Mar 18

A Shepherd Leader

photoThis is Ernie.  I recently met Ernie and have quickly developed a friendly rapport with him.  He is in his mid-eighties, and has been leading a Saturday Morning Men’s Breakfast for years.  Once a month Ernie gathers with a group of men for community, study and food.   Here is the incredible part of Ernie’s story.  The men who regularly attend the breakfast are former kids who were in his Youth Ministry sixty years ago.  For the last sixty years, Ernie has walked alongside those who were entrusted to his care so long ago.  He has been with them through graduations, job transitions, marriages, and children, good times and bad.  He continues to pray for them, feed them, care for them and walk with them even as they have now become grandparents themselves.  As I heard Ernie’s story, I couldn’t help but think of the legacy and commitment that Ernie has made to the group of men he still meets with.  I think it is safe to say that Ernie is one of the oldest volunteer youth workers in New England.

In Tim Witmer’s book, “The Shepherd Leader”, he gives a clear distinction between the metaphor of a father and the metaphor of a shepherd.  Witmer writes:

Children grow up and become less dependent on their earthly fathers, though the relationship continues.  Sheep, on the other hand, are always completely dependent on their shepherd.  They never outgrow their need for the shepherd to care for them, feed them, lead them and protect them.  The shepherd cares for the newborn lambs and is still there when the sheep grow old and weak.

Lately I have been thinking about what the modern-day ministry-metaphor for the shepherd would be.  At one point I came to the conclusion that parenting was probably the most accurate translation for today.  After reading Witmer’s distinction, I have come to the conclusion there really isn’t an alternative translation for our day.  Disciples need life-long care just as sheep need life-long care.  How one administers care may change, or the frequency of care may may change as well, but there is still an opportunity to be a shepherd over the course of their life.  Ernie’s example and story is a beautiful image of what life-long shepherding looks like.

For those who minister to children, students, families, or adults, whether paid or volunteer, our role as a shepherd does not cease to exist just because they move on to another grade level, graduate from a program or move away.  As a Shepherd Leader, there is a distinct opportunity to continue to care, pray, and invest in your “flock”.  Surely other pastors and shepherds will come alongside them and will be the primary shepherd in their life, but don’t miss out on the blessing of being a life-long shepherd leader.

May the inspiration and model of Ernie’s dedication and commitment to shepherding be something we strive for.




  • Beverly Brown

    Well said and very true. Thanks for highlighting Ernie’s story.