Developing Leaders: Young Leaders Training: Shepherds and Sheep

Contributed by: Charlie Baker, Diocese of Auckland

shepherdssheepS‘Shepherds and Sheep’ is a training session intended to be used with a group of young leaders. By looking at Jesus, the Good Shepherd, they will discover more about Christian leadership and how to care for their own ‘sheep’.


If appropriate, you could share briefly about how you became a youth leader.

Say: “Often when we start out in leadership, we are invited to do a leadership task – for example, lead an icebreaker or do a 5 minute talk. Our view of someone who leads is the person who’s up the front, getting the job done. However leadership is less about the ‘up front’ stuff, and more about people – caring for people, helping people, leading people to Jesus.”

If appropriate, you might like to add: “Being a youth leader is far more about relationships than I had first realised.”

Large Group Teaching: People need a leader who cares for them

Read Matt 9:35-37 (NIV):  “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.””

Jesus saw that the people needed a leader who cared for them, like a shepherd cares for his sheep. That was the kind of leader he was, and that’s the kind of leader he invites us to be too.

Display an image of a kiwi farmer rounding up his sheep. Say: This is what we think of when we talk about shepherds and sheep (you may like to expand on this, e.g. talk briefly about how the farmer uses a sheepdog, farm bike etc)

Then display an image of a Middle Eastern shepherd. Say: However this is the kind of shepherd that Jesus had in mind.

Shepherding in Jesus’ world was quite different from how it is in NZ. It’s actually far more like looking after a pet. You might like to invite people to share what they do to look after their pet(s).

Talk about caring for a dog and what they need, including:

  • Essentials to live: Food and water, shelter
  • Quality of life: Exercise and play, keep them mentally stimulated
  • Pre-emptive care: thinking ahead, keeping them safe
  • Obedience training: knowing and becoming tuned into owner’s voice

Shepherding in the Bible is a bit like that. The Middle Eastern shepherd:

  • personally leads the sheep,
  • walks ahead of them,
  • finds them food and water,
  • looks out for danger,
  • finds a place of safety each night,
  • puts themselves in the front line of danger.

Jesus described himself as being that kind of shepherd.

Small Group Discussion: Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Read John 10:1-18

Break into 5 pairs or small groups and assign each group one of these sections of the passage: verses 1-5, 7-10, 11-13, 14-18.

Ask the groups to re-read their assigned verses, and discuss: According to these verses, what does Jesus as the Good Shepherd do for us? Encourage them to describe it in their own words and unpack the metaphors e.g. who or what are the thieves?

Get each pair/group to write their responses on large pieces of paper. Gather back together to share their findings with the rest of the group.

Get back into the pairs/small groups, to discuss the following:

1. The shepherd knows each of his sheep individually and they know him too:

  1. How well do you know the people you are leading?
  2. How well do they know you?
  3. How can you get to know them better?

2. The shepherd leads them to places where they will have food and water:

  1. What do people need to be ‘fed’ with to grow and thrive spiritually?

3. The shepherd walks ahead and they follow:

  1. How can we lead the way?

4. They protect their sheep from danger:

  1. What are some of the “dangers” people face?
  2. How can a leader protect them?

Personal Exercise: My Sheep

Give each person a sheet of paper printed with the following questions. Give them time to silently fill out their responses.

  • Draw a picture of a sheep.
  • Think of a person you lead. Write their name on/beneath the sheep.
  • How well do you know them?
  • How can you get to know them better?
  • What do they need in order to grow and thrive?
  • How can you lead them there?
  • What dangers are they facing?
  • What can you do to help protect them?
  • Pray for them by name.

When they have finished, they may like to share their responses with a partner, and finish by praying together.