Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Joy of Apprenticing Others

Replacing yourself is about taking a responsibility that you own and handing it off to someone else so that they not only do what you do but also own what you owned.

All of us will be replaced. We will either replace ourselves intentionally, or we will be replaced unintentionally. In order to intentionally apprentice others we must resist the tendency to feel as though we are losing control or status.

The church is comprised of volunteers who carry on the ministry. Whenever you implement an intentional replacement strategy you increase the pool of volunteers and increase the quality of volunteers. Without a replacement strategy you will always suffer in both quantity and quality of volunteers.

The joy of apprenticing is that in developing a replacement we are present to watch someone do what we used to do and we can enjoy the process. We all will be replaced someday, but to participate in the process is a big win. To embrace a value of replacement will erase the question of how we get more volunteers. Replacing yourself as a leader is personal whereas just getting more volunteers is impersonal.

Why don’t we have more leaders and volunteers?”
• A leader’s insecurity
• A leader’s need for control

Ephesians 4:11-12 states that our primary activity is to equip others for the work of effective ministry.

Feeling threatened:
What if someone takes my ministry away from me and we are no longer needed? We need to realize that gifting and anointing cannot be taken away by others, only positions can.

Demands of working in the church rather than on the church will keep others out of ministry and not allow leaders to develop.

Moses had to address this issue. In Exodus 18 Jethro told Moses he was going to wear himself out if he didn’t start to replace himself with others. He told Moses to get men who would oversee groups of 10, 50, 100, and 1,000’s. Within this new infrastructure he appointed men who had different levels of leadership capacity. Each would have a different capacity, however all have within themselves an ability to grow and increase their leadership.

Because Moses listened to Jethro’s counsel Moses went from a force of one to a force of 131,000 leaders.

We have a lot of people in the wings coming along behind us that demand we break out of a self-limiting structure in order to allow them to develop.

We get caught in the maintenance matrix. When this happens, the demands of the current structure often take all of the leader’s time.

A primary reason churches do not grow is because they often have wrong concepts of what a leader is supposed to do.

Replacing ourselves requires deliberate effort or it will never happen.

We must not cast a leadership shadow in which nothing grows. To embrace this enables you to do less and accomplish more.

Raise the bar:
By doing it him/herself, a leader sets the standard. However, responsibility must be handed off so others can take on more responsibility and ownership. The apprentice knows what the standard is as it has already been set by the previous leader. However, the leader must make room for the apprentice to make mistakes and to grow in their responsibility and ownership.

Take the lid off:
If the same people are always assuming responsibility for things, there is a cork in the bottle when it comes to leadership development. It is expedient to broaden the base of leadership and allow others to grow. If you are a leader who feels you must go to every meeting and participate in every decision, if you have a high need for control, then you never broaden the base of leadership.

We do not have competition in our leadership. When one person does well, we all do well. Mature leadership delights in giving away responsibility and seeing others do well and garner praise. Success in ministry is not doing the task but finding others who can do the task better than you can.

Leadership must facilitate multiplication at every level in the church.

Make it a value that when anyone is leading anything, part of their responsibilities is to recruit, train and release others into the same ministry (i.e. children’s, youth, worship). Write down the names of one or more people you know who can help do this and go get them.

Volunteers in the church must see themselves as recruiters. Part of every volunteer’s job description is to replace themselves. When a volunteer in the church says to a friend, “You must come and watch me as I do this because I am so excited about it.” They are far more likely to participate and engage in ministry. Not only are they more likely to engage in ministry, but also to stay in ministry. This approach to recruiting is much more relational rather than task oriented. When you recruit by announcement on Sundays, you may get some sign ups but when the pressure is on they often quit. But if your friend asked you to come and help them, you are more likely to stick with it. It is the relational connection that solidifies their commitment.

Increasing the leadership and volunteer base of the church summary:

1. Replace yourself and see it as a win.

2. When you replace yourself with others, you become a multiplier.

3. Have multipliers at every level of the church.

4. Write down one to two names of people that you may train.

5. Every leader is to be a recruiter.

6. Every volunteer has another responsibility to recruit someone for their job. Every volunteer must see themselves as a recruiter, not just doing ministry but recruiting others for ministry and thereby multiplying your volunteers.

