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God often uses the metaphor of a Shepherd and a sheep in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. It was something that the people were familiar with. We might not be as familiar with shepherds and sheep today, but the metaphor is still a powerful illustration of leadership as well as our common behaviors in the church. Ezekiel 34 is full of lessons on leadership and how we treat each other. It’s all full of promises. While these promises were initially given to the children of Israel, they also hold important truths for us today as God’s Children.

What to do

Following is a list of characteristics from the Ezekiel 34:1-31. These can be used in several ways.

  1. Write the categories on the board and have a competition between teams. Randomly read phrases from the lists. The first team or team member to identify the correct category for the phrase scores a point. The team which correctly identifies the most phrases wins.
  2. Play a game such as “ring on a string.” or another game where a person becomes “it” When a person becomes “it”, they must correctly place one of the phrases under the appropriate category.
  3. Play a game of “Sheep in the field.” Sit in a circle. The first person says “one sheep ” the 2nd “lost in the field” the 3rd “Baa” Then the same phrases are used but with “two sheep” and each phrase repeated twice. The “three sheep” with each phrase repeated three times. This game must be done very rapidly if someone hesitates and breaks the rythem or makes a mistake they must correctly place one of the items below a category.
  4. Split the youth into groups and in a given time limit, have them list all the characteristics of the shepherds or the sheep in this passage.  After time is up have them call out the characteristics.  If more than one group lists the same characteristics they cross them off their list.  The team with the most unique characteristics (those from the passage not found by the other group) wins.

Here are some partial lists I created

1. Characteristics of God as Shepherd

  • He will rescue the sheep
  • He will search for the sheep
  • He will look after the sheep
  • He will rescue the flock from the mouth of the shepherds
  • He will rescue the sheep that have been scattered
  • His Sheep will be tended in good pasture
  • His Sheep will lie down in good grazing land
  • He will bring back the strays
  • He will bind up the injured
  • He will strengthen the weak
  • He will destroy the sleek and strong
  • He will judge between the sheep
  • He will judge between rams and goats
  • He will place one shepherd over the sheep

2. Characteristics of the leaders of Israel as Shepherds

  • They will only take care of themselves
  • They will not strengthen the weak
  • They will not heal the sick
  • They will not bind up the injured
  • They will not bring back the strays
  • They will not search for the lost sheep
  • Their sheep became food for the wild animals
  • They ate the best sheep
  • They are clothed in the best wool from the sheep
  • Their heep were like those without a shepherd
  • They will be held responsible as a shepherd
  • They will be removed by God

3. General Characteristics of sheep in general

  • Dumb
  • Tend to stay in flocks
  • Do whatever the other sheep do
  • Cannot defend themselves
  • Easily wander off and get lost
  • Need to be led to food & water
  • Dependent upon shepherd

4. Characteristics of the Fat sheep in the passage

  • Feed on the pastor and then trample the rest with their feet
  • Drink clear water and the muddy the rest
  • Shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with horns until they are driven away.
  • Plunder the flock.

Take it to the Next Level

Make it Spiritual

  • Who was the parable written to? 
    (While written to the children of Israel, many of the principles also apply to us as children of God.)
  • What are the main characters in this parable?
    (Sheep, rams, goats, wild beasts, Shepherds, God the shepherd)

Make it Practical

  • In this parable, different kinds of sheep are mentioned. Can you name them? 
    (Weak, Sick, Injured, Lost, Fat, Lean, sleek, strong. What does each represent?)
  • Pastor literally means shepherd. How is a pastor or leader like shepherd?
  • From this passage, what are the qualities of a good shepherd? What are some of the qualities of a bad shepherd? When it comes to leadership among your friends what qualities do you share with the shepherds? What are the ways leaders in the church might show the same qualities today? What are some actions that might be examples of each quality?
  • This passage also lists some activies or actions of the sheep. What are some things the sheep do?
    (Trample, Drink, Muddy the water, lie down, feed, shove, butting the weak, driving others away. What are some actions that Christians youth do today that could be represented by these?)
  • What are God’s promises to the flock?

Make it personal.

  • Of the different characters in the Parable, which one are you most like? Shepherd or leader? The different sheep? Weak, Sick, Injured, Lost, Fat, Lean, sleek, strong? What are your actions toward others in the flock?
  • If God were to share this story with you, what lesson do you think he would want you to take from it? How can you be more caring toward God’s people either as a shepherd leader or as simply another one of the sheep?

Scripture References

  • Ezekiel 34:1-31
  • Ezekiel 34:31 “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
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