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Feed My Sheep

I found myself wrestling with a major ministry decision. I was sitting in a very peaceful location by a small lake of water in a wonderful atmosphere, but in my soul, I was far from being at peace. I was grappling over a big decision. Being highly analytical,  I was making my list of why I should or should not take the step laid before me. Finally, I set down my journal and got up from the table I was sitting at and took a walk. I had taken walks previously around this same lake, but this one was different. Instead of analyzing and wrestling, I simply said, “Lord, Jesus, let’s take a walk”. Within the first 10 steps I asked the Lord about this decision. In the time it would take to lift one foot and put it back down, He spoke to my heart (not audibly, but through His Spirit). The words short and simple yet profound, He simply said, “Feed my sheep”. Wow! He answered quickly and clearly. Of course, I then said, “but what about this area or that area?” Nothing…just “Feed my sheep”. I got it, plain and simple but profound and powerful:

Feed my sheep.

I have been following the steps to answer this call in my life. As I have been taking these steps, He has been teaching me that these three words are each critical in what I do and what you get to do in youth ministry. Let us look at each of these key words and their impact individually.

Feed My Sheep

When I think of food I can list all the things I like and do not like. Some are good for me, some are not so good for me. Allow me to contrast two extremes: candy and meat.

Candy is not a healthy food. Yes it can sustain you for a little while, but usually it has little or no significant nutritional value. Oh, I like candy; in fact there are some chocolates that I love. But, I cannot live by candy alone. In contrast meat is sustaining and provides key nutrients and proteins that not only sustain us but also make us strong. Meats and proteins are critical to a healthy physical and spiritual diet.

The Bible speaks about meat and it compares it against milk several times in the New Testament. Milk is for babies mainly. We do not need milk as adults. However, meat is not best for babies, as they cannot chew it.

Hebrews 5:12–14 speaks of teachers who need to go back to the infantile milk. I do not want to be in that list nor would I want those in my care to be singled out as ones not mature. Jesus also talked about spiritual food and feeding in John 6:35-58, where He is the bread of life.

So allow me to ask the hard questions: “Are you feeding the youth in your group Christian candy (what makes them feel good, but that is not sustaining)? Or are you feeding them the pure meat and bread of the Word, even Jesus Christ?”

I know you have different levels of youth in regards to spiritual maturity, but you should be able to move part or most of your group to a meat and bread level (the growth level and ministry and leadership).

One way to consider this is to use more expository preaching and teaching. Expository teaching is a style where you dig into a given bible passage/section to see what it says (like our Bible Study Methods of Level 2 trainings), then exposing that truth through teaching that Biblical truth. This helps us as teachers to not teach topically, which is very risky. In contrast, topical teaching is where we start with an idea or topic and find or place passages to back up that topic. You and I can make the Bible say anything we want by picking passages from different locations, but going verse by verse protects the truth of the Word and insures that you and those you lead will be exposed to and wrestle with the deep truths of Scripture.

FeedMy Sheep

It is important as shepherds to remember who the sheep belong to. When we think the ministry or those in it are ours versus His, we stand in need of correction. It is a delicate balance between caring for and about others versus thinking they are ours.

This sense of too much ownership can burn you out. We cannot do ministry on our own. He has to do the work in His sheep. Scripture says in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing,that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Never forget that the youth are His, not yours.

Feed MySheep

If you have this idea that working with pretty, clean, lovable, “white as snow” sheep is going to be so nice and fun, think again. First, I remember that I am a sheep, and though I can display fruits of the Spirit and be lovable by others, it is not naturally easy to be in that state. In fact, all of us as sheep are smelly, disease-prone, full of bugs, sores and blemishes. Without the ointment of Christ, the Good Shepherd, we are simple animals headed over a cliff. Shepherding sheep requires getting in the dirt and stink and laying down our life, as mentioned in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

The number one role of any minister is to be a shepherd of sheep. We would say yes to that statement when it comes to a pastor, but we may not always think of ourselves in youth ministry as shepherds. We are not to be an activity director, babysitter, janitor, transportation guide, fund raiser, trip coordinator, teacher or counselor. Yes, we do these things, but our main goal should always be to shepherd. Shepherding involves the spiritual feeding, leading, guiding and directing of people toward Christ. Without that key element we are no different than any other social agency.

In ministry with youth, you have a higher calling from Christ, the living Savior and Shepherd, a calling to “Feed My Sheep.”

I am not sure where you are with this area of ministry. Maybe you read this today feeling like Peter did in John 21 when he received this calling and command. Peter was feeling inadequate and probably guilty as well. He had recently denied Jesus in public prior to the crucifixion. He not only denied him, but lied about it and ended up swearing as well (Matthew 26:69–75). If you are like Peter, feeling guilty and inadequate, come to Christ, the loving shepherd. Allow Him to care for you personally before you worry about the youth in your care. What the youth in your group needs is a healthy you.

Maybe you are healthy in your walk with Christ, but you have been or are now sensing that the Lord is asking you to stop offering candy and to begin offering meat to those in your care. I am convinced that we sell short or make it too easy for people these days. People and especially youth are up for challenges. Through countless sacrifices, youth excel in sports, they do great things in education and they do great things in industry. So why would we allow them to remain spiritual babies while at the same time have adult-like responsibilities in many other areas of life?

The Good Shepherd will soon call each of us by name to be with Him. I want to hear Him say well done my faithful sheep shepherd. How about you?

Chris Davis
Global Youth Ministry Network

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