“What is the one thing every leader needs to listen to, understand, and implement in order to succeed?”

Get An Apprentice

That is the ONE thing we wish every church leader would do first as a leader and then ask every other leader in their ministry and church to do. Why? Because we believe every role is reproducible. Let that sink in…every role is reproducible. If it’s not, then why create it? Think about it. Why do we create new ministries, programs, small groups, and teams in the first place? Hopefully the underlying mission is to help more people find their way back to God and ultimately give God more glory, right? If that were true, then wouldn’t you expect that a healthy and vibrant ministry, program, small group or team would reproduce in order to reach exponentially more people for Christ? Of course!

If we are to become all about creating teams and groups that are reproducible, that means every role must also be reproducible. So the question remains—how do we reproduce that role? If it’s a person who loves kids and serves diligently to help more kids love Jesus—how do you reproduce that role? Or what if someone is great at running sound, playing guitar, or leading worship—how do we reproduce that? In 1997 a book was published by a great church consultant who has influenced our church in regards to leadership development perhaps more than any other person. In his book Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership, Carl George describes a simple and memorable process on how to reproduce the role of any leader through apprenticeship:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk.
  2. I do. You help. We talk.
  3. You do. I help. We talk.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk.
  5. You do. Someone else watches

I Do, You Watch, We Talk 

If you were the leader of the set-up/tear-down ministry and you had an apprentice, you would want your apprentice to be with you at all times to learn the ins and outs of that ministry. So if you show up at 6 AM to set up, have your apprentice show up at 6 AM (but remember to buy them coffee, so you are serving them along the way). Then have your apprentice watch as you “direct traffic” during set up. They’ll observe where tables, chairs and people go. Once services are over, the apprentice can observe how you lead the whole tear-down process, from how things are broken down, to how they are carried out the door and packed into the trailer. You want them to watch everything you do as a leader so you can talk about the apprentice role.

I Do, You Help, We Talk 

Let’s try another scenario for this one. If you were a leader of a support and recovery small group and you had an apprentice, your goal is to reproduce everything you do as a leader with that potential leader. But at this stage of the game you are giving them opportunities to help. So maybe you have the apprentice leader do the opening prayer time and you do the facilitating, and the apprentice leader is responsible for taking mental note of how you do as a leader. They should pay attention to how you ask follow-up questions, how you respond to people talking during someone sharing, and how you respond to particularly difficult stories. You and the apprentice can meet outside the group and discuss how you did as a leader. You can then share how they did helping with the prayer time.

You Do, I Help, We Talk 

Let’s say you’re leading a lighting team and you have an apprentice who has had a few experiences with helping and they are ready to go the next level of the apprenticeship. This means it’s time for them to do, while you help. So for any given service, have them set up the lighting, run the lighting in cue to cue, and run the lights during service. After those services, you can then meet with your apprentice to discuss how things went, asking them if there is anything they would have done differently. You can also ask whether there is anything that you could have done as the leader to support them more in the process.

You Do, I Watch, We Talk 

This is nearly the final phase of reproducing the role. This is when the apprentice feels ready and confident to take on full responsibility for the leadership role they’re apprenticing. For example, if they’re apprenticing as a children’s ministry small group leader, they are now ready to lead the children’s small group on their own, while the current leader observes. Then the two will meet to discuss how things went. It is through this last phase that it becomes apparent whether the apprentice is really ready to step into leadership. And if both people feel like the timing is right, then it’s time to reproduce into leadership, which leads us to our last phase.

You Do, Someone Else Watches

This last step is vital. It reminds us to repeat the process, to never forget the vision of being a reproducing church and to never settle for stopping at one generation reproduction. It reminds us to be a church that reproduces second, third and fourth generations. Remember Paul’s vision for the church that he cast so well to Timothy, the 2-2-2 Principle.

Now, go get an apprentice and fulfill the Jesus Mission together!

This post was written by Eric Metcalf and Jessie Vaca. Eric & Jessie are also the authors of Apprenticing A Leadership Resident, a practical guide to knowing what to look for in a Leadership Resident (apprentice church planter), how to recruit them, develop them and release them as church planters. NewThing now has almost 300 Leadership Residents worldwide in training and this guidebook walks you through how you and your team could build a Leadership Residency Program.