Why Your Group Doesn’t Need a Sub

If you teach a Bible study group, the last thing you need is a substitute. That may sound strange because there are times when you must be absent because of vacation or illness. Since you will be absent from time to time, how can I say that your group doesn’t need a sub?

Instead of a sub, your group needs an apprentice. Here are three ways that an apprentice is superior to a sub and why Sunday School groups are better off with an apprentice:

  1. A sub teaches occasionally, but an apprentice teaches frequently. When an apprentice teacher guides the Bible study, he or she is doing so with a regular rhythm.  An apprentice anticipates another opportunity to teach the group, and soon. The issue is regularity: subs never know when they might be called into service. An apprentice has a regular cadence of teaching the group.
  2. A sub has no plans to step up, but an apprentice is getting ready to step out. A sub is a sub, that’s it. They step in, teach, and slip back into the group. An apprentice steps up to teach like the sub does, but the big difference is that the apprentice is getting some practice because they plan to step out of the group and start their own group some day. Any group with an apprentice signals they are interested in remaining outwardly focused.
  3. A sub is somewhat committed, but an apprentice is all-in. A sub studies a lesson plan, teaches, and is done for a time. While the commitment is admirable, it doesn’t begin to compare to the commitment shown by an apprentice. The apprentice is “all in” and knows that time is short, needs are great, and that he must continue to sharpen his teaching skills because he is on a pathway to having his own group. An apprentice watches his teacher, learns to care for group members, and transforms into a dependable leader.


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  1. Ken, I couldn’t agree more with this post. I know how to develop teachers myself as the education pastor, but I was wondering how you teach your teachers to develop their apprentices? What have you seen that has worked well? Ben Jennings

    Ben Jennings Canton Baptist Temple ________________________________

    • Good question, Ben! In my experience, the only way that an apprentice works is if the apprentice works! The full-time teacher must not view an apprentice as a “sub,” but as a person they are developing. This requires that the apprentice have regular teaching time in front of the group. And on the weeks when the apprentice isn’t leading the group’s study, he/she should have a copy of the leader’s teaching plan (perhaps a leader guide like the ones we provide through LifeWay) so they can follow along and see just what the teacher uses/doesn’t use/changes…this helps that apprentice see how the teacher of the group modifies and uses the curriculum provided to them.

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