Over the last 6 months, the elders have been praying and considering various forms of a “shepherding” initiatives – responding to the call for elders to be “shepherds of the flock”. We began by searching scripture for a definition of “shepherding” itself. Interestingly a concise explanation is given in Ezekiel 34:1-6 by way of negative example – the prophet accuses the shepherds of Israel of not doing their job and then listing what it was they were not doing!
“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? … 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally”
Hence, we see that the elders are to care for their flock by strengthening the weak, caring for the sick and injured, watching out for and rescuing the strays and, finally, by ruling gently. To do this we decided we needed some accountability among ourselves, so we set out to develop a plan.
We believe that our small group leaders and hosts serve as our first layer of shepherding for those who are involved in these groups. They certainly strengthen and watch out for their members in so many ways. We want to connect our small group leaders more directly to our Lead Pastor who will be their “shepherd” and help them as they shepherd their groups. Our elders will, in addition to whatever small group they may be involved with, reach out to and serve as “shepherds” for those who are not presently in a small group. We’d like everyone to be connected and have access to an elder for communication, prayer, and support in any way.
The elders and spouses will begin reaching out to those not in a small group in the near future to inform them that they will be serving in this role, making sure to explain the purpose and role they are to be playing. Our Elders Team (Elders and wives) will advocate, look out, and pray for those without a small group as well as communicate with and arrange for assistance for them as needed. This will be a service to our partners and attendees which we hope will be of tangible benefit. This program will NOT replace pastoral care or counseling. And privacy will be a paramount concern – the elders will not discuss expressed concerns without the permission of the congregant.
Finally, the elders will begin to contact new attendees personally, based on information provided in the contact cards. They will orient these folks to the Mission and programs of Journey so that they can “find a place” for themselves within the family here.