Seven Shepherding Questions for Leaders
How to Pastor the People You Lead
By Stephen Blandino - May 28, 2017
As pastors, we are called to shepherd the people we lead. In fact, even if you’re not a pastor, there’s a shepherding element to your leadership. Imagine the impact you could have on the people you lead if you didn’t just lead them, but you pastored them. Sound strange, even impossible? The apostle Peter said:
“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor” (1 Peter 5:2-4, NLT).
Peter painted a picture of the shepherding role of leaders. So, what does it mean to shepherd—or care for the flock—that God has entrusted to you, and how do you maintain this role as the church (or your organization) grows?
Two Faces of Shepherding: Noticing and Developing
There are two faces to shepherding the people you lead: Noticing and Developing. Noticing focuses on the compassionate side of shepherding. It’s the side of leading that demonstrates care, empathy, and emotional intelligence. The old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” captures the noticing side of shepherding.
Developing focuses on the leadership side of shepherding. It’s expressed through training, equipping, and empowering leaders. It’s all about delegating and multiplying. A Developing mindset sees potential in the people you lead and entrusts them with greater leadership responsibility.
Both—noticing and developing—are critical to shepherding the people you lead. So, how do you cultivate a noticing/developing posture as a leader? It begins with seven questions.
Four Ways to Shepherd Through Noticing
1. Who’s New…that I should meet?
1 Timothy 3 provides a thorough list of qualities that leaders ought to possess. Words like “self-controlled” and “respectable” make the list. Phrases like “above reproach,” “not given to drunkenness,” “not a lover of money” (and others) all describe the life of a person that is worthy to lead.
But buried in this comprehensive picture of leadership is one quality that is often overlooked in leadership circles: hospitable. 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable…”
Hospitality isn’t just a “good friend” quality. Each person we interact with should be greeted with a friendly and welcoming attitude. Without hospitality, you’ll never shepherd your team—or the new people you meet in your church or organization. That’s why it’s important to ask the first shepherding question: “Who’s new…that I should meet?”
That question will help you notice the person on the fringe and widen your net to welcome the outsider. Jesus was a master at this. While the religious leaders of His day were coddling insiders, Jesus noticed the outsiders. Today, even if you’re not a naturally outgoing person, you can still be friendly and hospitable. Who’s new that you need to meet?
2. Who’s Missing…that I should call?
Proximity makes a difference in shepherding. When we ask the shepherding question—“Who’s missing…that I should call?”—we take a fresh step toward proximity, helping us connect personally with the people we lead. Jesus said:
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? (Matthew 18:12, NLT).
Jesus valued the missing sheep. In fact, he said we should “search” for the lost sheep. Searching begins by noticing. As leaders, we have to train ourselves to look for the lost and to notice when somebody is missing.
Truthfully, this isn’t possible for one pastor or one leader. The need is simply too great and the number is too large. We have to develop teams of “noticers” who can stay connected in smaller environments. The larger a church or organization grows, the more critical these “noticers” will be.
3. Who’s Hurting…that I should encourage?
The longer I pastor the more I realize how much people are hurting. Whether it’s physical, relational, financial, or emotional; pain shows up every Sunday at church and every Monday in the workplace, masked by fake smiles. As pastors and leaders, what would happen if we asked the third shepherding question: “Who’s hurting…that I should encourage?”
The apostle Paul painted a pretty stark picture of how we should respond when our brother, sister, or a member of our team is hurting. He writes:
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important (Galatians 6:2-3, NLT).
How many times in leadership are we so busy that we don’t have time to help someone, or we feel too important to step down from our pedestal to serve somebody in need? I know I’m guilty. Paul’s words are a humbling indictment: “You are not that important.” Later he said, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT). Who’s hurting that you should shepherd with an encouraging word?
4. Who’s Serving…that I should thank?
There are three ways people serve in the local church: time, money, and prayer. Some people volunteer their time, serving faithfully to make ministry happen. Others serve through sacrificial giving, investing their resources in Kingdom-advancing ministry. Still, others serve by praying relentlessly for God to bring extraordinary transformation in lives. The question is, do you notice them?
Regardless of how people serve, ALL of them need to be thanked. How easy it is to forget that we wouldn’t be where we are without the people that serve alongside us. Notice the team serving with you. Ask the fourth shepherding question: “Who’s serving…that I should thank?” Grateful shepherds express thanks to those who make what they do possible.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus the Apostle Paul said, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly” (Ephesians 1:15-16). Paul thanked God, and his letter delivered that thanks to the Ephesians. As a shepherding leader, look around at the people who faithfully serve. Who are they? How can you thank them today?
Who’s new that I should meet? Who’s missing that I should call? Who’s hurting that I should encourage? Who’s serving that I should thank? Four shepherding questions that say, “I notice you.” In my next article, I’ll share three more shepherding questions designed to develop the people you lead.
Noticing focuses on the compassionate side of shepherding, and Developing focuses on the leadership side of shepherding. One emphasizes care and compassion for people, and the other emphasizes the training, equipping, and empowering of leaders. Both—noticing and developing—are critical to shepherding the people you lead.
There are three questions that will help you strategically shepherd the people you lead from a developing posture. These are five, six, and seven of the seven shepherding questions.
Three Ways to Shepherd Through Developing
5. Who’s Emerging…that I should believe in?
Young leaders want somebody to believe in them. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (NLT). Yes, young leaders must lead in such a way that there’s no reason for anyone to think less of them. At the same time, we must embrace a developing mindset with the young leaders around us. That mindset begins by asking, “Who’s emerging…that I should believe in?”
Your belief in a young leader is best expressed in three ways: affirmation, coaching, and opportunity. When you affirm potential, provide strategic coaching, and offer new opportunities, your belief becomes a catalyst for development. Each expression builds a flywheel of belief that builds in momentum over time.
6. Who’s Rising…that I should equip?
People rise one step at a time as leaders. Throughout their growth journey, they will need to be equipped with the right tools, training, and mentoring to keep moving forward. This is an essential shepherding role as leaders. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul said:
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT).
The sixth shepherding question asks, “Who’s rising…that I should equip?” Equipping isn’t optional as pastors and leaders. It’s a mandate. It’s primary to our calling. We are called to equip God’s people to do his work. What is your equipping strategy?
7. Who’s Faithful…that I should promote?
Faithfulness is more than “showing up.” Faithfulness is the stewardship of resources (abilities, time, & money), responsibilities, and opportunities. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the talents. He said:
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip…After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more’” (Matthew 25:14-15, 19-20, NLT).
The master gave opportunities to his three servants. Only two rose to the occasion and were deemed as faithful. Faithfulness was proven through opportunity, and well-managed opportunity opened the door for greater responsibility and larger opportunity.
The same is true today. The best way to develop leaders is to test their ability with new opportunities. In fact, your delegation list is your best leadership development tool. Look around ask ask yourself the final shepherding question: “Who’s faithful…that I should promote?” Once you identify a faithful volunteer or leader, determine what responsibility and opportunity to hand to them next. What roles do you need to promote your most faithful leaders to? What training will they need to succeed in that role?
Seven shepherding questions every leader should ask. Some will help you notice people and others will help you develop people. Both are essential to caring and growing the people you lead. Which quesitons do you need to starting asking today?