Shepherd or Sheepherder?

Remember when you first got in to children’s ministry? Remember the calling God gave you? The burden you had for children? The awesome responsibility you accepted? The urgency you felt back when it was about reaching lost kids and discipling those who had accepted Christ?

What changed?

You went into children’s ministry because you wanted to be a shepherd of children—and all too soon you became more sheepherder than shepherd. Just getting the kids where they need to be and hoping to have a reasonable adult-to-child ratio became a weekly battle. You feel your heart for ministry fading and you secretly miss when you were just a volunteer and not in charge of the whole operation.

Choose to be a shepherd first and foremost!

If you are in a leadership role over children, God has called you to be a shepherd. How do you get shepherding back to front and center in your ministry? As with any key change in life or ministry, it starts by asking the right questions. Let me challenge you with four questions that could change your ministry and your impact in the lives of the children, parents and volunteers with whom you work. Furthermore, I challenge you to print this article, and with a fresh pad of paper or journal, go where you can think, reflect, and pray without distraction.

  1. What does it mean to be a shepherd? Don’t bother trying to come up with a perfect definition, just describe it. Use specific examples or ideas of what you think it looks like to be a shepherd or to experience shepherding from the recipients’ perspective.

  2. What aspects of your ministry are shepherding? This is just between you and God, so be brutally honest. When do the children, volunteers or families in your ministry feel shepherded?

  3. How successful are your programs? List all your programs or activities, then state the purpose of each, and describe how well each is fulfilling their purpose.

  4. What consumes your time? How effective is your time management? Identify tangible results that merit the time you invest.

My guess is that by now you’ve only read the questions above—not taken the time to answer them. That’s O.K., but don’t neglect to take the time to thoughtfully reflect on them, and WRITE your answers. There is power in what you commit to paper. After you have taken some time to gather your thoughts on the questions above, you are ready to start taking some serious and strategic steps toward becoming more of a shepherd and less of a sheepherder.

  • Identify what you’d like to be doing. You have more control over your life than you might believe. It’s time to start doing what you determine is most important. The most important things in life must be scheduled.

  • Evaluate what you are doing. Take a hard, honest look at how you invest your time. How do you waste time? What is optional?

  • Make a list of priorities. This can be the most powerful thing you do! Make a list of what is most important to you, and then put them in your schedule, as early in the day as possible. If there’s something you can’t do, at least you will see what didn’t get done and reschedule it. But good intentions that are not placed on the calendar will never happen. You will never get everything done, but you can choose what gets left undone, and make sure it isn’t what is at the top of your priorities.
  • Choose the best. There is no end to all the good opportunities that confront you every day. Learn to say “no” to the good for the sake of the great.

  • Delegate the rest. Believe it or not, God has wired other people who love doing what you hate doing. A principle I try to live by in my ministry is “only do what only I can do” and trust others to do the rest.

1 Peter 5:8 urges us to be “self-controlled and alert” because our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. Our children are his primary targets. You are not a “hired hand” you are a shepherd! Determine to be both alert to what your kids truly need and self-controlled in order to take back your ministry and return to being a shepherd.

You can access this entire magazine for free here: Edition 31

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