Lesson Plan: Becoming a Shepherd by Bonnie H. Cordon

Shepherds and Fishermen

Consider this conversation between Jesus Christ and two of his disciples, Peter and Andrew, when he first called them to ministry:

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.  Matthew 4:18-20

Some time later, after Peter had served faithfully as a “fisher of men,” Jesus called him to a slightly different assignment, as a shepherd:

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17


  • How is a shepherd different from a fisherman?

In her October 2018 General Conference talk, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon compared the new ministering program in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  to Peter’s call to feed Christ’s sheep. Here are some of the ways she counseled us to become shepherds:

Shepherds are independent and proactive.

Hadn’t Peter already proven himself a loving follower of Christ? From their first encounter on the seashore, he ‘straightway’ left his fishing nets to follow the Savior. Peter became a true fisher of men. He accompanied the Savior during His personal ministry and helped teach others the gospel of Jesus Christ But now the resurrected Lord knew He would no longer be by Peter’s side, showing him how and when he should serve. In the Savior’s absence, Peter would need to seek guidance from the Spirit, receive revelation on his own, and then have the courage and faith to act. -Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President

  • What are some ways the new ministering program requires us to be independent and proactive?
  • How can we independently and proactively minister to others, even without a ministering assignment?

As Young Women General President, President Cordon addressed the youth specifically with a call to be proactive:

Young women and young men, we need you! If you don’t have a ministering assignment, talk with your Relief Society or elders quorum president. -Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President

Youth approaching adults to volunteer for assignments is very different from the usual process in our church, in which we wait passively for an assignment from a leader. However, President Cordon predicts that such proactivity from youth will be received well by adult leadership:

They will rejoice in your willingness to make certain His sheep are known and numbered, watched over, and gathered into the fold of God.”-Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President

  • When we serve in leadership roles, how do we react to proactivity from youth and others?
  • How can we build confidence in youth and others so they feel comfortable interacting with adults in leadership?
  • How can we create a culture that celebrates proactivity instead of passivity?
  • As we serve with youth and others in ministering assignments, how can we ensure that they are valued as equal partners?

Shepherds serve individuals one-on-one.

As we strive to follow the Savior’s example, we must first know and number His sheep. We have been assigned specific individuals and families to tend so we are certain that all of the Lord’s flock are accounted for and no one is forgotten. Numbering, however, is not really about numbers; it is about making certain each person feels the love of the Savior through someone who serves for Him. In that way, all can recognize that they are known by a loving Father in Heaven. -Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President

When Peter was a fisherman, he fished with nets, drawing up many fish at a time.  Likewise, as a fisher of men, he taught and converted multitudes. However, the work of shepherding is different.  Consider how Christ described a shepherd:

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. Luke 15:4-6

President Cordon suggested several ways we can focus on the individual as we minister to others:

I hope those to whom you minister will see you as a friend and realize that, in you, they have a champion and a confidant—someone who is aware of their circumstances and supports them in their hopes and aspirations.”-Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President

  • What do you have to do to become someone’s champion or confidant?
  • Who has been a champion or confidant for you? What did they do?
  • How do we become aware of someone’s circumstances?
  • How do we support someone else’s hopes and aspirations?
  • Who has supported your hopes and aspirations?  What did they do?

Shepherds notice needs.

Christ described the kinds of acts of service that we should conduct as we minister:

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:37-40

President Cordon pointed out a key word in this scripture:

Brothers and sisters, the key word is saw. The righteous saw those in need because they were watching and noticing. -Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President

President Cordon provided some examples of people who saw others’ needs, such as someone who realized that a woman needed glasses to read, and another who recognized that someone needed to talk about his spouse’s suicide attempt.

  • When has someone seen your needs and helped you?
  • How can we become more aware of the needs of others around us?

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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2 Responses

  1. Merry says:

    Great lesson outline!

  2. Molly says:

    Thank you! This is excellent with some in-depth and critical thinking questions!

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