If you had picked up a penny on the ground in 2009, you could have won unlimited pizza for dinner. Seriously. CiCi’s Pizza dropped one million pennies in public places around their restaurants. On the flip side of Abraham Lincoln was a sticker with coupons to items on their menu. The Penny Picker Upper promotion existed to honor their frugal customers, but we can learn a valuable lesson from the campaign: It’s rewarding to discover both sides of the coin.
In the previous article, “Do you Know Your Flock,” we discussed the importance of knowing your volunteers. It was clear that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was intentional about getting to know his disciples beyond their ministry accomplishments. Therefore, to be good leaders, we must also know our flock (volunteers).
But if you read Jesus’ proclamation, you will notice two sides to being a good shepherd. First, he says about His sheep, “I know my own ” emphasizing His knowledge of them. But he does not stop there. He continues, “And My own know Me,” highlighting their knowledge of Him. It’s a mutual relationship. Jesus knows His sheep; but also, they know Him. Jesus did not simply offer His service; He offered his entire being.
Volunteers need you to care for their lives and share your own.
You might be thinking, I can’t be a good shepherd … He’s Jesus! That’s not fair. He could do miracles — like walking on water and keeping 12 close friends in His 30s! But we are supposed to imitate Him, not just admire Him. Or put another way: We were not created to merely like Jesus. We were created to be like Jesus.
When God created humanity, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Paul writes that because of the new life available through Jesus, you can “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Do you see the connection? We were created to be like the Good Shepherd and minister like He does.
As ministry leaders, it is tempting to have it all together (or at least pretend like we do). People are looking for direction, and we want to be strong enough to provide for them. However, if we let our volunteers know us, they will quickly discover we do not have it all together. Craig Groeschel said, “We may impress people with our strengths, but we connect through our weaknesses.”
When Jesus was facing death, He took three disciples and “began to be sorrowful and troubled,” telling them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” He could have said, “I’m going to get some air! I’ll be right back.” Yet he was honest with them instead because the Good Shepherd wanted His sheep to know Him. It was a mutual relationship.
But that’s Jesus. What does it mean to share your life with volunteers? Here are a few practical things to keep in mind:
1. Stop keeping your “personal relationship with Jesus” so personal.
Although the intentions are good, believers frequently keep their spiritual life in a private manner. Perhaps they do not want to seem holier than thou, or maybe they do not want to be vulnerable about their conversations with God. Unfortunately, it’s uncommon to hear someone talk about their recent experiences with God. I’m not suggesting a “look at me” attitude, but rather “look at God” through me.
It can be helpful to let your volunteers know about the books you’re reading, podcasts you’re listening to, Scripture you’re studying and prayers you’re praying. Or maybe it’s a difficult season, and you’re not doing anything — let them know that, too. Whether you realize it or not, your volunteers are watching you as they attempt to follow Jesus. They don’t need to be perfect, but they do need you to be honest. A flock needs to know its shepherd.
2. Start letting your personality display through your profession.
In ancient Israel, the shepherd cared for the sheep around the clock, which means they got to see the good days and the didn’t-have-time-for-coffee days. As ministry leaders, it can be easy to be a particular person Sunday morning. But a good shepherd lets their flock see the authentic, behind-the-scenes version, too. Open a door into your personality for your volunteers by wearing your favorite sports apparel, bringing up the last show you binged on Netflix or inviting your kid to the next leader meeting.
So let me offer a simple invitation from Jesus:
Feed my sheep.
Caleb Brown is a husband, father, teacher, and writer. He holds a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation from Liberty University, a Master of Arts in Ministry from Lincoln Christian University, and a Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership from Lee University.