As I was doing some research for a course I will teach this summer for Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, I came across a concept that I have not thought a great deal about, and I found information about it in an interesting place. First of all, the concept is “apprenticing.” The idea was much more common in a world where there were no trade schools, community colleges, or employee training programs. Although it has certainly been around since the beginning of civilization, the idea of apprenticeship took off in the Middle Ages. A master craftsman would enter into an arrangement with a youngster fifteen or sixteen years of age and teach that apprentice a trade such as blacksmithing, baking, etc. After a certain number of years and proven competence, the student would either become a journeyman practitioner of the trade or set up his own workshop.
The second surprise is that I found a great explanation of apprenticing in a podcast by pastor Andy Stanley. Stanley is both a committed student and gifted practitioner of leadership. He provides some good insights in his podcast. In this case, he talked about the challenge he gives to every staff member to “teach someone to take your place.” In other words, practice apprenticeship in your ministry.
In Stanley’s presentation, he suggests three stages in apprenticing—selecting, modeling, and coaching. A leader should take time in finding a person who is talented, motivated, and teachable. Once that person is identified, he or she should spend time with the leader observing how he or she practices ministry, asking questions, and learning both philosophy and techniques. Finally, the apprentice begins doing the work and receiving coaching or feedback. The coaching in this model is much more hands-on and directive than in the usual life coaching relationship since the leader is really trying to instill something new into the life of the learner.
As Stanley points out, leaders are called not only to be learners but to be teachers as well. The best way to encourage a new generation of leaders is to invest in available, gifted, and teachable people by sharing one’s own experience and knowledge.