What happens when...
What happens when a community group grows beyond its capacity? What happens when too many people are sitting around the room, and intimacy and engagement begins to wane? Where is there space in our current church structure for new and growing leaders to be trained, equipped and empowered to lead a community group themselves?
Each of these questions is multi-layered, requiring answers that consider numerous elements. If you are leading a community group, you can provide a tangible step to help answer those questions in the form of an intentional decision to invest in an apprentice.
Why invest in an apprentice?
Investing in an apprentice within the context of your current community group serves our church in two primary ways.
First, it gives a place for new leaders to develop. Growing and thriving churches invest in the development of new leaders who can help us press forward in serving God's mission in our community and world. Further, if we do not have a place for young and talented people to express their leadership gifts, they will find a new church where they can serve.
Second, it provides additional leaders that will allow us to multiply our current community groups when they grow beyond a manageable size. The newly trained apprentice can venture out and start a new group with a few of the current members of your community group. This allows our groups to maintain a high level of engagement, because they are not too large. It also creates new groups that new people can join.
The perfect context for training
The context of a current community group is the perfect place for an apprentice to be trained and formed. For example, I could invest 10-20 hours with a person in my office in order to prepare them to lead a community group. They could certainly learn some beneficial skills, tips and techniques from me, but never get to see them play out in an actual community group.
Or, a current leader could provide mentoring, encouragement and tangible experience for the apprentice within the context of an existing community group. This actually mirrors most training protocols. How many people would want a dentist to attempt to stick a drill into their mouth without some form of an apprenticeship process? Without a bit of practice? Sitting in a classroom is not sufficient training for a dentist to learn the practical skills necessary to conduct the technical skills required in their profession. A dentist, surgeon, electrician, etc. often have some element to their training where they are actually practicing the skill in a safe and controlled setting, with the mentoring and support of someone with more experience. We want to provide the same type of experience to prepare our future community group leaders.
The model of Jesus
Even more, we see this modeled in Jesus' own ministry. After Jesus called the Twelve Apostles, he spent countless hours with them. He provided instruction to them, they observed him in ministry and eventually Jesus sent them out to do the same. In Mark 6:7-13, Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles. In Mark's brief description of this process, it is noted that the Twelve Apostles preached repentance, casted out demons and healed the sick (v. 12-13). Upon reading the five chapters that proceed this passage in Mark, it is clear that these are the same primary activities Jesus engaged in throughout his own ministry. Jesus called his disciples, he gave them instruction, spent time with them, modeled ministry for them and then sent them out to do it themselves.
What do you do now? Before you rush off and invite someone to be your next apprentice. Take some time to pray about who God might be calling you to invest in as a future leader. The person may not always seem like the natural choice, or necessarily your first choice. Be patient, be in prayer and listen to the Holy Spirit's leading.
Once you believe you have some clarity about who you might want to invest in as an apprentice, then invite them into the process with you.