Purposeful apprenticeships are one of the best ways to raise up new leaders for the future of the church. But having an apprentice at your church as a go-fer or a warm body can lead quickly to boredom, frustration, and stagnation. Below are some ideas to help engage apprentices in your church’s work and prepare them for ministry beyond their time with you.
1. Appoint a Director
The adage “If it’s everybody’s responsibility, it’s nobody’s responsibility” is certainly true for apprentices. You can’t assume that an apprentice will find his or her own way around and will figure out how to spend time. Having an intern with no director can easily lead to one of two extremes: someone who ends up sitting around with nothing to do or a someone who ends up inundated with all the tasks no one else wants to do. One extreme leads to stagnation and the other leads to resentment and burnout.
In order to make the apprenticeship a positive experience for everyone, your apprentice should have a director or supervisor. The director should establish expectations and schedule regular meeting times. Consider setting up a weekly one hour meeting just before or after your regular staff meetings to go over the past week and set goals for the coming one.
2. Expose Your Apprentice to a Variety of Ministries
Your apprentice should be exposed to as many ministries as possible. This might take the form of a weekly rotation (Mondays in the preschool, Tuesday at Alpha, etc.) or could be set on the calendar according to the church’s cycle of busy seasons. The children’s minister will need help planning VBS. The youth group can always use a chaperone on summer mission trips. And there’s always room for someone to take responsibility during busy holiday seasons like Christmas and Easter.
3. Assign Your Apprentice Quality Reading Material
There are so many great books on developing leadership. We highly recommend “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership” by Ruth Haley Barton. A couple other books to consider are “The Hero Maker” by Dave Ferguson (this one is for the director, too!) and “Evangelism as Exiles” by Elliot Clark on sharing faith in a culture that no longer welcomes Jesus.
4. Give Your Apprentice Opportunities To Meet Your Congregation
The first chunk of time can be spent getting to know your church and its culture. Get your apprentice a stack of index cards to write down the names of the people they meet, what their life situation is, and any other snippets of personal story each person offers. Have them visit your various Bible classes, small groups, and other regular activities to get an overview of what your church is about and who your people are.
5. Ramp Up the Responsibility
Your apprentice might start out just getting to know people, but as time goes on, responsibilities should increase. Move your apprentice from basic faith conversations to leading classes or groups. Not sure how to do that? Consider working through the Emerging Leadership Training Course on Sharing Faith. It gives regular assignments that will increase your apprentice’s involvement and level of responsibility.
6. Teach Your Apprentice How to Have Spiritual Conversations
One of the skills covered in the Sharing Faith ELT is how to have 3 question conversations that move you from asking polite questions to interest questions to caring questions. Give your apprentice opportunities to speak with strangers and move them from small talk to real talk. During your weekly debrief, ask about these conversations. What went right? What went wrong? What will he do differently next time?
7. Expect Your Apprentice to Establish Regular Spiritual Rhythms
Of course, you can’t expect to form a new habit in someone you’re training if you don’t practice it yourself. Encourage your apprentice to establish a daily office of prayer and study, weekly rhythms of prayer, and regularly scheduled chunks of time spent in silence, stillness, and solitude.
8. Help Your Apprentice Figure Out “What’s Next”
As you get to know your apprentice, you’ll start to see giftings, strengths, and weaknesses. Pay attention to these and encourage him or her to seek out the next step that will play to their strengths, but also have room for growth in areas of weakness or inexperience.