I’ve been in my fair share of HomeGroups in my life so far. In many of these groups, I’ve noticed that people have their own interpretation of what “leader” means:

  1. Speaker – the guy (or girl) that gives a sermonette that takes up the majority of the small group time
  2. Dominator – the guy that uses his own questions to give mini-sermonettes
  3. Job-Hoarder – the guy that exhausts himself wearing all the hats rather than delegating and equipping the group to maintain it
  4. Supervisor – the guy that never speaks up unless something goes wrong and discipline is needed
  5. Shepherd – the guy that actively practices soul care, models submission to Christ, and humbly facilitates Christ-honoring discussion.

We’ve all met these types of leaders.

I’ve been each one of these leaders in some form or fashion in the past and, honestly, I would tell you that I still struggle with wanting to be every type of leader except a good shepherd.

The difficulty in being a good shepherd is that many people have the misconception that a good leader either means you must be relaxed and relatable or dominating and vocal. The pendulum must not swing too far in either direction, but both qualities may be necessary in varying degrees.

Nevertheless, the way we learn to be a good shepherd is from THE Good Shepherd.

Take Psalm 23, for instance.

David describes the Lord acting in various ways in the first few verses:

  • He MAKES me (V. 2)
  • He LEADS me (V. 2, 3)
  • He RESTORES (V. 4)

The Good Shepherd MAKES us lie down. Even when we may not want to. Even when we don’t think it’s best. Even when we don’t want to lie down at that moment.

There’s your dominant leader. Let’s pack up and go home, right? If you stop there, you walk away with a skewed, incomplete picture of what it means to be a good shepherd.

The Lord also LEADS us. The path that we must walk was first walked by Jesus. The founder and perfecter of our faith that calls us to deny ourselves, our plans, our ways, our fleshly desires, and simply follow Him. We are called to be holy because he is holy. We are called to forgive as he has forgiven us. He came before us and not only called us to obedience but modeled obedience to the Father.

His leadership was counter-cultural because He was a servant leader. He humbly sacrificed and equipped in order for others to experience the fullness of life.

And David doesn’t stop there. He also says the Good Shepherd RESTORES us.

This is about soul care. This is about treating people as beings created in the image of God with a soul, a body, and a spirit.

A good shepherd cares for those that are weary and burdened and need rest. While we may not be the ones to provide that rest, we can always point them to the One who does. And the beauty of the gospel lies in the fact that God wants to use the body of Christ to be his hands and feet for those that need rest.

The Good Shepherd makes us, leads us, and restores us.

So how does this practically play itself out in the role of a leader? Here are some helpful tips:

1. “Talk Less, Smile More”

Any Hamilton fans out there? Alexander Hamilton needed this advice from Aaron Burr in order to “get ahead.” What’s the reasoning behind this advice? Well, Burr actually mentions that in the song:

“Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”

Now, Burr’s advice can’t be taken for all it’s worth in a HomeGroup context, but we can extract great truth from this. As leaders, we should always make sure people know what we’re against and for, especially when it pertains to primary issues of salvation. On the other hand, there are many moments where the group is better served with your facilitation rather than your input.

I’ve found that more often than not, a group member that hasn’t spoken up yet ends up sharing almost the exact same thoughts I had to a question. My tendency is to speak up because I know the answer to the question I’ve just asked or I have something to teach the group that will radically transform everyone’s walk with the Lord!!

These are the moments when I later realize that transformation ends up happening best not when I have something amazing to say, but when a group feels comfortable and vulnerable enough to have honest and open dialogue centered around Scripture that leads us to the transformative message of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

In many instances, the best thing I can do is ask a question, smile, let the people in my group know I love them, and use discernment in graciously steering the conversation back to the gospel when it goes off course.

I challenge myself with the 70/30 rule every time I lead a small group. This is where you talk no more than 30% of the time in a group discussion as a leader and listen the other 70%.

Just a heads up: This is REALLY difficult to accomplish, but so fruitful when it is done well.

2. Genuinely Ask

I’m actually not talking about the HomeGroup meeting time at all when I say this.

If you truly want to be a good shepherd, you must genuinely care for people’s souls. Asking a question in passing at church about how they’re doing as you continue to go on your way isn’t soul care. It’s checking a box.

Here are some things I’ve experienced when I could tell if someone actually cared for my soul as my leader:

  • They asked, “How can I pray for you?”
  • They stopped and looked me in the eyes, not through me at the next person they actually were wanting to talk to
  • They actually prayed for me (usually in the moment)
  • They remembered a week later and checked in on the status of that prayer request
  • They listened, first, even if they already knew the answer and had the Bible verse ready to recite to me mid-sentence.
  • They didn’t use a formula for how to handle each prayer request:
    • Sometimes they made me see the truth despite my ignorance, stubbornness, and pride.
    • Sometimes they led me to the truth by modeling what it looks like to follow the Lord in that regard.
    • Sometimes they simply let me vent by trusting my heart and not judging my words. Without preaching Jesus to me, they were Jesus to me that pursued my soul and ushered me into much-needed rest.

At the end of the day, we can rejoice in the fact that we have the Holy Spirit that’s molding, shaping, and sanctifying us to look more and more like the Good Shepherd. May we trust His way rather than our own flesh in shepherding the flock that He’s called us to steward well.

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