I’ve coached just about every baseball, soccer, football, and hockey team my kids have been part of. When I was tapped on the shoulder to coach my 12-year-old daughter’s soccer team, I knew very little about soccer. Though I felt unqualified, I committed to coach for the season. And as I coached, I learned more about the game because I had to teach others. Coaching my daughter and her friends was great fun. Often I forgot about my uneasiness associated with being a first-time soccer coach.
It’s the same when we coach people in our small groups to become shepherds—something we’re still learning ourselves. We might be hesitant at first, but when we jump in, we become caught up in the excitement of the process. But in order to be this type of coach, we need to recognize that if somebody hadn’t tapped us the shoulder to lead, we wouldn’t be leading.
It’s our turn now to tap others on the shoulder to become leaders. The acrostic COACH outlines how we should train others to become shepherds.
1. CAST God’s vision for the harvest. Jesus stood up on a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem and saw the people were like sheep without a shepherd. They were distressed and downcast, and he had compassion for them. He wept that there were not enough shepherds for his sheep. He then said, “Pray to the Lord for the harvest to send forth workers.” Notice, he prayed for workers, not leaders or teachers. Your job is to cast the vision that God calls all of us to work for His harvest.
One of the best ways to do this is to have your group take a health assessment. It brings a natural sense of conviction and clarity of God’s purposes, especially evangelism. Then have them set a goal of reaching one person. Your job is to emphasize we’re not only called to do life together, but we’re also called to evangelize together.
2. OFFER simple ways for people to grow as shepherds. To “show up” as their leader weekly is the number one training instrument. That means you earnestly care about them, call them when they are absent, send them an encouraging note. You don’t act like a
Bible-thumping theologian—you demonstrate what a functional shepherd is. They see your heart. They realize they can do it too.
Another way to grow shepherds in your circle is to rotate leadership each week. That allows others to experience how easy it is to host a small group. It not only takes a load of responsibility off of you, it’ll also be more enjoyable for everyone. Also, after the teaching session, break people down into smaller discussion groups. From these groups natural leaders will emerge. Make sure you give these individuals feedback, to grow their confidence and guide them in areas where they need to grow.
3. ACTIVELY pray together. The Bible says, “Pray to the Lord of the Harvest.” Regularly pray with your group about who to connect with and invite to the group and church. When you pray for unconnected and un-churched friends, God will reveal whom you should reach. Make sure you share those God brings to mind and how you plant to connect with these people. Always encourage them to be thinking and praying about their circle of life.
4. CHALLENGE them to follow God’s call, just as you did. Say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” It’s easier that way because you’ve already moved through seeker to student in Christ, to servant of Christ, to shepherd for Christ.
Then ask individuals to identify individuals they feel God wants them to do life together with for a short season. Challenge them to invite these individuals to a short 6-week starter study. If members aren’t ready to do this alone, urge them to follow Jesus’ model
and pair up. Remind them that the twelve disciples didn’t stay in the upper room, and we can’t stay in our living room. The rest of the world needs to be reached.
5. HELP them as they step out in faith. Emphasize to your group that we intentionally need to choose to evangelize, because it doesn’t come as easily as fellowship, ministry, and discipleship. Because of the reluctance to evangelize, you need to help them reach
When Jesus told the disciples he would be leaving, the disciples didn’t understand what their role would be. At first, your group members will respond the same way. They’ll say, “We are connected, and now you’re trying to split us up?” In response say, “No,
we’re enlarging your circle.” Don’t threaten them or scare them, but remind them God calls us to do this, and it’s healthy.
Best-selling Christian writer Chuck Swindoll said, “If you want to grow in your walk with Christ, then put yourself in a responsibility to shepherd one or two.” It doesn’t have to be a few hundred. And do it together. Hard things are done better together. Remember
those men that went to great lengths to lower their paralyzed friend through the roof to sit at the Master’s feet. His life was changed, and we want you to see changed lives as well.