See an article about Shepherds here.

It was written based in part on insights shared in this thread and similar discussions we've had at our site over the years.

When this topic was originally posted in the early 2000's, it had a poll. 60% of those answering the poll said "YES" they used Shepherds. What their Shepherds DID, however, varied widely, as the following preserved comments illuminate.

This discussion is not closed. You are very welcome to add your Shepherd insights.

If you have questions, however, they'll get seen more quickly if you post it in the Teachers Lounge.

Original Post

Editor's Note:

Cathy's list of "what the guides/shepherds" do in her church is very comprehensive....


Here are the responsibilities of our "guides" (shepherds):


Our classes meet in the gym and then go to their respective stations—the guides meet them in the gym and lead them on to class.


They take attendance, collect the offering, celebrate birthdays, fill out registration sheets for new students, maintain order and discipline, and hand out/collect the journaling folders at the end of class.


They also send follow-up postcards to students who have missed a few Sundays.


We’re a little haphazard with memory work, but the guides go over the verses with the class.


Some of the guides open and/or close with prayer—some have the teachers do that. I would like to give the guides a little more time to do things with the class, but our class-time is only 45 minutes so we’re rushing along as it is.

During the lesson itself, the guides are also a set of helping hands in the classroom. They may help the teacher set things up or hand things out, or assist students as needed with the project at hand. If attendance is low or an uneven number, they may take part in the drama or puppets or other activities.


The students like to see the adults taking part and perhaps even being a bit goofy. Sometimes the guide can help lead the way if the students seem reluctant to try something new (that was more when we first started rotation). Most of the monthly station teachers like having another adult in the room, especially one that knows the kids.

Most of my guides were the former “full-time” Sunday School teachers (they wanted the weekly contact with the students). Even though they weren’t responsible for the lesson and lesson prep, they were a little frustrated at not knowing what was going to be happening in class and how they could best help. We adapted our lesson plan for the teachers to include a paragraph on how they MIGHT utilize the guides. I cut and pasted these paragraphs into a handout for the guides. I also include a paragraph briefly outlining what is happening in each station.


To keep the guides informed on what is happening each month, I give them the following:

• Rotation schedule with stations & locations for the month

• Introduction and Bible background—lists the Bible story with some commentary, the memory verse, goals and objectives, one sentence description of each station. This is the same handout that the teachers get.

• Guide information sheet with the information listed in the above paragraph

• Page with the memory verse printed in big, bold type

This summer, I needed to get some substitute guides to fill in for some long-time volunteers who were leaving the area. Several of the newer members of our church wanted to get involved—a definite answer to prayer."GUIDING" is a pretty non-intimidating way to get involved in Sunday School. Several of the substitute guides over this past year—once they saw what happened in the class—were willing to teach. Yeah!

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!

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.

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.)

Amy Smile

Exchange Volunteer removed non-functioning link.

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.

As we get new families into the church, many of them unchurched, the most important thing I see about the shepherding experience is that it allows adults who have little Bible background to become co-learners with their children. After spending a year or so shepherding I have more people willing to teach, as well.

We also found that it helps to tell teachers to really use the shepherds and give them tasks to do. There was a little too much fear of stepping on each others toes.

I think shepherding is a wonderful way to use people's spiritual gifts. There will always be people who love kids but who, let's face it, aren't great teachers. What a wonderful way for them to exercise their nurturing gifts without being told to prepare a lesson.


Our guides' role is almost exactly the same as CathyW's list. 


Because many of our shepherds are parents, we've found that it's a great way to get DADs involved.


We've also found that it increases the number of people in the congregation who PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON, even when they are not shepherding.  

Our shepherds:


  • 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.

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.


I've used teens as shepherds with our youngest kids with good results!


For the preschoolers, they are awesome! My rules are they must be in 7th or 8th grade to be a preschool shepherd, (I've written a Shepherd handbook for both preschool and elementary school), and take my training class (I bribe them with pizza!)


We have two teams in each classroom and they rotate every other week.


My rules for elementary are that they must be going into 9th grade and then they may shepherd K and 1st graders with training. I do have helpers in the rotation workshops and they help with the monthly rotation, but must attend the workshop meeting. I use them mainly in art, drama and cooking.


They love to help and makes them feel part of the community of believers!

We have used both teen and adult shepherds, but have had more success with the adults.


The teens were great with the kids as far as getting along with them, but they did not follow through with their job of forming relationships or contacting the kids by phone, mail, or personal visit.


They also have not been as dependable(as far as just being faithful in attendance) as our adult workers. Our adults are recruited for one year commitment, and most have remained for both years we have been doing WoRM.


That said, maybe this has been a ministry TO THE TEENS, and that's good too.





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" ???

"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.

We do not have shepherds per se. What we do is have a greeter/floater.


This person greets the kids as they come in, has the kids circle their name on the attendance sheet, has visitors put their name and address down, makes sure the kids know what rotations they will be in that day,and floats around the classrooms (mostly the younger kids) to see if the teachers need any help and do help where needed.


This works out great for us.


The decision to have shepherds might depend on the size of your church, number of workshops you have running each week, size of your classes, age of your rotating children, and layout of your building.

I held a "shepherd training" last summer as it was our first year of Rotation and no one had been a shepherd before. I went over my expectations, and handed out folders with information on how to be a shepherd inside.


Here is our "shepherd job description:"


Shepherd Job Description:

You will guide a particular age group of children to their designated workshop each Sunday morning. Your presence is essential, because you are the one who will be with the children each week nurturing and guiding their spiritual growth by making them feel welcome and comfortable. Workshop leaders will change as the rotation changes, but the kids and parents will always have you as their “familiar face.”

Each Sunday:
 Lead children from the children’s message in church downstairs to the storytelling room.
 Hand out nametags to all the students in your group.
 Take attendance. Birthdays are noted on the attendance sheet. If someone in your group is having a birthday, please fill out a birthday card for them and be sure they are recognized for their special day.
 Lead children in your group to their rotation after the storytelling time is over.
 Assist the Workshop Leader and your students as directed or as you see a need.
 Handle discipline problems using the attached rules and guidelines.
 Welcome new students/parents and give the parents a registration form to complete. Completed forms should be turned in to the office.

9:15 service shepherds please arrive by 9:00, and 11:00 service shepherds please arrive by 10:45 so you can be ready for students and available to answer any questions of parents and/or students before the service.

Prior to each Rotation:
Read the Bible story and review the lessons.
Call Tracy Dunbar with any questions.

I also gave them a sheet with discipline guidelines, and a sheet that had "where can I find...?" so they could locate items for workshop leaders, if necessary.

Each shepherd had a bag that included nametags, attendance sheets, monthly schedule, and extra activities to do with their students should they need "time fillers."

Hope this helps!


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!

Add Reply

Likes and Bookmarks (0)
Post Your Question, Comment, Idea, or Resource Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. All content here is the copyrighted property of its listed author. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content here for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author is referenced. Posting here implies permission for others to use your content for non-commercial purposes. Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. Google Ad Note: Serving the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more! is rated 5 stars on Google based on 55 reviews.