So I’ve been thinking lately about shepherding the flock. One of the responsibilities of the elders of church is shepherding. It is not their only responsibility -- they also oversee, teach, direct the affairs of the church, etc. In fact, the qualifications (or qualities) in Timothy and Titus barely even hint at shepherding. The greater emphasis seems to have been given to sound doctrine, guarding against false teachers, etc.
Have you ever seen a shepherding program that was effective? I remember Ben Merold (several years ago) telling us that every time he heard of a church that had a great shepherding program, he would try to visit as soon as he could. Usually by the time he got there, the program had unraveled. The typical practice in our churches is to divide the members/families of the congregation among the elders. So if there are three elders/pastors and ninety families, then each elder gets 30 families on his shepherding list (his flock). My experience has been that we have not put these men in a position to succeed. I wonder if part of the problem is the way we have defined shepherding. Usually the connotation is that of a personal chaplain. This is practically impossible when the church is larger than a few dozen people.
The early church was several thousand members strong before the first elder appeared (yes, there were apostles, but only 12 – and they devoted their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word). So how do we get better at this? Do we need to re-define shepherding? And how can the needs of the flock be met more effectively?