When I finished a training event in a church for teachers and leaders of adult groups, one of the teachers told me he finally figured out why his group did not believe him when he said they were going to start another group. He said it was because he had not shown them an apprentice.
They will believe you when they see you enlisting and training an apprentice!
WHY IS LEADER MULTIPLICATION ESSENTIAL? Jesus gave us the mission of multiplication when He commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). This is bigger than we can accomplish alone. Jesus recognized this when he said that the harvest is abundant but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37).
Paul understood the mission when he instructed Timothy, a young pastor, to commit to faithful men the things Paul had taught him so that those men would teach others also (see 2 Timothy 2:2). Three generations of multiplication were involved in Paul’s directions. It is not just a matter of multiplying ourselves. Rather it is about multiplying ourselves into others who will multiply themselves.
The fact is that one shepherd can only lead so many sheep (John 10:12-13). More shepherds are required to reach and care for more sheep. Rick Warren quoted a Gallup survey which indicated that churches might have five times as many leaders serving if potential leaders were asked or trained. The lack of additional shepherds is the number one reason more new groups are not started today.
HOW DO I ENLIST AND TRAIN MULTIPLYING LEADERS? Jesus taught and modeled ministry (Mark 1:14-15) and prayed (Luke 6:12) before He called the twelve apostles (sent ones). After Jesus called them (Mark 3:13), He prepared them by continuing to teach and model ministry with them before sending them out. They were sent out in pairs (Mark 6:7) to do what He had been doing. Then He called them together for a report time (Mark 6:30).
Since people have varying abilities and previous experiences, multiplying leaders will usually require between six and twelve months. Consider these apprenticing steps:
- Pray. Ask for God’s leadership in discovering those He wants you to apprentice.
- Observe. Spend time watching what God is doing in the lives of those in (and around) your group.
- Take them with you. Invite potential leaders to join you for life and group activities. Go to a ball game together. Make a visit. Have a meal. Plan a fellowship. Give them growing assignments.
- Debrief what they did. Ask questions. Listen. Affirm strengths and gifts. Offer suggestions for the future.
- Ask them to serve. Following God’s leadership in prayer and observation, formalize your apprenticing efforts by asking them to join you in ministry. This will heighten their attention to your training efforts from that point for-ward.
- Increase the training pace. In anticipation of releasing the multiplying leader to serve, give an increasing number and mix of opportunities for leadership expression. For instance, move from one teaching Sunday to teaching every other Sunday prior to releasing them to serve.
- Set a launch date. After prayer and observation, determine a date to start the new group. Communicate the date with the apprentice and with the group. Hesitate to send the apprentice out alone. Remember, Jesus sent them out in pairs. If you are leaving the current group in the apprentice’s hands so you can leave to start a new group, let the group know what you are doing and express confidence in the apprentice as he or she takes over the group’s leadership.
- Celebrate the launch. Remember to praise God and affirm those who have helped launch the new group. Celebrate with sponsoring groups, the new group, and in the congregation.
- Lead them to choose an apprentice. Help your apprentice become a multiplying leader by leading him/her to prayerfully enlist and begin investing in an apprentice.
- Continue to coach. Following the launch of the new group, continue to encourage the new group leader. Coach him/her through challenges toward fruitfulness.
Darryl Wilson serves as the Sunday School & Discipleship Consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He served as Minister of Education in five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina. He is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups. This series is a part of Be A Catalyst: Start New Groups, available on your Kindle for 99 cents.