Wisdom for Women With Shepherding GiftsBy Danielle Kelly
February 16, 2021
Two years ago, I started the routine of listening to the Bible read chronologically in the span of one year. Each January, I relive the events of Genesis: the creation of the world, the Garden of Eden, the Fall, and the call of Abraham. In the sea of all this familiarity, I unearthed a treasure tucked away in Genesis 29. In the previous chapter, Jacob was sent on a mission by his father Issac to find a wife from the daughters of his uncle Laban. As Jacob journeys, he arrives in the land of the east and finds shepherds gathered at a well with their flocks. He inquires about Laban and while he was still speaking with them, Rachel (Laban’s daughter) came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess (Gen 29:9).
I pondered for a moment. Rachel was a shepherdess? Men like Moses, King David, and Jesus come to mind when I think of shepherds in the Bible, not a woman. But here in verse 29, we are introduced to Rachel while she is shepherding sheep. What does this mean? Why was I intrigued by this newfound detail about Rachel?
As I inquired of the Lord in prayer, I remembered the results of a spiritual gifts test I took in my late teens. Shepherding was one of my dominant gifts but I quickly dismissed it. I am not a man and definitely am not called to be a pastor. I assumed the results were wrong and never thoroughly researched what it meant to have this gift as a woman.
Now, almost two decades later, I am asking God what it means for women to have this gift in a complementarian setting. If you are a woman with the gift of shepherding, please do not dismiss this gift as I did. God has given you this gift to help equip his people to do his work and to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
Here are three pieces of wisdom for women with a shepherding gift.
1. Understand that you are a sheep and allow yourself to be shepherded by God.
Before we can fully understand the gift of shepherding, we must understand that we are first sheep shepherded by God. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, whose nature is beautiful and honorable. He knows us intimately, calling each of us by name (John 10:3). When we abide in him, Jesus teaches us how to recognize his voice. We are able to distinguish his voice from false shepherds and follow his leading (John 10:4-5). Jesus does not lead us into places he has not first walked. He is our protection and sacrificially lays down his life for us (John 10:11). We can not shepherd anyone without abiding in Christ and following his guiding. Have you allowed the Lord to shepherd you daily? Do you recognize his voice and trust his leading?
2. Embrace your gift and ask God to reveal the flock he wants you to shepherd.
My failure to view myself as a shepherd has caused me to shrink back from leadership roles and positions God has placed me in. I knew that I was called to be a pastor’s wife long before I ever met my husband. I resisted the call and dismissed my shepherding gift. When I reflect on the past 5 years of our church’s history, I am aware that God entrusted several “flocks” to me. As a community group leader, God has equipped me to lead, teach, and shepherd the women in my group. As a mother, God has called me to shepherd my children. As the Women’s Ministry Coordinator, I guide and teach the women on my team and in the congregation. Your flock may be different than mine.
Seek the Lord in prayer this week. Ask him to reveal the “flock” He has placed in your path to lead. Ask the Lord for the courage to embrace this gift and to give you the desire to care for them.
3. Lead with courage and humility.
God entrusted this gift to you and will empower you to shepherd the flock he gives you. He will be with you each step of the way. We can draw encouragement from Joshua 1:9, “This is my command, be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” As we move forward in courage, we must remember that Jesus is our sacrificial Shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for us. He washed his betrayer’s feet. He didn’t think it was beneath him to associate with the outcast of society. God may send you some unlikely sheep and have you shepherd in a unique setting. Love and lead them tenderly. Abide in the Lord and praise him for this wonderful gift.