Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a book I had the privilege of co-authoring with David Francis, LifeWay’s Director of Sunday School. In the book 3 Roles for Guiding Groups, we identified 3 primary roles that every group leader must embrace: Teacher-Shepherd-Leader. Today’s excerpt focuses on the role of Shepherd. It’s a great role to fulfill. We know of Jesus as “the Great Shepherd,” and we accept the fact we are called “sheep” in God’s Word. In fact, the role of shepherding is seen from the earliest pages in the book of Genesis (chapter 4) all the way through the end of the book of Revelation.
To somebody, you are the greatest leader in the greatest group in the greatest church in all the world. And it has almost nothing to do with how you perform in the role of teaching! It is rather because you showed up at a sister’s graveside service. Or brought dinner from the group after a surgery. Or sent a birthday card. Or wrote a note on the anniversary of landing a new job, or the birth of a grandchild, or the death of a loved one, or some other date your recorded…It is not rare to watch someone who excels in the role of teacher but who neglects the role of shepherd see his or her class slowly dwindle away. Curiously, group members almost universally love the teaching of a person who practices the role of shepherding (p.26)
The role of Shepherd reminds me that as a group leader, it’s not all about “the presentation.” My teaching time in front of the group (which really should be a “guiding” time where the members talk as much as I do) isn’t quite as important as my behind-the-scenes time I spend ministering to group members.
What a relief this is! I don’t have to be the world’s foremost authority on the Bible to be an effective group leader. If I love people and care for them, they’ll accept my teaching (although it may not be as informed or polished as the guy in the room next door to my group!). My group members will love me because they know I first loved them. As a Shepherd-Teacher, I do my best to show my love to them in my thoughts, words and deeds. Being a good Shepherd makes up for not being the world’s best teacher every time!