In the first post, I shared some practical and initial ways to reach out and draw people into the life the church. But even after someone has begun to assimilate into the church, we don’t want to forget about them.
Most of us don’t live in an area where literal shepherding exists anymore. A shepherd cares for the life of his sheep. A shepherd watches the flock, and goes after sheep who stray. Jesus is called our shepherd (John 10:11-18), and church leaders are to shepherd the flock of believers as well (I Peter 5:2). But I also think individual Christians should have a shepherding care for each other. For example, the New Testament contains numerous “one another” passages.
I appreciated this post by a pastor, entitled “How can I make sure that I am regularly shepherding everyone in the church?”. There is also a part two, where he addresses how this can work even in a large church. This pastor is concerned that everyone in his church is personally prayed for and contacted each month. *The links no longer work, but you get the idea in the below excerpt. The way it worked in a larger church setting was to divide the responsibility among pastoral staff and lay leaders.*
I created a prayer guide with each member of the church broken into a 28 day chart in alphabetical order. This is to represent the first 28 days of each month. On day 1, I pray for those 5-6 people or families. Then, I try to make some kind of personal contact with them that day in the form of a home visit, email, hand written card, phone call, facebook note, or text message to let them know I prayed for them on that day. Lastly, I ask in that moment of personal contact if there is anything I can do to serve them. For those I haven’t seen recently, I will usually call or go see them to get an update on how they are doing in general.
I repeat the same process for day 2, then day 3…all the way to day 28. If I am faithful and consistent in this process (which I never do perfectly) I would have prayed and made contact with all those who have been entrusted in my care in one month.
What a shepherd’s heart! While his post is geared towards other pastors, certainly we can also apply this method (or something similar) as Sunday school class teachers, small group leaders, Bible study leaders….or even as participants in these things.
We can make a schedule to pray for the people in our group weekly, and reach out to them personally once a month through a phone call, an invite to dinner, or other personal communication method. Each of us should have some type of role in caring for each other.
Be on the look out for people too. As I mentioned in the last post, try to be more observant. If someone misses small group or the church service a couple weeks in a row, check in on them. Give them a call. This isn’t about harassing someone, but just letting them know in a friendly way that they were missed and showing concern that they are okay. There is nothing worse than feeling like an invisible person…that you can suddenly stop showing up and no one even notices.
Shepherds care when a sheep goes missing, but first they have to notice that the sheep has gone missing to begin with!
Sometimes I worry a bit that having a “method” or “scheduling” things like this can make it obligatory or superficial instead of from the heart. Yet, there are times we need to be deliberate because it can be too easy to forget or have good intentions that we fail to carry out. Beginning with a method/schedule can help create a habit. Of course, we should also be praying for proper heart motives, and spiritual perception, sensitivity and wisdom for the needs of others.
I’ve mentioned hospitality or inviting people to your home for dinner several times in these posts. Hospitality seems to have become a lost art. My next post will be on this. It doesn’t have to be as hard as people think! Genuine friendship and fellowship can develop and thrive through the practice of hospitality.
(Next post in series here on hospitality.)