This is part two of a three-part series on guiding groups, based on the book 3 Roles for Guiding Groups, by Ken Braddy and David Francis. You can secure a free digital copy of this book at lifeway.com.
In part one of this series, I discussed how every group leader has three essential roles to carry out. Some of these roles may come easier than others. Spiritual gifting may make some of the roles more enjoyable or easier to fulfill than other ones. But regardless of spiritual gifting, the three roles are yours to carry out in equal measure if you lead a Bible study group.
The first role is that of Teacher. A Teacher is someone who guides his Bible study group to study and apply a portion of God’s Word. A Teacher uses a variety of teaching techniques to guide his group’s study, and he mimics the methods used by Jesus, the Master Teacher. The second role is that of Shepherd.
The Role of Shepherd
The word “shepherd” is not one we use in many of our daily conversations today. But in Bible times, the role of shepherd was an important one. The work of the shepherd was noble work. It was hard work. And it required a special kind of person. In addition to the role of Teacher, a group leader must also be a good Shepherd in order to effectively lead his Bible study group.
Shepherding is mentioned for the first time in Genesis 4:2. Throughout the Scriptures, shepherding influenced the writers of the Bible. God is referred to as a Shepherd (Ps. 78:52). Leaders of God’s people are called shepherds (1 Kings 22:17). Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-14). God’s people are described as sheep (Ps. 95:7, Mic. 2:12). Psalm 23 uses shepherding imagery. Shepherding is a term that runs throughout the pages of Scripture.
Three Requirements of Shepherding
Each of the three roles given to group leaders have requirements. The shepherding role is no different. If you are a Teacher, I hope you are also a good Shepherd. If you are a good Shepherd, you’ll meet the following three criteria:
- Love for the sheep. Sheep were not typically raised for their meat, but for their wool and milk. A flock of sheep might be less than twelve sheep, and shepherds would constantly be with their flocks for the majority of their natural lives. Shepherds usually named their sheep, knew their individual personalities, and called them by name. As shepherds of God’s people, how much more should we know our group members’ names, their life stories, their needs, and the ways God is transforming them into the likeness of His Son?
- Constant vigilance. David fought off wild animals while defending his father’s flocks from unwanted predators (1 Sam. 17:34-35). Shepherds also had to be on guard against robbers. A shepherd could not afford to relax for a minute! As a group leader, you are a Shepherd over God’s people. You must always be on the lookout for things that will harm your group members. You must be especially aware of Satan’s schemes meant to destroy reputations and relationships. If you believe that teaching a group is just about teaching, then you may not see the whole job! Good Teachers are even better Shepherds. They love their sheep and watch over them.
- Sense of stewardship. Shepherds were not the owners of their sheep. They were temporarily charged with the responsibility to take care of their master’s sheep. Perhaps this is why shepherds risked their lives to rescue their sheep (Amos 3:12). Group leaders who take their role of Shepherd seriously understand that they have been given temporary responsibility to care for God’s people. Shepherd-Teachers realize that the people in their groups aren’t actually their sheep—they belong to the Master.
Ask yourself this question: Do you love the people in your group as much as you love guiding the Bible study experience of those people? I hope the answer is yes.
In part three of this series, I’ll take a look at the final role given to group leaders: Leader.
Ken Braddy is Manager of LifeWay’s Adult Ongoing Bible Studies and has served as an education pastor and executive pastor for 18 years, prior to his role at LifeWay. He leads a weekly Bible study at his church, blogs regularly on the topic of Sunday School and small groups, and co-authored the book 3 Roles For Guiding Groups. He has written hundreds of leadership articles and trained group leaders across the country. Ken is a native Texan, loves tex-mex, and wishes he had his 1978 Camaro back. Follow him on his blog at kenbraddy.com.