Women across the board are in need of someone to reach out to them. Women are under a load of responsibilities—parenting children, helping aging parents, working, managing households, dealing with financial burdens and extended family. Many are doing this as single women. As women, we are nurturers by creation; therefore, we care for people in our sphere of influence, and often we are the last on the list to be cared for. There is a great need to care for and shepherd women in our churches so they in turn can shepherd others, resulting in healthier, stronger followers of Christ.
When we were newlyweds, my hubby took me around his hometown, shared with me some of his boyhood experiences and introduced me to influential people in his life. One of those people was Leroy—a shepherd—yes, a real live sheepherding shepherd. The old gentleman had spent his life raising sheep. We watched him call them in, feed them and care for their needs while he told us stories about his “kids.” Shepherding requires selflessness, patience and unending devotion. He recounted stories of being up all night with a new lamb or spending countless hours shearing his sheep. He even relayed a story about a resistant ram that nearly killed him. As leaders, shepherding women requires similar devotion that our friend Leroy had.
We, like Leroy, are motivated by love for those we lead. Our love for women and desire to lead them has to come from the Lord through his Spirit. If it doesn’t come as a “calling” from God, then we will be ministering out of our own selfish ambition and for personal gain and, frankly, we won’t be strong enough to stick it out.
What does Scripture say about shepherding?
Peter tells leaders to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Let’s break down the basic job description:
- Shepherd those given to you. Who are the women in your life? Those women God has placed in your sphere of influence are your flock.
- Feed the flock by putting sound teaching from God’s Word before those you shepherd. This can be done by teaching the Bible or diving into the Word together. If sitting under someone else’s teaching, carefully screen them to ensure sound doctrine is being taught.
- Care for the flock by knowing them, encouraging them and ministering to their needs. A personal connection will help grow healthy women disciples.
- With humility, lead by example, as a servant of Christ and a servant to others.
These are the broad principles of being a shepherd. Seek out women in your church who are leaders and can help. You can’t minister to all the women in your church, but you can minister and invest in a small group of leaders (ministry team) so they can reach the other women in your church. Even if you are in a small church, you can be more effective by pouring into a few and encouraging them to pour into a few. Scripture encourages mentoring younger women, potential leaders, in the day-to-day life of a disciple (Titus 2:3-5).
In the book The Way of the Shepherd, the authors share about a professor giving a college graduate counsel on management. The professor took him to the sheep pasture to teach him some lessons on overseeing people. He gave practical steps to be an effective business manager. We are in the business, or calling, to make disciples by shepherding them for Christ’s glory and to further the gospel. Leading out in mentoring/shepherding a group of women will model and encourage others to do the same. Here are some practical guidelines for mentoring/shepherding women:
- Know the women in your group. Take an interest in each person—their likes, dislikes, talents, dreams, goals and what motivates them or frustrates them.
- What are their strengths? Are they good at teaching or better at hospitality? Are they servant-hearted, super creative or meticulously organized? Knowing what women’s strengths are helps plug them in where they can be successful and minister well.
- What is their heart? What motivates them to get up in the morning? What are they passionate about? Their heart is the driving force of who they are.
- What kind of attitude are they sporting? Are they negative Nellies, or are they women able to see the glass half full? Are they teachable or independent? Their attitude helps you know how receptive (or unreceptive) they will be to instruction, how open to change.
- Get to know their personality. Are they bubbly and energetic or more laid back and introverted? This assessment will help you plug them into places of service that better suits their personality, for example, a bubbly personality makes a better welcome team member.
- Listen and remember their experiences or testimonies so you can connect them with others with similar experiences. They can then provide comfort to those with the comfort they have experienced (2 Corinthians 1:4).
- Help your women identify with you by being real. People long to follow a leader who is a person of integrity (someone who is the same at church and the grocery store), authenticity (real, not hiding flaws) and compassionate (genuinely caring about others). A leader like this will gain trust and loyalty.
- Make the environment a safe place by keeping women well informed; allowing the younger generations to be involved in planning; regularly moving women to different positions, keeping things fresh; and dealing honestly and swiftly with problems. All of these things should be done out of a heart of love for those you are leading.
Shepherding a group of women can build a healthy group of leaders who can connect with those in their sphere of influence to begin shepherding their own flock, all within the body of believers, the church. The church, the bride of Christ, can better operate as one body by individual members using their gifts to glorify God (Romans 12:3-8).