An Apprentice Is
1 Cor. 11:1, Matt. 28:19
An apprentice is an active learner unto a task. Apprentices in the context of The Bridge small groups are people who are in the process of learning how to lead a small group. This happens by observation, participation, shared leadership, and launching to lead on their own group and eventually identifying their own apprentice.
No matter the group type or personalities involved, the process is the same:
Leader does. Apprentice watches. They talk.
Leader does. Apprentice helps. They talk.
Apprentice does. Leader helps. They talk.
Apprentice does. Leader watches. They talk.
Apprentice leads. A new apprentice watches.
Our Need for Leadership Development
2 Tim. 2:2, John 17:18
Moses, Jesus, and Paul are three of numerous Biblical examples who placed a high value on apprenticeship. Making disciples is the mission of the Church. On a very practical level we must do this as group leaders. If our groups are healthy and attractive, our groups will grow making new group leaders our greatest need. When a group is life-giving to its members, it is also attractive to others. Our best groups sometimes become overcrowded and lose their effectiveness. We always want to have group leaders being identified, equipped, and ready to start new groups. It is our hope at The Bridge to have space for anyone who desires to live life in community with other believers.
Identifying an Apprentice
An apprentice is someone you (the group leader), an elder, coach, or member of the Groups Leadership Team may identify. They embody all the characteristics of a small group leader (see Leaders document), but are not yet serving in the role of a small group leader. If someone asks to apprentice, final approval of that decision will depend on the collective wisdom of a coach, leader, and members of the Groups Leadership Team.
An apprentice can be appointed before the launch or during the life of a group. Sometimes an apprentice is easy to identify as a group forms. Other times the Lord raises up leaders from the members of your group that you don’t initially expect. One of the marks of good small group leaders is that they’re always helping to identify new leadership.
Launching an Apprentice
The decision to launch an apprentice needs to be a part of an ongoing conversation between the coach, group leader, and apprentice. When they feel the time is right and a plan to launch has been determined, the new leader will participate in Group Connect.
Q: How long should the apprenticeship process take?
A: A normative amount of time would be a year, but it could vary from person to person. Some apprenticeships may take longer before the leader, coach, and Groups Leadership Team feel the apprentice is prepared. On the other hand, if the apprentice is ready and our Group Connect schedule allows an apprentice could launch a new group in a shorter amount of time.
Q: What is there is disagreement on their readiness?
A: Knowing when to launch takes wisdom and discernment from all parties involved. An artificial time table or the need for more group space should not force a premature launch. It’s normal for the apprentice to hesitate and feel overwhelmed by the task. Often a leader will need to provide reassurance as an apprentice starts to lead. In the event that an apprentice feels they’re ready to lead before their leader is comfortable, we will involve the coach and Groups Leadership Team in the decision.
Q: What if I develop questions about the maturity of my apprentice?
A: If it becomes apparent through the apprenticeship process that the apprentice does not yet posses the spiritual/theological, social, or pastoral competency to lead a group well, the small group leader should engage the apprentice in conversation regarding the concerns. If done appropriately, these conversations should happen over the course of the entire apprenticeship process. It is a responsibility of the small group leader to express these concerns constructively to their apprentice to allow the apprentice time and opportunity to grow.
Q: What if I develop questions about the gifting of my apprentice?
A: It’s not unusual for it to become apparent during the apprenticeship process that the role of being a small group leader and the apprentice’s spiritual gifts do not align. This should not be discouraging for any party involved. We want the members of our body to serve in alignment with how God has uniquely gifted them. Both the individual and the church at large are benefitted in this process. If this scenario arises, it would be our hope that the small group leader, in conversation with their coach, would bring this to the attention of the Groups Leadership Team so that a better place to serve can be identified.
Q: How does the launch actually work? What happens?
A: This is always a flexible process that will always include wisdom from the leader, coach, Groups Leadership Team. But the two most common scenarios would be: 1.) the apprentice launches a new group with a small portion of the existing group, or 2.) the leader transitions leadership of the group to the apprentice and the leader launches a new group.