As a youth pastor or worker, you are a shepherd! To some this may seem to be a revolutionary statement because normally that ‘S’ word is only given to the senior or lead pastor of a church. But rest assured, according to the definition found in Webster’s Dictionary, you are a Shepherd!
As a Shepherd you take care of sheep and lambs. You protect them, guide them and lead them with wise, spiritual direction. In the good days, and sometimes even for months, you are privileged to hear the sheep peacefully grazing in the green pastures that you continue to lead them to. You hear the sweet song of their “baa’s” in the background as you continue to count 1,2,3,4… 95,96,97 sheep a grazin’ and so on. It’s good days in ministry.
If only we could live in the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ days forever.
Eventually days come when the sheep get very protective of their lambs. You may not have led the lamb to the exact spot the ewe (female sheep) was hoping for. Or you may have had to use your staff a little too often on a particular lamb and the ram (papa sheep) is a little angry. Or you had to have a chat with a sheep because they are letting their lamb wander off the path a little too much and they don’t seem to notice. This list could go on and I am sure you have many examples of these situations of your own. But regardless, your sheep are getting a little testy and they are starting to bite and they are holding on until it begins to hurt. The ‘valley’ has arrived.
So how do you handle biting sheep? Here are a few suggestions that may help…
Stop reacting and trying to shake the sheep off your leg. The more you try to shake it off the harder the bite will be. Stand still! Stop moving! Assess the pain and then determine what to do next. So often when times get tough we have the knee-jerk reaction and respond in ways that will only make the situation even worse. By our fast reactions we only cause more pain. So stop shaking and assess the situation.
Get to know the sheep. Did you know that sheep do not have teeth in their upper front jaw? It is so important to understand the Rams and Ewes that are biting you. Take some time to understand their situation. They are the parents and they are protective of their lambs. Perhaps there is something you did along the way that did not meet expectations – lack of communication, overstepping your boundaries, etc. Take some time to walk a little in their shoes to see if you can understand where they might be coming from.
Take a look at the flock. Are there others within the flock that might be feeling the same way or is this just one sheep’s perspective on the situation? If there are more looking agitated about the situation it might determine how you should respond. If it’s just this one particular Ewe or Ram, it may just be an isolated case that can easily be fixed before the wound gets too deep. Lift your head up and take a look around.
Talk to other Shepherds. Chances are, what you are dealing with, others have dealt with before you. Talk to your lead pastor or other youth pastors in the area and get their opinions and advice on the situation. Never be too proud of a shepherd to ask for advice on how to shepherd more wisely. There is always room for trimming and growth.
Take the Sheep aside. Sometimes it’s best when they seem to have a hold on you to take them aside and in a gentle, Christ-like manner, talk with them about the situation. Acknowledge your faults and express your desire to come to some sort of resolution before word gets around to the other sheep. Gossip among sheep could be the end of a healthy flock. Keep in mind that both you and the Sheep are looking out for the best interest of the lamb.
Once the grip is released… Pray with the Sheep! This is a wonderful time of healing for both the shepherd and the sheep. Pray for each other, pray for the lambs, pray for forgiveness, pray for healing. Depending on how deep the bite, there may always be a scar but through the grace of God, you can move forward together.
And keep in mind that sheep are one of the dumbest animals out there. Before you lord your ‘shepherdness’ over the sheep in your flock, remember, you too are a sheep. You are a sheep to the Great Shepherd Himself.
In summary, to help avoid the deep scars of biting sheep, study the Great Shepherd’s model of shepherding. He mastered it! You have the privilege of being part of His flock. The grass is not greener in other pastures. It’s time to stop looking around at all the other things in life that look so glitzy and appetizing. It’s time to look UP in humble servanthood ready to serve as a shepherd to the flock that He has entrusted to you.
So grab your shepherd’s staff and lead your flock down the path of righteousness. Enjoy the journey.