replace yourself

Why Having an Apprentice Matters

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[We recently had a series of posts about apprenticing, but I thought it might be interesting to hear from a Community Group leader on the subject. Kelli Spivey leads a women's group out of Buckhead Church. Here's what she has to say about the importance of developing future leaders.]

There are a million good things we do with our time. We lead our weekly group meetings, meet with group members outside of group, and are involved in the personal communities where we find support and encouragement. All of these things are essential, but we also need to make time for apprenticing. It's worth the investment.

As Community Group leaders, we have the opportunity to invest in people and lead them deeper in their walks with Jesus. For some members of our groups, that kind of investment means inviting them into apprenticeship. The goal is for your apprentice to lead a Community Group once your current group ends. This allows for group multiplication rather than just addition. Without an apprentice, you add to your influence as a leader year after year. With an apprentice you multiply your influence as your investment continues not only through your Community Group members, but the people your apprentice invests in.

It's tempting to neglect the opportunity to apprentice because we’re not sure where to begin and we lack the time. The process begins when we model what a small group leader is and does and when we give group members opportunities to lead. This small step allows your apprentice to practice some of the skills that he or she has seen you model for many weeks. With your support and feedback, your apprentice will continue to grow as a leader.

Many people just need someone to believe they have what it takes to be a leader and someone to invest time in them. So, look within your small group and ask God if there is someone with leadership potential. Communicate that you believe in that person. Let your apprentice lead. Have conversations about leadership. Begin the journey of apprenticing.

Take the challenge! If you invest in an apprentice, you will multiply your impact and legacy in leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

What Is an Apprentice?

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Last week, I wrote about why it's important for leaders to apprentice others and the qualities to look for in an apprentice, but let's back up a bit and answer a more fundamental question.

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is someone who works with a leader in order to learn how to lead. In the context of Community Groups, apprenticing involves people in ministry for the purpose of training them to take your place. It's a way of developing new leaders so that we can create more space for others to join life-changing community.

Because an apprentice is a leader-in-training, to understand what an apprentice is you need to understand what a leader is . . . and is not.

A group leader is not a scholar or expert. Some group leaders have strong backgrounds in biblical knowledge or ministry experience. Some don't. Strong biblical knowledge and ministry experience is not a requirement for group leadership. Knowledge and experience are great as long as they're coupled with humility and grace. Leaders who have the most knowledge or experience have to be careful not to play the role of scholar or expert because know-it-all leaders can actually hamper the group's growth.

A group leader is not a teacher or a counselor. Some people pursue group leadership because they enjoy teaching others. They think Community Group will provide an outlet for using that gift. But groups aren't teacher-driven environments. They're a place where a facilitator encourages all members to participate in discussion. Gifted teachers often find that, for the good of the group, they have to put aside their God-given desire to teach others.

A group leader is a shepherd. The best group leaders understand where the group is supposed to go. They guide and care for the group members. They monitor and protect the health of the group.

A group leader is an investor in people. Groups are about doing life together. A good group leader is intentional about building relationships and creating environments where group members experience healthy relationships and spiritual growth.

Given what a group leader is and isn't . . .

  • An apprentice is not someone who has it all together.
  • An apprentice is not merely an assistant to the group leader.
  • An apprentice is someone who has caught the vision of what groups are all about.
  • An apprentice is a shepherd-in-training.

 

4 Things to Look for In an Apprentice

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In Wednesday's post, I wrote about why identifying an apprentice matters. But how do you know which of your group members might make a good apprentice? It's important to remember that you're not looking for someone who can lead a group tomorrow. You're looking for a teachable group member who has the potential to be a great group leader in the future. Here are four qualities that will help you identify that kind of person.

1. Character Character is what makes a leader worth following. The foundation of character is a growing relationship with Jesus. Can your potential apprentice point to a time when he or she established a relationship with Jesus? Has he or she been growing in a relationship with Jesus for over two years?

2. Competence Is your potential apprentice teachable? Is he or she able to learn the skills necessary to create a predictable environment where healthy relationships and spiritual growth can happen? Does he or she have the relational skills to lead a group at some point in the future? Have you seen your potential apprentice display leadership skills in your group, such as facilitating group discussions, planning socials, or providing care to other group members?

3. Culture Is your potential apprentice a member of the church or is he or she willing to pursue membership? Is he or she committed to the mission and strategy of the church?

4. Chemistry Chemistry matters. You'll eventually be sharing leadership responsibilities with your apprentice. Have you been able to connect relationally with your potential apprentice? Have you seen your potential apprentice connect with the other members of your group? Are you comfortable with your potential apprentice's ability to relate to others?

If you can answer "yes" to all of the those questions, you've probably found a strong candidate for apprenticeship. If you can't, you may want to consider other group members or discuss your concerns with your Groups Director.

3 Reasons for Developing an Apprentice

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Replace Yourself is one of our 8 Leader Essentials. But you may find yourself wondering, "Why am I supposed to identify and develop an apprentice? Why is it such a big deal?" Here are three reasons.

1. It's biblical. Throughout the Bible, leaders apprentice others so they can follow in the leaders' footsteps. Moses apprenticed Joshua. Elijah apprenticed Elisha. Paul apprenticed Timothy. One of the most cited verses on the subject of apprenticing is in Paul's second letter to Timothy:

"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Timothy 2:2)

The clearest example of apprenticing is Jesus' interactions with the twelve disciples. If anyone could have done ministry all by himself, it was Jesus. But he didn't. His disciples were always with him—watching, learning, and listening. He involved them in almost everything he did. That's because he saw beyond his three years of public ministry. He knew success was handing off the ministry to those coming behind him. That's one measure of your success as a group leader too.

2. It's practical. Apprenticing doesn't just develop the apprentice. It also grows the leader who apprentices. Nothing makes you take stock of what you know like being asked to teach someone else. The process gives you incentive to organize your knowledge and put it down on paper. It helps you to solidify it in your mind. As you hand over responsibility to your apprentices, they bring their knowledge, talent, and experience to bear upon what you've shared with them. They find new and better ways to lead. This gives you the opportunity to learn from them. It expands your knowledge and skills.

3. It's strategic. Our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Our strategy to carry out that mission is to get people into groups because we believe that life change happens best in the context of small groups. So, creating space for more people to experience healthy relationships and spiritual growth is essential. We can only do that if we have qualified group leaders. Those who have been apprenticed make the best leaders because they've had first-hand experience of Community Group.

So, those are three reasons you should identify and develop an apprentice. On Friday, I'll give you four things to look for in order to identify an apprentice.