Psalm 23:1a-2 I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Sheep are needy creatures. They suffer from an abundance of physical problems. Ticks, lice and other parasites constantly infest their coats and feed on their skin. Internally worms and other ailments disrupt their digestive system, throat, lungs and brain. Social problems lurk in wolves and other predators that attack isolated sheep or the entire flock. Finally, there is the problem of meeting their daily nutritional needs. Appropriate vegetation can become scarce and a good water source can be hard to come by at certain times of the year. Their needs are great.
A flock that was able to eat, rest and have all their needs met would be more productive and satisfied with their lives. Humans have similar problems and needs. Learning about the people around you will help you understand more about their minds, hearts, hopes and fears. Money is a need for everyone, but not always the leading need that motivates people.
Reframing the focus of leadership to understanding the needs of others and helping to meet them is critical to shepherding. You can begin by nurturing a few common attributes of a shepherd: patience, discernment, persistence, diligence, and care. Offering to teach people to manage their finances, sending a birthday card, offering words of praise and comfort, or offering help in other areas contribute to meeting the life needs of others. When our needs are met we are less stressed and more able to perform our roles in life with energy and interest.
“If, over time, a leader and a follower cannot get in sync and the follower’s needs cannot be met, the follower should leave, either voluntarily or by invitation of the boss... A sheep that is consistently unhappy or disaffected has a negative impact on the shepherd and the rest of the flock and should be given a chance to find happiness elsewhere. In almost every case, such a move is best for the sheep as well as for the shepherd and flock that is left behind.” (Shepherd Leadership, pg. 17)