Ministry is a piece of cake when things are going right. But sometimes things go wrong, very wrong. Every leader of children's ministry is a shepherd. Sometimes we shepherd children and youth, and sometimes we shepherd adults who work with them. I've been privileged to observe, though from a distance, two of my friends as they shepherd through the storm. I've learned a lot about caring for wounded sheep. I've changed the names and some of the details as these are real sheep in a real flock, being shepherded by heroic shepherds.
I've known Jeff for many years He was a faithful worker in his church's children's department. My friends oversee the ministry in which he served. Jeff touched many young lives with his authenticity, his transparency, and his love for Jesus. But Jeff struggled with issues that I have a hard time understanding. He controlled mental diseases and depression with medication and counseling. No one knows the inner battles Jeff fought. Sometimes his situation made ministry difficult.
My friend Bill provided an opportunity for Jeff to minister. Some would have found other people to fill Jeff's role. It is easier to shepherd healthy sheep. But Bill loves all of his sheep. Tragically, and suddenly, Jeff's life ended, and far too soon, He is now with Jesus, whom he loved so much.
Any shepherd can watch the flock in good weather. Not all stand up under the storm. Bill and his wife Mandy are faithful shepherds. They put the business of ministry aside to minister to Jeff's wife. They did all they could to comfort and support. They continue to make a place for her to serve and feel connected. They remember to pray for Judy on Saturdays, the one day of the week that she is home alone without work or church to keep her busy.
I learned from watching Bill & Mandy, that shepherding well will cost you a piece of your heart. I also learned that it is worth it. Ministry is about people. It is not about buildings, cool murals on the wall, or the latest app for checking kids into the nursery. None of those things last forever, but people do.
Take a moment this week to take inventory of your ministry. Are you shepherding your flock, or using them as tools in a ministry machine? Do the people matter as much as the mechanics of ministry? What about the sheep who have stepped out of your flock, like the elderly lady who can no longer teach Sunday school, or the young mom of two toddlers that needed a break? Who is shepherding them? Who is caring for them?
At the end of the day, may God find us to be good shepherds who shepherd well, even in the storm. Jesus, our Good Shepherd did, and still does for us.
Psalm 23 - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.