Shepherding Young Sheep

Shepherding God’s People Series:

  1. Shepherding God’s People – Overview
  2. Shepherding Weak Sheep
  3. Shepherding Sick Sheep
  4. Shepherding Broken Sheep
  5. Shepherding Lost Sheep
  6. Shepherding Scattered Sheep
  7. Shepherding Young Sheep
  8. Shepherding Standing Sheep

Zechariah 11:16 – Today we come to the Young sheep who are very vulnerable and impressionable. The pattern that is set for them in those early years of their newly found faith is usually characteristic of the rest of their Christian lives. So, getting off to a good start is vitally important. A newborn in the natural world needs lots of attention; parents who don’t provide such care are often accused by authorities of child neglect and/or other abuses. It’s really no different in the spiritual world. We need to take care of these young sheep.

Shepherd’s Responsibility Seek (or look after) the Young Sheep – This illustrates how I will give this nation a shepherd who will not care for those who are dying, nor look after the young, nor heal the injured, nor feed the healthy. Instead, this shepherd will eat the meat of the fattest sheep and tear off their hooves. – Zechariah 11:16

So, what do you do with Young Sheep? How do you effectively look after them?

1. Connect them with a disciple maker who will watch over their soul – Hebrews 13:17 tells us to Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.

A young sheep needs a mature believer to what after them, to take them under their wing (if I may mix my metaphors). Those who have been around the block with Jesus for a longer period of time need to invest into the young sheep so they can become mature in the faith. A shepherd watches over their soul, he doesn’t just teach them the Bible. Young sheep don’t know what they need to become mature so the shepherd must help them to understand the seriousness of their need for Christian maturity and how to get there.

As leaders in the group, we need to develop other leaders and shepherds who have a heart of compassion and also love discipleship enough to invest into these young sheep. Many times we can’t find such people since they were never properly discipled themselves. One cannot pass on that which they have never experienced, so the shepherd must teach people how to become shepherds and disciple makers.

2. Help them become acquainted casually with members of your small group. Get to know them outside the group before ever inviting them into the group. They cannot feel that they are your next discipleship project. They must know and feel that you are interested in them for who they are, not for who you desire them to become. This takes time, and patience, and time, and helping them make good choices, and time, and making regular contact with them, and did I mention time? This is what kills most discipleship relationship; we make it into a meeting and information transfer rather than sharing life together. Admittedly, this part is easier for extroverts than it is for us introverts, but we all must come to the conclusion that this part is extremely important.

3. Encourage them to attend your small group. As you share life together, let them meet your other friends in your group. They will have likely already been praying for your new discipleship relationship, so this is a natural next step. Encourage a social event for the group before gathering for a Bible study; ease them into being comfortable with your group, then talk about the benefits of having these friend involved in your life. I have recently been calling the men I meet with each Wednesday my “wise guys” because there is a lot of wisdom when we get in the same room together. I learn from them as we discuss life and pray for one another.

I like the idea of group evangelism, too. If your group is already praying for your new young sheep, it is natural that they will also desire to be invested in this evangelical relationship. The group may even seek to find ways to influence your young sheep toward a commitment to Christ.

4. Assess where they are in their spiritual journey. As you get to know your young sheep, you will constantly assess where they stand with Christ. Are they still in the pre-commitment stage? Have they crossed over into faith in Christ? Are they a new believer? Are they a scattered sheep who is not coming back into the fold? If this is the case, perhaps they are actually a young sheep because they were never properly discipled the first time. Try to understand their spiritual background, and their understanding of what it takes to go to heaven. Take about their devotional time and prayer life. The Bible talks about not judging people, but it is so important to assess where they are spiritually, sort of like being a fruit inspector. How are they displaying the fruit of the spirt in their life?  

