Some of my students hear “shepherding,” and they think of pastoral care like hospital visitation, crisis counseling, and one-on-one discipleship. They don’t often think about shepherding from the pulpit; in fact, they practically separate shepherding from the preaching event. I’m convinced, though, that we can shepherd from the pulpit. Here are some ways to do so:
- Teach the Word. This one’s basic, but it’s critical. Simply teaching the Word with clear application is a primary way of shepherding from the pulpit. Your church members can experience care, conviction, and comfort under intentional teaching of the Bible.
- Pray for your congregation. And, don’t do it just because it’s that point in the order of service. Lovingly and passionately intercede for your church members from the pulpit. That podium may be your platform, but your eyes are directed toward heaven on behalf of the people you lead.
- Help them see how the Word applies to their lives. Most of us don’t automatically and quickly think, “I should apply that truth in this area of my life” when we hear a sermon. A wise shepherd will help his church family see where the Word of God applies to their lives.
- Say “thank you” to faithful servants. A face-to-face “thank you” is always good, but it’s also good to thank your church’s faithful workers publicly. A gracious expression of gratitude from the pastor can go a long way in encouraging workers to continue to serve well.
- Laugh with your people, not at them. I’m not opposed to humor in the pulpit (see this post for my thoughts), but our church members shouldn’t be the butt of our humor. I’ve not heard it happen often, but I have heard pastors who almost ridicule someone they love in order to gain a laugh.
- Be wisely vulnerable. Your church needs to know you’re human. They want to know that you understand their struggles and battles. Don’t be afraid to be honest about yourself from the pulpit—but do it wisely. Too much vulnerability can make it seem like you always live in defeat.
- Affirm your family from the pulpit. My guess is that somebody’s watching to see how you love your spouse and how you raise your children. Use the pulpit to honor your family—not to use them as sources of humor. Continually affirm them, beginning with your spouse. Model for your congregation a commitment to respect and care for your family.
- Speak to the children in the congregation. Draw them in with phrases like, “Boys and girls, I want to tell you a story—and we’ll let your moms and dads listen to it, too.” Use illustrations that the children will understand. Your church family will feel shepherded if their kids are learning to love you, even from your time in the pulpit.
- Look them in the eye. It’s hard to shepherd people from the pulpit when they see only the top of your head as you read your manuscript. Know your material well enough that you can maintain good eye contact throughout the sermon. Talk to your congregation. Look straight at them, and teach them. Challenge them. Forgive them.
- Tell your congregation you love them. Genuinely felt words of love from their pastor can be powerful for a church body. Few people can speak and encourage with the force and influence of a local church pastor.
What other ways might you shepherd your church from the pulpit?