going to harm themselves or others, it’s your job to step up and step in. Be constantly vigilant and on the lookout for Satan’s scheming presence in the lives of those entrusted to you by your church.