Why Every Leader Needs an Apprentice

Post by Micah Hutchison on September 2nd, 2010

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Increasing leadership is essential to increasing ministry reach.

According to John Maxwell “everything rises and falls on leadership.” While it’s easy to attack “everything”, “always”, and “never” statements; there’s truth behind the statement. The quality and the quantity of leaders in a church will limit the number of people God will reach and grow through its ministry.  If we believe that God is calling us to reach and disciple an increasing number of people through our ministry, then we must also understand that we need to increase the number and quality of leaders in our organization.

The question is where do those leaders come from? Our answer is that, by and large, leaders of a church should be raised up from within the church.  With this in mind we realize that our best pool of potential leaders are those that are already serving in a ministry at Harvest. Apprenticing leaders is a great solution to the need for expanding leadership.

Develop an apprentice for yourself.

Learn to spot a leader on your team.

  • Leaders exhibit initiative.
  • Leaders are self-sufficient in their role– the kind of person who takes things off your plate, not adds to it.
  • Leaders have influence over others. If someone is a leader, people will follow. Spot those volunteers that are already a leader without the title. At Harvest we believe that leadership is recognized not appointed.
  • Leaders need to be good followers too. It’s important that your apprentice have great buy-in to the vision.
  • Leaders see ways things could work better. This is not the same as someone who grumbles about problems. Leaders have an ability to see how a problem might be remedied.

Apprentice your replacement by following three steps:  Show and Explain, Observe and Coach, Release and Evaluate

Show & Explain: In this step your apprentice observes what you do in your role and you teach them the ins and outs of your job.

By systematic in what you explain while avoiding information overload. You want to give your apprentice a thorough understanding of the job, but realize that he won’t be able to learn or understand it all until he gets time to try to practice doing the job as well.

Focus on the Values– the heart and the why of what you do.  Help your apprentice understand and connect to the WHY.  Strong leaders are driven by values. If your apprentice knows what your ministry team is trying to accomplish and why, they can begin to understand and properly place the specific tasks that they are supposed to fulfill.  Think of it like trying to organize a library of books.  The individual books are the tasks you do as the ministry team leader.  The first thing your apprentice needs before they try to organize all of the books (or tasks) of your ministry library is a way to organize them– like bookshelves.  The bookshelves are the goals and the values of your ministry.  The bookshelves are concepts like: on the tech team we value excellence because our goal is to help people connect with and worship God.  Anything less than our best isn’t cool. Or another bookshelf for a tech team might be We want to empower a tech team volunteer to own their role. These Bookshelves give the structure, or the why to tasks.  This way tasks are connected to a WHY.  So tasks like running through all videos prior to service, or running the slides with the band during practice, can be connected to the WHY bookshelf of our goal is to help people connect with and worship God.  Anything less than our best isn’t cool.

Observe & Coach: Now that you’ve explained the role you should give deliberate opportunities for your apprentice to wear your shoes with you. By allowing someone to practice your role with your help you provide a safe way for her to get her feet wet.  You’re like a coach in that your apprentice is on the court playing while you’re actively involved from the bench.  You can call a time out any time to offer advice or redirect.  Like a coach, however, you’re letting your apprentice take control of the ball.

  • Help your apprentice remember the tasks that have to be completed, and reinforce the why along the way as well.
  • After the “game”, evaluate the performance.  An important piece to the Observe & Coach step is providing immediate, constructive feedback to your apprentice.  Share what he did well, then areas that can be improved, and reinforce the positive again.  Be sure to allow for 2-way discussion so you can learn what you need to do different as a coach.  You shouldn’t do all the talking.

Release and Evaluate: When you and your apprentice are comfortable enough you should move on to step three: Release and Evaluate.  I say comfortable enough because no one’s every totally ready.  You need to know when it’s time to push your  apprentice-chick out of the nest and let her fly.  This step is different from the last in one main way.  You are gone.  Let your apprentice lead, alone. After each opportunity that your apprentice has had to run with your job on his own, help him evaluate and process his performance.

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