Angela, * a single sister in her 30’s, is a bit nervous. She is waiting for the elders. What are they going to say to her? True, she has missed a few meetings, but she is exhausted after working all day long for elderly people. In addition to her daily concerns, she is deeply worried about her own mother’s health.
If you were to visit Angela, how would you encourage this “tired soul”? (Jer. 31:25) First, though, how would you prepare to make a refreshing shepherding call?
THINK ABOUT YOUR BROTHERS’ CIRCUMSTANCES
At times, we all get tired because of our secular work or theocratic responsibilities. For instance, the prophet Daniel “felt exhausted” when he received a vision that he could not understand. (Dan. 8:27) He was helped when the angel Gabriel appeared to him. God’s messenger imparted understanding to Daniel, assured him that his prayers had been heard by Jehovah, and told him that he was still “someone very desirable.” (Dan. 9:21-23) On a later occasion, well-chosen words spoken by another angel strengthened the weary prophet.
Similarly, before visiting a fellow believer who may be tired or discouraged, take time to think about his circumstances. What problems does he face? How may these problems be draining him of energy? What fine qualities does he display? “My focus is on my brothers’ strengths,” notes Richard, an elder for over 20 years. “By carefully considering their circumstances before the visit,” he adds, “it becomes easier to find ways to give encouragement that fits their particular needs.” If another elder will accompany you on the call, why not together consider your brother’s situation?
PUT YOUR BROTHERS AT EASE
You would probably agree that sharing personal feelings can be embarrassing. To illustrate: Your brother may find it difficult to open up to visiting elders. How, then, can you break the ice? Your sincere smile and a few reassuring words may have a good effect. Michael, an elder for over 40 years, often starts his visits with such comments as: “You know, one of the nicest privileges of an elder is to visit the brothers in their homes and get to know them better. So I have really been looking forward to our visit today.”
You may choose to offer a heartfelt prayer early in the visit. In his prayers, the apostle Paul rightly highlighted his brothers’ faith, love, and endurance. (1 Thess. 1:2, 3) By expressing how you feel about your brother’s fine qualities, you actually prepare your heart and his for a constructive conversation. Your words can also have a soothing effect. “At times, we all forget the good that we are accomplishing,” observes Ray, an experienced elder. “So when someone reminds us of it, it is refreshing to our soul.”
IMPART A SPIRITUAL GIFT
Like Paul, you can impart a “spiritual gift” by sharing a Scriptural thought, even from a single verse. (Rom. 1:11) For instance, a depressed brother may feel worthless, like the psalmist who compared himself to a shriveled “skin bottle in the smoke.” (Ps. 119:83, 176) After giving a brief explanation about that expression, you might express your confidence that your brother has “not forgotten” God’s commandments.
Similarly, would the illustration about the lost drachma coin touch a sister who has drifted away from the congregation or has slowed down? (Luke 15:8-10) The missing coin may have been part of a precious necklace made up of many silver coins. By your discussing that illustration, she could be helped to see that she is a valuable part of the Christian congregation. After discussing that, you might highlight how much Jehovah cares for her as one of his little sheep.
Our fellow believers usually enjoy expressing their thoughts on the Bible. So do not do all the talking! After reading a verse that applies to their situation, you could isolate a key word or phrase and ask them to comment on it. For example, after reading 2 Corinthians 4:16, an elder could ask, “Have you personally experienced ways in which Jehovah renews you?” This approach can lead to a true “interchange of encouragement.”
You might also refresh a fellow believer by discussing a Bible character to whom he or she can relate. Someone who feels despondent would likely relate to such characters as Hannah or Epaphroditus, who at times were depressed but remained precious in God’s eyes. (1 Sam. 1:9-11, 20; Phil. 2:25-30) Why not discuss some fine Bible examples when the situation allows for this?
MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW THROUGH
You can show your genuine concern for your brothers and sisters by your ongoing interest following the visit. (Acts 15:36) When concluding the call, you may find it practical to make an appointment to share in the ministry together. When Bernard, an experienced elder, again meets a brother or a sister he has recently visited, he may discreetly allude to any advice given by asking, “Tell me, did it work out well?” By showing such personal interest, you will be able to determine whether further help is needed.
More than ever, our brothers and sisters need to feel cared for, understood, and loved. (1 Thess. 5:11) Hence, before making a shepherding visit, take time to reflect on your brother’s situation. Make it a matter of prayer. Select appropriate scriptures. Then you will find the right words to refresh “the tired soul”!
^ par. 2 Names have been changed.