At Grace Church, we believe that every follower of Jesus called to become his “apprentice.” Historically, the church has used the word “disciple” to describe what it means to be a follower of Jesus. While this is still a vital and viable word, at Grace we believe that the term “apprentice” best helps 21st Century followers of Jesus to understand the way that we live and practice our faith.
Taking this idea from Dave and Jon Ferguson, as explained in their excellent book, Exponential: How to Accomplish the Jesus Mission, this model and cycle of discipleship is something that we’re trying to emulate at Grace Church.
So what does it look like? I’m glad you asked:
- I do. You watch. We talk. As an experienced leader leads a team, an apprentice takes time to observe him or her. Within a few days, the two should meet to discuss what the apprentice has observed. This debriefing time should include three simple questions: (1) “What worked?” (2) “What didn’t work?” and (3) “How can we improve?” This time of debriefing needs to continue throughout the process.
- I do. You help. We talk. In this phase of development, the leader gives the apprentice an opportunity to help lead in a particular area. For example, if someone is being developed to lead a student ministry small group, the leader might ask that person to lead the prayer time while the experienced leader leads the remainder of the time together. Again, this experience should be followed up with a one-on-one to talk.
- You do. I help. We talk. Now the apprentice transitions from supporting or helping the leader to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities of the team or group. If a person is being apprenticed to lead a team of sound technicians, he or she will operate the sound system and provide leadership for the other sound technicians. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader. As in the previous steps, the leader and apprentice leader should meet regularly to debrief the ministry experience.
- You do. I watch. We talk. The apprentice process is almost complete as the new leader grows increasingly more confident in his or her role. Consider how this step might look in a children’s ministry. A children’s group leader, at this point, would give his or her apprentice the opportunity to fulfill all the functions of leadership, with the more experienced leader now looking on and watching the new leader in action.
- You do. Someone else watches. This is where the process of reproducing comes full circle. The former apprentice is now leading and begins developing a new apprentice. Ideally, the leader who has developed and released several apprentices will continue to work with those leaders in a coaching capacity.
At Grace we believe each apprentice invests in other apprentices as the cycle continues, and we all grow deeper in our faith together as we love God, serve all, and change lives.