Dealing with Rancher and Shepherd Issues

Dealing with Rancher and Shepherd Issues
By Carl F. George


Q: The “200 Barrier” seminar teaches that church growth is more likely to result from ranching than from shepherding. How can I know if I’m still functioning as a shepherd?

A: Our field observations indicate that 90 to 950: of pastors begin their ministry as a shepherd. Here are the most common characteristics:

Primary Caregiving. They try to be the major care provider for the entire church. When they come amiss a need they ask,”How will I meet it?”

Overestimated Significance. The spotlight on their crisis intervention, hospital calls and other pastoral acts prevents them from seeing the support roles essential to effective care.

It’s one thing, for example, when a pastor breaks the news to a church member that her husband has died. It’s another for friends and relatives to live with that widow through the two years of grieving necessary to surrender her spouse to death. The true care heroes are those who supply the enormous amounts of required aftercare.

Expectation Drivenness. They attempt to meet all expectations by being omnipresent. They feel bound to attend every committee meeting or program lest they hear the disappointing news: “It just wasn’t the same without you.” They’ve created a dependency syndrome!

Availability. They think in terms of “How can I be more accessible to the church?” Many problems in the parsonage stem fron this attitude; being ever on call means being less available to one’s own family.

Performance. Their motto is “Watch me assure these hospital patients that I’ll be back as soon as visiting hours allow it.” In other words. “Watch me do ministry.”

Role Comfort. Although they work to the limit of their time and energy, they don’t ask for a greater vision than what they can do by themselves. They may be tired. but they’re happy: “I’m so grateful to be needed!”

In their rituals of being economical,efficient and consistent, they don’t ask uncomfortable questions about whether a different path would lead to greater effectiveness.

Poor Delegating. When they delegate, they tend to specify methods not outcomes. Progress becomes bottlenecked because they fail to fill a manager’s role. They attract people willing to forward the pastor’s agenda, rather than contribute their own. Then they lament the absence of “real leaders” in their congregations.

Poor Planning. If they do plan, it’s en route to doing. Their inadequate delegation leads to a shortfall of help which, in turn, leads to doing ministry by themselves. Caught in such a cycle. they regularly bypass the milestones at which others might join the work.

Individualism. They tend to see the church in terms of individuals like Mary, Anthony, and Linda. Thus, rather than visualizing ministry through the perspective of a work force, they perceive it as something to be negotiated through their relationships with specific persons.

Ignorance of Trends. Shepherds live in the now of experience. Their assessment of how things are going derives more from whether there were any disagreeable encounters in the last few hours than from reflection on worship trends. giving patterns or achievement of church goals.

They don’t correlate forecasts with needed action. They sit, waiting and watching as changes occur, unaware of the significance because they’re so busy ministering nose-to-nose with the sheep.

Can shepherds become ranchers? Usually, if they want to, and if they deal with their codependency issues. Unless such pastors are convinced that they are already fulfilling all God is calling them to become, I urge them to carefully and incrementally revise their behavior in favor of a more effective set of skills, feelings, perceptions and behavior


“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

Article “Dealing with Rancher and Shepherd Issues” excerpted from “The Pastor’s Update”. By Carl F. George.