The Heart Behind Shepherding

March 11, 2020

By: Jake Maresh

A couple years ago, I began serving Grace Bible Church as a volunteer worship leader on one of
our youth stages. I had been leading worship for a while, but this was the first time I would be
leading regularly for a group of people who were essentially strangers. What I didn’t initially
realize was how much of an impact this chasm would have on my ability to lead. It seemed that
each Sunday was harder than the Sunday before, and week after week I struggled to inspire any
sort of response from my congregation. I tried to mix up my song choice and change the liturgy,
hoping that it was a simple fix — but nothing seemed to work and I couldn’t figure out why.

During my senior year of college, I served as the male staff development executive in a non-
profit parachurch ministry. I knew the majority of the people on our staff, partly because it was
my responsibility, but also because I had built relationships with them. My counterpart and I
worked hard to know each and every staff member so that we could effectively lead meetings,
teach curriculum, and counsel them when issues arose. When I was asked to lead worship at
one of our staff retreats, I found it incredibly easy to plan. Not only that, but the actual
execution seemed effortless, and the response of the congregation blew me away.

Why were these two experiences so different? What did I do differently?

The answer is simple: I had invested time and built relationships with the people in my
organization, but did not make a comparable effort with the youth students that I was leading. I
had been a good shepherd to one flock and left the others to wander aimlessly. It had almost
nothing to do with the composition of people in the room, but everything to do with the work I
had put in before I stepped on stage. The heart behind shepherding is this: the more you get to
know what is going on in the hearts of your people, the better equipped you become to point
them towards Christ in worship. In order to effectively speak into their lives, we must first be a
part of their lives. Jesus is our perfect example of this as we can see in John 10 where He says

“I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and
I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10: 14-15 (ESV)).

Are you frustrated because you feel like you’ve put all the pieces together, but you’re still
finding it difficult to connect with your congregation? I would encourage you to evaluate how
you’ve been caring for your people. Can you truly say that you know your them and you’re
laying your life down for them? It can be easy to get comfortable with the idea of just singing or
playing music for faces in a crowd. But when you take a step back and remember that you are
leading eternal souls to connect with their Creator, it will radically transform the way you
interact with your people.