What do the following people have in common?
- Elvis Presley
- Henry Ford
- Leonardo Di Vinci
If you guessed they were all apprentices at one time, you’d be correct. Elvis was an electrician’s apprentice, and Henry Ford was a machinist apprentice. And of course, Di Vinci was an apprentice painter for a time.
The development of apprentices has been a time-honored practice, necessary if societies are to have the professionals they need to produce a wide range of products and services. Without them, the needs of societies would go unmet.
In my upcoming August 2022 book Breakthrough: Creating a New Scorecard for Groups, I say the following:
Apprenticeship has a long history dating back to the earliest times in Egypt and Babylon. Apprentices were developed so that skills could be passed down from craftsman to craftsman, ensuring that there were always enough artisans to serve the needs of society.
Churches need apprentices, too. Without them, new groups won’t be started, nor will current teachers have someone to replace them when they decide to take a sabbatical or transition out of the group. By following 6 steps, the church can have a ready supply of apprentices to carry on the work of making disciples.
Step 1: IDENTIFY – This is the first and perhaps most important step. Group leaders must constantly and consciously identify people who have potential to be in leadership. What qualities should they look for in potential apprentices? Dependability and consistency would be good for starters. Apprentices are often not flashy, but they are faithful.
Step 2: INVITE – Once identified, the potential apprentice must be invited to become the group’s apprentice. This should be done privately, allowing time for questions. It should also focus on the vision for the position, not just the job description. By focusing on the vision, the focus stays where it should be – on the real potential of the position to help fulfill the Great Commission. To focus on the vision for the apprentice position, remind the would-be apprentice how the role will help the group multiply and reach new people, and how by stepping up it encourages others to do the same.
Step 3: INTRODUCE – After your candidate agrees to become the group’s apprentice leader, introduce that person to the group. Publicly announcing the person’s new role and your desire to start a new group with them as the leader will help the group maintain an outward focus. Multiplication of the group is one of the key reasons why groups have apprentice leaders.
Step 4: INVEST – Over the next six months, the group leader must spend time with the apprentice. Investing time to give feedback, advice, and impromptu training that will be crucial to the development of the apprentice. The investment stage takes place out of view of the group members.
Step 5: INVOLVE – Throughout the entire preparation period, the apprentice provides varying levels of leadership to the group. Unlike the Invest stage, the Involve stage happens in front of the group members. The apprentice teaches the group and leads in other ways. This is the public side of the apprentice’s preparation.
Step 6: INITIATE – At the end of the process, it is time to initiate a new group with the apprentice as the leader. This is a time when the new group should be celebrated. The enemy of groups is permanence. Groups are not meant to be together for all time. Remember that healthy things grow, and growing things change. So it is in group life.