7. We will rarely get great leaders by giving a general plea for help. In fact people view it as somewhat of a failure, “Please come join our uninteresting, unchallenging, failing endeavors.”

8. Leaders are recruited one by one, through an enthusiastic, compelling vision. They do not respond to a general plea for help.

9. Relational connection solidifies commitment.

10. Leaders must recruit their own leaders.

11. Find the 20% that influence the 80%

12. Intentional apprenticing;
• Watch what I do
• I will watch you do what I did
• You do what I just did with you, with someone else watching you.

13. Coach others to a certain level. Set the bar high to ensure quality. Watching you do things at a high level automatically sets the level high for the apprentice to shoot for. An apprentice leader comes along with an excellent leader which sets the standard.

14. Apprenticing allows you to watch them before you hand over ministry.

15. If an apprentice has some issues (personality issue, methodology issue or doctrinal issue) it will surface during the apprenticing period. It’s better to discover this at that time rather than after they are in the position of ministry.

16. Because we are always learning many do not feel qualified to apprentice others. The goal is not to get leaders who feel they are such an expert and are therefore qualified to apprentice others, but to simply bring others on the journey with you so they can discover what you know and do.

How do we replace ourselves?

Step one: Break it down.
You need to have a clear understanding of what you do and why. Each responsibility should be broken down into steps that can easily be communicated and explained. Some people who lead various ministries in the church are very good at it, but couldn’t communicate what they do.

Step two: Be intentional about giving it away.
We are not in competition with people around as we are not running a race against each other but with each other. This is different than having people fill in for you. I am present when others are doing what I do. My apprentice is not filling in for me, he is replacing me. A seasoned teacher is in the classroom when others are teaching, it is not to fill in for you, but to replace you. They are there to coach you and applaud you when you finish.

People whom you hand-off to will make mistakes and these are a great training ground. Mistakes have no value unless someone is there to coach them afterward and debrief with them about it. Everyone involved at every level of ministry must understand that their goal is not a lesson well taught, but somebody to do it when you are not there.

Step Three: Allow them to run, own it, and walk away.
I have had to back away from meetings I once participated in order to let others grow into areas of responsibility. If you don’t let go, they will never thrive and grow. Control destroys apprenticeship.


  1. Great post John. So helpful as we plant re-producing churches. Thanks!

  2. God brought a good dosage of conviction in my life through this post. What you said is very insightful and practical.

    Thanks John for taking the time to communicate all that.

  3. This is a good word to the church. I'm a young man of 25 years, active in ministry for 10 of those, and being certain of his call to do it full-time. Many people have recognized it and spoken to me about it, and yet despite my willingness and initiative, no leaders have sought to train me. I was eventually asked by some very close friends to assist in their ministry in Mexico, which is where I am now, but looking at my return I'm not certain what God would have me do.

    I think many willing servants are disenfranchised because they desire to follow the biblical model of an active, missional life rather than the pervading passive western church culture. They then go into missions nearly autonomously, but missions should be united with the church, with church planting as the base (for strength and as a more visible testimony of their reasons for doing such work) preceding the work to meet more specific needs of the area.

    I think if more churches took on this practice you describe, more quality and missional people would stay to serve the church (keeping it focused), more would be trained up to go out than those who stayed, and more missionaries would have closer connections to supporting churches and have greater strength in their missions as they take on such a model themselves. Movements like Acts 29 excite me, but I still wonder what God wants me to be doing with my gifts and passions as I still lack anyone to lead me in them.

  4. John, I am really enjoying reading your posts on church planting and other topics. I was wondering when you might post some more?

    I just sent an email to my guys lifegroup (Grace Church - Lee's Summit) about subscribing to your blog & Terry Virgo's.

    Thank you for your service. I'm praying for you and other leaders in New Frontiers.

    Steve Mallory