By Ward Shope
Church-speak abounds in pastoral images even though few, if any of us, at New Life live on a farm. We love stories about the Great Shepherd and how he calms our nerves even when we walk through the deepest valleys of our lives. While many of us don’t even know the difference between a rod and a staff (there’s a difference?), intuitively we sense the warm and careful attention that Jesus provides as our Shepherd – and that he asks the church elders to provide as pastors of the flock.
In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus only counts 100 sheep in the flock. At New Life, we have around 570 adults in the flock besides the lambs which fill our rooms every Sunday. It isn’t that hard to wander away and not be missed. For years, staff and elders have tried to notice changes in attendance or participation in ministry. But it’s been a pretty inexact science.
Larger flocks call for greater watchfulness – more exact counting if you want to put it that way. So the elders have put together a list of all those who participate in our flock and divided them into groups. One group is labelled “Unconnected.” These are the people we see on a Sunday morning somewhat regularly. But they are not connected with our ministries. We may not know about their spiritual health. Feasibly, they could be very active in sharing the gospel with neighbors. But others may truly be on the fringe of faith. We seek to know if they are lost and need to be found.
One group is labeled “Critical or Urgent Needs.” These are the very sick, or those with serious family or spiritual challenges. Usually we know who these sheep are because we frequently pray for them and seek to encourage them to pursue Jesus.
One group is labeled “Connected”. They attend worship, participate in ministries and home groups. And most of the time, we know what is going on in their lives. But they still need general encouragement and they can help shepherd others.
By assigning several elders and helpers to these intentionally divided groups, we seek to be more alert to shepherding needs. And at the same time, a “Hospitality” team invites others to join us. Please pray for the elders as we become more intentional in caring for the flock.