What is Shepherding All About?
Interview with Ken Jones, Pastor for Shepherding
What is this new shepherding system at OMPC?
The Shepherding ministry approach is where every member is assigned a shepherding elder who will periodically check to see how the member family is doing. By the way, if you do not know who your shepherd is, please contact Shelly Gentry for this information.
How do the numbers break down at OMPC?
We have about 750 family units here in our 2,600+ membership family that are shepherded by nine Shepherding Commissions made up of seventy Shepherds, twenty-five Deacons, and nineteen Women Shepherding Team members, eight Women’s Mercy Team members along with nine Resource Pastors. This a 130 member ministry team dedicated to follow Jesus, the Chief Shepherds example, who showed His compassion for His people by shepherding and caring for them well (Matthew 9:36).
What are the blessings of the shepherding process?
Each member is regularly contacted by our church leadership in a relationally authentic way in order to provide better communication and caring within the church body. In this light, it helps a large church function more like a smaller family unit making sure everyone is seen, known, and connected. Also, it authorizes the elder to shepherd, which means he may need to gently guide church members to reach out with their spiritual gifts in order to show grace to others in need within our church family or our community.
Is the shepherding elder supported and trained in this ministry role?
Yes, each shepherding elder is supported in their follow-up care for their assigned church members by a Shepherding Commission of fellow elders that includes a Resource Pastor. Shepherd-elders receive on-going training each month in their respective calling as a shepherd as well (Psalm 78:72). In addition, the Women’s Shepherding and Ministry Teams and the Deacons receive regular training. Often, all of these groups receive their training together to enhance their fellowship and comradery.
What Scriptures support this shepherding approach?
Jesus himself taught us that a good shepherd knows the names of his sheep (John 10:3) and the Apostle Peter told elders to shepherd their assigned flock (1 Peter 5:1-5).
It makes sense for OMPC to go in this direction because many other churches within the PCA denomination are going to this system. What makes OMPC different?
There are a number of important features, but the most notable is that each Shepherding Commission (there are 9 of them at this time) will coordinate with a Shepherding Emergency Response Team (SERT) comprised of elders, mercy deacons, under-shepherds, and members of the Women Shepherding and Mercy Teams to assist them in comprehensively responding with grace-driven compassion to our member family needs. This is what is called mutual aid where everyone gets back-up and does not feel like they are ministering in a silo. It provides more effective coverage for our church family.
What Scriptures support the SERT aspect of the shepherding process?
We see in Philippians the Apostle Paul, for the sake of the gospel and for people, served side by side with elders (1:2), deacons (1:2), and women (4:2).
Would you please tell us a story that captures this shepherding vision in a nutshell?
Imagine coming home to find your house broken into by a burglar. You are devastated because your valuables were stolen and your home vandalized. You feel insecure and numb. Once you notify the police and your family and friends, who would you call in the church? Well, we sincerely hope you would want your shepherding elder to know so he could pray for you and to spiritually support you. He would also be able to let the SERT team know about your troubling ordeal in order for the deacons and the women shepherding and mercy teams, with God's wisdom, to devise a response plan to undergird you through this struggle. Contemplate the blessing of knowing a grace-driven team made up of elders, deacons, and commissioned women mobilized together in Christ's name for the sole purpose of tailoring a loving response to your family's crisis. Not just one Good Samaritan helping you, but a team of Good Samaritans responding. This vision compels us to more and more love, serve, and shepherd in God's grace.
What book would you recommend if we wanted to learn more?
Read The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church by Dr. Timothy Z. Witmer who is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.
What is the general description of what a Shepherding Commission does?
We call it the 4 C’s of Shepherding: Connecting, Contacting, Collaborating, and Care. From Connecting regularly with the other Shepherding Commission (team) members, we believe will flow a consistent Contacting of the members of our congregation. In situations that need extra attention, the Shepherding Commission members will Collaborate together asking the Holy Spirit to give them the wisdom to best Care for our church family and community.
How does shepherding fit into the overall purpose, vision, and values at OMPC?
One of our core values is to be a place of strength and restoration–a community where we can be honest about our brokenness as we call one another to the hope that is promised in Christ. A robust shepherding approach will help us implement this value on a daily basis as well as to help us achieve our vision of being a life-giving place that cultivates hope, justice, beauty and rest in Jesus. It does so by making better connections between all of the membership and our church leadership team, and it provides ongoing intentional equipping to that end.