“Shepherding Souls” by Elder Gary E. Stevenson is a great talk to help us better understand true ministering. There is something about using the image of a shepherd that really ingrains the constant care and watching over each other, the hard the work that may be involved, and the love.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recommends the following when leading a discussion from this talk:
“Those you teach may have asked a question like this one from Elder Stevenson’s message: ‘How do we know we are ministering in the Lord’s way?’ They might benefit from discussing possible answers to this question that they find in this message. Alternatively, you could bring a picture of the Savior as a shepherd (see Gospel Art Book , no. 64) and invite members to share a truth from Elder Stevenson’s message that the picture represents. Members could then share things they have been impressed to do as a result of the discussion.”
Questions to Ponder
What problems have you encountered as you’ve tried to implement the ministering program? How have you overcome these challenges? What help do you still need?
“How do we know we are ministering in the Lord’s way? Are we assisting the Good Shepherd in the way He intends?”
In what ways do you balance being a sheep and a shepherd at the same time? What blessings have come as you do this?
How can we deepen our desire to minister without being compelled?
Who are the most important sheep to find? Why?
How do you minister to the 99? Is it different than the one that is lost?
What can we do to prevent sheep from going astray in the first place? What can we do to quickly go after them if they do go astray?
What small efforts have a brother or sister shown to you that has had eternal consequences?
What role does agency play in finding sheep? How does the Savior handle sheep that want to stay lost? What can we do in that situation?
How is Satan like our predator? How can we recognize and avoid his traps?
How does the story of Elder Carlos A. Godoy inspire you to reach out to the one?
How can you lighten the load of your ward shepherd (the Bishop)?
When has the Savior ministered personally to you? How did it impact you? How did that experience help you minister to others?
How is the ministering program different than other charitable organizations? Do these differences matter? Why is ministering more than just “being nice?”
What can you do when you are called to minister to someone who is not easy to love? That you don’t like? That you’ve had conflict with? Firmly inactive? What would you say to someone in this situation? What if it was you? What would you be receptive to?
These are my ideas. My hope is reading my thoughts will be a springboard to finding the right plans for your class.
“We understand that a true shepherd loves his sheep, knows each one by name, and “has personal interest in them.” Call each class member by name when they walk in and when they make a comment. How does it make you feel when you are addressed by your name? Many wards are large and not everyone knows each other’s names. Consider having class members briefly introduce themselves. Also encourage them to keep a photo in the Gospel Library app and their information updated.
Look for examples in the scriptures of sheep that have returned. Discuss how ministering played a role in their return. (Example: the prodigal son and his father, Alma the Younger and the angel, etc.)
Watch a video of Elder Stevenson giving this conference address. Pause and discuss each part of the parable of the Lost Sheep as he explains it. What did you notice for the first time? What do you learn about the Savior through this parable? Where do you see yourself?
Read about the waters of baptism in Mosiah 18. Outline the pattern of ministering we enter into through baptism. (Mourning with those that mourn, etc.). Find examples in the scriptures of the Savior following this pattern and how we can follow his example.
Ask a class member to quietly leave the room during the discussion. After a few minutes, ask if anyone noticed who is missing. Lead a discussion about what can distract us from noticing others leaving the fold and ways to fix that.
Have class members look through the ward directory and write down three names of individuals or families that they feel inspired to reach out to that week. If done at the beginning of class, perhaps they can even send a text to invite them to come to class right then.
Discuss how we can minister to those on the other side of the veil. Ask a few people ahead of time to come prepared to share experiences with temple and family history work. What else can we do?
Write the names of everyone in your class on a sheep and post them on your board or a wall. Ask your class to take their name down from the board then see who is left. (If you don’t want to name people, you can put some x’s and some o’s. Have people take down one or the other.) You can put the ones that are serving elsewhere to the side then see who is left. Can you account for them all? What can we do to reach out and find these other sheep? How can we minister to them even if they aren’t our official assignment?
Use the pictures of Jesus as the Good the Shepherd included in this talk. If you can, use some others that you have available through your ward connections. Display them in class. Hold up each picture as you begin your class and ask what they see in the picture, how it makes them feel, what they learn from the picture, etc. Then talk about how we can apply those things in our lives.