5. Help them understand that they can not lose their salvation. If their profession was genuine, they are secure in Christ. They don’t have to wake up every morning wondering if they are saved. We don’t have to wonder if we lost our salvation since we still sin. We have eternal security. But that security is not a license to sin. Warn against those who might try to continue to sin knowing that Jesus will forgive? Let’s emphasize that grace is not cheap, it was costly, it cost the life of God’s unique Son, the sinless sacrifice sent to take away the sin of the world. They need assurance of their salvation; knowing they have received justification and are now on the road toward sanctification, becoming more like Jesus over a lifetime. Here are a few wonderful verses…

  • John 10:27-29; My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
  • Romans 8:38-39; For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:22; who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
  • Ephesians 1:13; In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
  • Ephesians 4:30; Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
  • Philippians 1:6; For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
  • 1 John 5:13; These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
  • Jude 1:1; …To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

6. Assist them in preparing their personal testimony. There is nothing like have a good story to share about what Jesus has done for us. A personal testimony is telling the story of what happened to them. It’s about how God has dealt with them, and how they responded to the message of the gospel. People will need to be able to share what they did to receive salvation and why this is so important to them. We like to share about the most important things that happen to us in life, and Jesus’ salvation is no exception.

Challenge them to write it out. Make it a concise as possible without churchy words that need a lot of clarification or explanation. Encourage them to make it long enough to cover the basics yet short enough to share at a bus stop, fast food line, or on an elevator.

Once they develop their story, help them work on God’s story, the actual plan of salvation. Help them use the Bible to walk someone through God Word, detailing God’s purpose, man’s problem, God’s provision, and man’s response. Their personal testimony and the plan of salvation are powerful tools in the arsenal of a follower of Jesus.

  • John 4:39; From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”
  • Revelation 12:11; And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

7. Invite them to submit to believer’s baptism. While baptism doesn’t save anyone, how can someone be saved without it? What I mean is this… since baptism is the first public act of obedience, how can we believe they are going to follow through in discipleship if they disobey this very first command?

The issue is not getting into the water, but identifying with the person of Christ, the message of Christ, the mission of Christ, and the body of Christ. A new believer has a new identity, they are a totally new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

  • Matthew 28:19; Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
  • Acts 10:48; And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11; Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

8. Inform them of the spiritual warfare that they will experience. – The World, The Flesh, and the Devil. Commitment to Christ brings a whole new set of challenges, namely that the enemy will bring on the attack. The devil will get them to question what they have done. He will cast doubt on the genuineness of their decision and commitment. He will remind them of their unworthiness to be saved and seek to accuse them before God of their evil. They need to understand spiritual warfare, that it is real, and that they can have victory in Jesus.  

  • 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
  • Galatians 5:16-24; talks about the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Ephesians 6:10-18; talks about the armor we have to be used in spiritual warfare.
  • Colossians 3:5-10; Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead… then Paul writes out a long list of the deeds of the flesh.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3; But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
  • 1 Peter 2:11; Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9; Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
  • James 1:13-16, 27; Here James writes about the temptation process and our downward spiral into destruction.
  • James 4:1-10; James write more about sin and then invites the reader to submit to God, draw near to him, resist the devil, and cleanse and purify your hearts.
  • 1 John 2:15-17; 4:4; John writes wise world about not loving the world and it’s pleasures, and resistance is possible because “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

9. Train them how to carry on a conversation with their new Heavenly Father. Prayer is so important, and we need to be connected to our source of strength. The disciples watched Jesus pray regularly and they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, so how much more will disciples today need to be taught how to pray. They need to know what it is, that it is connection to and communication with God. Prayer is about talking with God, not just talking to God. Prayer also involves listening to God. There are many times that we must simply be quiet in his presence and let his Holy Spirit speak to use through his Word and through prayer.

  • 1 Peter 2:2; like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

10. Help them to identify and experience a total deliverance from any strongholds in their lives. The enemy will continue to attack them using the strongholds that have been set up. Where are they the weakest? The enemy will use those weak points to bring them down and make them fall. He wants nothing less than to destroy the witness of the believer, and also the effectiveness of that witness. Taking thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ is so very important.

  • 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
  • 2 Timothy 2:22; Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart

11. Offer to evangelize their lost friends together. While the young sheep will have lost friends around him, their primary fellowship is the church. We need the new convert in the church to grow in their faith but also connected to his lost friends. Offer to help him reach his lost friends with the same gospel your new convert has embraced. We don’t need to send them out to battle on their own. Yes, the battle belongs to the Lord, but we are in this together and can help reach lost friend together. John 4 has an awesome lesson for reaching our circles of influence…

  • John 4:35-37; Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’

Related Topics:

Change Dynamics: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-6; John 8:32,36; Romans 8:2,28-29; 13:13-14; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 5:17; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 1:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 3:13 10:24-25; 2 Peter 1:5-8


Credit for the original teaching goes to my mentor, teacher, and friend, Rick Leineweber.

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