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shepherding: smaller groups, better care

shepherding: smaller groups, better care

As I trust is evident through all of this strategic planning discussion, Southwood has been and will continue to be about people. The heart of the church leadership is to see more and more devoted disciples of Jesus Christ reveling in His love and fighting to advance His Kingdom.

Part of this process involves equipping and caring for followers of Christ as they go through the ups and downs of life, broadly termed “shepherding.” We often associate the task of shepherding the flock with the office of Elder, which is true Biblically. For many years at Southwood members have had “shepherding Elders,” men who have proactively and reactively cared for their needs.

This continues to be the case, but now there’s even better shepherding available! As Elders we take very seriously the biblical responsibilities we have to shepherd the flock that Jesus bought with His own blood. In fact, we take it so seriously that we don’t believe an occasional phone call or a quarterly meal are sufficient to care for you as we would desire. We believe the best care happens when we are more consistently involved in each other’s lives.

Thus, we have developed an updated shepherding model that focuses on small groups, the place where we feel our closest community and our best care is available. This does not mean that if you are not connected to a small group we will refuse to care for you. Every member of Southwood is still on an Elder’s list and still can receive care from any Elder. It does mean, however, that if you are not connected to a small group we will probably not care for you as well as we would like or as well as you may expect. The best care comes from those who know us best, and a group of ten can know each other more intimately than a single Elder can know a long list of members.

The Bible reminds us that shepherding is not for Elders alone; rather, we are all to be bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and showing the love of Christ to one another in visible ways (John 13:34-35). Small groups are not the only way to do this, but they are a great place to be living in community in such a way that we are more aware of each other’s burdens and more readily able to show Christ’s love to each other.

So, what do you need to do? Do you need to call the office and ask me who “your Elder” is now? No. Look at it this way: You may have a small group, and in particular a small group leader, who is regularly involved in understanding, praying for, and helping to meet your needs. If not, consider trying a small group soon. My family’s experience is that it’s the best place to find close community. If you do have a small group leader, consider that person your first line of defense; he/she probably is or will be the one who knows your concerns best. And if your leader needs to get an Elder involved to help you, he/she knows where to turn.

But whether you are in a small group or not, all the Elders stand willing to care for you in any way they can. Sharing a struggle, a prayer need, or a question with any of them is never inappropriate or out of line because he is not “your Elder.” It is our delight and privilege to care for you as the Lord gives us that opportunity. You’re not losing an Elder, but you have the opportunity to gain a small group that will care for you in ways you’ve never experienced before.

One last thought: No small group, pastor, or Elder can shepherd you the way Jesus can. Jesus himself is the Chief and Good Shepherd, and if we don’t turn to Him first and often for guidance, correction, and care, we miss out on the best shepherding available. Are you depending consistently on Him? I look forward to where our Good Shepherd will lead Southwood in the years ahead!