What do you think? Would you answer true? Or false?
Early in my ministry I attended a small group ministry conference at Willow Creek. At that conference I learned that "healthy groups grow and birth" and every small group leader needs an apprentice so that groups can grow and birth (multiply).
While at that conference I also learned that Willow had been profoundly influenced by Carl George's Meta Church model. Naturally, I devoured Carl's book and spent the next several years applying what I learned from it. See also, The Meta Church Small Group Model and Prepare Your Church for the Future.
At about the same time I attended a Fuller Church Growth conference and heard Jim Dethmer teach about leadership and vision. Jim shared a well-known fable about a man being rewarded by a king for something he had done. In the fable the man asks the king to give him a single grain of wheat and then double the amount every day for 64 days (like filling up the squares on a chessboard). The man ends up owning all the grain in the kingdom. The fable explains the power of multiplication or geometric progression. You can read more about the origin of the fable right here.
Over the next few years I insisted that every group leader and every coach in my small group ministry have an apprentice. Apprenticing was an important part of my strategy for developing leaders and multiplying groups.
But...and this is important...I eventually realized that apprenticing doesn't actually lead to more groups. Or rarely leads to more groups.
Here's what I believe about apprenticing:
Apprenticing can be a powerful leadership development practice. When legitimately practiced and honestly applied, apprenticing is a leadership development pipeline with great potential.
Don't miss what I'm saying here. Legitimately practicing and honestly applying the practice of apprenticing means much more than filling in a name in a box or an org chart. If all you are doing is requiring every leader to provide the name of his or her apprentice...you have more than missed the mark.
Apprenticing as a group multiplication strategy is most effective in slow-growth situations. If you've already connected most of your average adult weekend worship attendance and you can wait 12 to 18 months for your next new group to open up to new members...apprenticing may be an adequate strategy. If, on the other hand, a high percentage of your adults are unconnected, depending on existing groups to "grow and birth" as your primary method for group multiplication is irresponsible.
Whether your church is experiencing slow growth or fast growth, apprenticing is important but there are other strategies for launching new groups that allow for more rapid leader identification. See also, 8 Secrets for Identifying an Unlimited Number of Leaders.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Alberto G.