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When I was a sophomore in college I joined the youth ministry team as an apprentice small group leader. For a whole year I shadowed Sara, the small group leader. I watched how she interacted with the girls—a group of sophomores from a local high school. I listened as she led the Bible study. I met her at leader's meetings on Sunday nights. I went with her to the girls' sporting events. I witnessed her passion for Christ and her commitment to the girls in our group. From watching Sara I learned what it meant to be a youth leader. When she graduated from college and moved away, I took over as small group leader for that group of girls.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because my church is trying to reshaping our vision for ministry and talking about ways to develop new leaders. It is hard to get people out for leader’s meetings and even harder to find an hour or two of available time when everyone can meet for training. What isn’t hard is thinking of several excellent leaders at my church—leaders who I would love to see pass on their passion for ministry. I wonder what would happen if each of them would take someone under their wing to show them what they do and how they do it.

There is marvelous reciprocal benefit to this approach to leadership development. The leader knows she is setting an example, so she strives to set a good example, offering every idea she’s picked up along the way. With the apprentice always watching the leader becomes even more intentional about putting all of those good ideas into practice! Meanwhile the apprentice is inspired as he watches real ministry in action. He is encouraged to take on more responsibility and ownership of the ministry as he gains experience and confidence. A new leader emerges, and a seasoned leader grows stronger.

Today I’m asking myself (and you!), who will take my place? Who should I be investing in and preparing to lead the ministry I lead? And who are the “Pauls” in my children’s ministry team? The volunteers who could say to someone else, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” (Philippians 4:9 NIV)  I’d like to find them an apprentice.  

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