Here's a compilation of advice from an older forum on the topic of "Do We Need Shepherds?" and "What Do Shepherds Do?"
Member Kate wrote:
Our workshop leaders are more consistent than the shepherd have turned out to be. So the workshop leaders have taken on some of what were shepherd duties.
I've also found that in OUR church, the shepherds are the hardest to recruit and depend on. I would like to do less recruiting and changing around every week, but our Child Protection Policy requires two background checked adults in every room.
I am fortunate to have Workshop Leaders who are amazing! Better than I could have ever wished for!
Member Judi wrote:
We use shepherds ... not as well as we probably should ... but we've found that they are PARTICULARLY EFFECTIVE helping work one-on-one with the restless children in the groups.
We've also learned that the "shepherding" experience is as valuable to the shepherds as to the children. One lady in her early 70's is unable to move about easily and so she takes our attendance and talks quietly with each child as they come in each morning. The joy that this brings to her radiates on her face and in her enthusiasm. She has found an important reason for coming to Sunday School!
Member CR-R wrote:
Shepherds are an integral part of our workshop rotation church school program! They are the constant in an otherwise changing program.
They meet with their flock at the beginning of the hour, take attendance, ask for joys and concerns, talk about last week's lesson, handout nametags and passports (stamped each week at the various workshops), collect offering, send birthday and "We miss you!" post cards, and assist with classroom management.
Also, because this is such a great position, despite the fact that we recruit shepherds for the full year, it is easy to fill!
Finally, our shepherds wear simple muslin robes and carry walking sticks. It helps them "get into" their special role, signals to other adults the special quality of our program, and adds a flair of fun to the kids.
Member Amy Crane wrote:
We have two Shepherds for each age level and they are "on" one rotation, off the next, but trade with each other when they can't be there on a Sunday which they are scheduled for.
Our Shepherds also help keep our commitment to "TWO ADULTS PER CLASS."
We are following the safety rule of at least two adults in each classroom, so the teacher job has been divided between the Workshop Leader, who delivers the content each week in a specific workshop, and the Shepherd.
The Shepherd welcomes regulars and visitors during our "buckets of fun" time (from 10:30 to official start of class at 10:45 they gather with their group and the Workshop Leader for that week on a specific colored blanket for their group and play games (Kerplunk, simple card games, marble trail, jigsaw puzzle, don't break the ice, etc.) and chat informally.
During the "lesson time" they help with discipline and act as an extra person directing activities and helping with projects. The last 15 minutes of the class is "Shepherd Time." This is where the lesson is reflected upon and life application is most often discussed. When we began rotation a year ago, Shepherd Time was always a journaling activity. Now we write the plans so it is journaling about half the time and talking and thinking and praying the other weeks. Unfortunately, I tend to write long lessons (can you tell I am long winded? -- and some Workshop Leaders are not good at cutting their part short so the Shepherds can do their thing.
The area where we need to improve is getting rosters to the Shepherds so they can do the birthday cards and we missed you cards. (My daughter's Shepherds go the extra mile and somehow got that info anyway and have sent her Christmas and Birthday cards, which were very well recieved -- she's in second grade, but I think kids any age love getting mail.)
Member Sheila wrote:
we find that our Shepherds are particularly important with the YOUNGER GRADES, especially when it comes to taking a kid to the bathroom.
Member Chris wrote:
We use shepherds, but are considering re-evaluating a bit.
Last year we did our 5th-6th group without a shepherd, and that worked great, but wouldn't work for all classes.
We are thinking of having shepherds full time for all groups until Christmas, then using them only for the younger groups, or for workshops that are more demanding.
We do have a core of people that are happy to be there every week, but don't want the prep work of a workshop leader, so it fills a niche for them.
Our shepherds don't have much for specific duties. They take attendance, and are supposed to coordinate the snacks for the classes. They are present for opening music and help get kids settled down for that. They do help some with discipline in the more problematic groups, and help with things like bathroom trips and spill cleanup in the preschool group. We've tried having them do the closing prayer, or handing out the take home pages, but it just seems that works better for the workshop leader to do.
The year we had a group of 12 4-year-olds rotating, we had two shepherds which was quite helpful.
Member Karen wrote:
- Make a minimum 3 month (sometimes longer) commitment to an age group
- Come to our monthly Bible study/meeting before each month's new lesson begins
- Greet kids as they arrive (we meet together in a gathering area before going to workshops)
- Take attendance
- Actively participate with the kids
- Help kids with monthly Bible memory verse, are the ones who the kids tell it to when they know it
- Are the main disciplinarians
- Make connections through "miss you" cards, "just because" cards, birthday cards, and other occasions as needed
- Are an extra pair of hands for the workshop leader when needed
- Get the last 5-10 minutes of classtime for wrap up, prayer, sharing with the kids
We've found that 'shepherds' are a great way for older members who think they don't have the energy anymore for kids, to participate.
Member Jaymie Derden wrote:
I like to say that shepherds are the glue that hold our Rotation Sunday School together!
I depend on them for so many things.
- Our shepherds are recruited for a school year -- September through May, two per grade level except 1-2 graders who have four.
- Shepherds work out their schedule so that at least one is available each Sunday (2 per 1-2 grades -- we found that they just needed more hands for certain workshops). During the summer we give our shepherds the summer off and recruit parents (we try to target uninvolved parents) to fill our summer slots. This helps parents understand the way Rotation works and often gets them interested so that they volunteer.
- Our shepherds take attendance, offering and handle introductions and welcoming visitors.
- They participate in games and activities and provide an extra adult hand (2 adult rule at our church too).
- They provide the relationship building component.
- They correspond with children four times a year -- Beginning of school, Christmas, Easter and on the child's birthday.
- They help with discipline.
- They help me with evaluation. Shepherds see the whole picture and I count on them to let me know how things are going in general --what is working, what isn't. They are also good at helping me evaluate certain teachers.
One of the benefits of shepherds that we have discovered is that non-traditional folks seem more willing to be involved with shepherding. I have several grandmothers, moms of older teens and college students and dads who serve as shepherds. They don't have the time or willingness to teach, but the LOVE to shepherd.
Member Brenda wrote:
I haven't used junior highs as shepherds; for the most part they do not have the skills to redirect behavior or more importantly to help the children with the processing of the lesson.
In addition, most junior highers are developmentally focused on their own social needs and don't have the time or the ability to follow through with building relationships with the younger kids.
I have had great success with some senior high students, but again it really depends on the maturity level and the ability of that individual to respond to what comes up.
Junior highs have a high need to feel competant and to try out skills, and I have had good experiences with having them as teacher assistants in the preschool and kindergarten classes.
Maybe what we're really talking about here, then, is NOT SHEPHERDS, but a "Teacher Training Program" ???
Member Neil wrote:
"Shepherds" mean different things to different churches.
In some churches, they perform a pastoral role.
In other Rotation churches, they are more just "helpers."
In some rotation churches, they are a sneaky training program for future teachers.
Some rotation churches they don't use them at all, or need to use them due to other circumstances. ...or they only use them with the youngest age group.
In the Barrington Church where we first formulated the Rotation Model, we originally had shepherds in the plan, but dropped them after the first year because of some unique circumstances we had going on in that church.
Here are some of those circumstances:
- We realized that our kids KNEW most of the teachers (who were parents)
- We had two CE staffers watching out for them (myself and Melissa)
- We often had a SECOND TEACHER in many of our workshops
- And perhaps most of all... we had an active family ministry and children's fellowship where many of the pastoral needs were being met, and the kids got to know many of the teachers/parents in these other settings.