Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead their Homes (2011)
Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway. 190 pages. $11.04

With all the imagery available to us in Scripture, nothing quite conjures up a feeling of security and provision like that of a shepherd.  It is the Shepherd who nurtures and cares for the helpless flock; and is also, at times, called upon to zealously defend the flock from danger. In Psalm 23, we find the perfect example of the Shepherd, as David recounts the shepherding work of the Lord over his life, which was marked by provision and care. With this in mind, Voddie Baucham’s Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead their Homes is not only appropriately titled, but elevates the conversation of how men, as fathers and husbands, ought to view their role in the home—a role marked by self-sacrifice, patience, tenderness, and companionship.

The case for family shepherds

By drawing a direct line from the creation of mankind and the creation mandate (Gen. 1-2), through the NT (2 Tim. 1:4-5; 3:15; Eph. 6:1-4), and on to the present day, Baucham begins with establishing the family as the foundational institution in society (pg. 20-25). And since the family is the bedrock of all societal institutions, Baucham continues, it affects every other aspect of society (church, government, school, work, etc.). This is why men must take their responsibility as family shepherd seriously—the very fabric of our society depends on it.  To aid in this monumental task, Baucham directs our attention to the church. Pastors, elders, and godly people, are a great resource for developing men who desire to shepherd their family rightly.

The gospel proclaimed by family shepherds

The Church is there to provide guidance and support to the family shepherd, but it in no way absolves him from the duty of ministering to his family, Baucham proclaims. The Gospel must be heralded at home by the family shepherd  (pg. 51). The simplest and most effective way this can be done, Baucham concludes, is through the use of Catechism and other Christian education material. Consistent and prolonged exposure of the Gospel to the family should be the principle task of all family shepherds, and not that of what Baucham refers to as “Specialists” (Pastors hired to minister to specific groups within the church). One of the most important tasks Baucham emphasizes for the family shepherd is cultivating a vibrant family worship. Not to be confused with a church worship service, family worship is a time when the family gathers to have a period of Bible reading, singing, and prayer. 

Primary responsibility of family shepherds  

Though the subject of the family shepherd’s role in marriage does not appear until the seventh chapter, the centrality of the subject matter is in no way diminished. Baucham reminds us the first step for a man shepherding his family is to shepherd his wife (pg. 83), and the first step of shepherding his wife is to understand the purpose of marriage. Of the purposes for marriage given (procreation, sanctification, illustration), Baucham’s exposition of marriage as a means of sanctification is a true gem. Baucham divides the discussion of sanctification in marriage into two sections: active and passive sanctification. The former, Baucham states, are the things God directs us to do for the sanctification of our spouse and ourselves (love and conjugal relations); the latter are things we do without trying (being less than thoughtful, forgetfulness). While viewing marriage as a means of sanctification is not novel, Baucham’s timely reminder and poignant applications are much welcomed in a society that has forgotten this vital truth.

Women as family shepherds

Baucham leaves no doubt as to where the shepherding responsibilities lay in a two-parent (male and female) home. It is the father’s responsibility to provide primary oversight (headship), enforce discipline, and order the household rightly. Today’s society, however, contains many homes in which men have abdicated their God-given responsibilities, and left women to raise the family alone. Baucham helpfully steps in and provides guidelines for these particular situations. He urges mothers to assume the role as the family shepherd in the absence of a father. Extended family ought to be sought for help, and the church as the last line of defense should come alongside the mother. While it is certainly not ideal for a woman to assume the responsibility as shepherd in the home, Baucham suggests the above is the right path forward (pg. 175-179).

Final thoughts

Baucham’s approach in Family Shepherds is spot on, as he calls men to assume the responsibility as good shepherds in their home. Melding theologically sound arguments with practical wisdom, he certainly forces one to evaluate what it means to be a shepherd. If nothing else, the book is a clarion call for Christian men to do what God has called him to do: shepherd the flock at home.