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Be quick to listen, slow to speak. -James 1:19

James knew us too well. He knows that we would struggle with speaking too much, too quickly, and too often. He knew that it would be easier to step up and say something than to push through silence and allow someone else time to process and respond.

James was a wise man. And we’d do well to follow his wisdom.

Small group leaders need to remember this when leading their small group.

4 Ways to Listen Well

1. Listen intently to people’s stories. Knowing where somebody has come from and why they gave that particular answer will be unbelievably helpful for you as you lead that person.  Listening to and remembering people’s stories makes them feel that you care, and is a way you can love your group members.

2. Ask questions and wait for answers. Don’t ask a question and give your answer first.  Let others chew on it and share their thoughts.  Some people are slower to answer than others.  They may be more contemplative and take longer to process their answers.  Or, they may simply be polite and not want to talk over anybody.  As the group leader, be okay with silence. You may have introverts in your group.

3. Observe body language. Communication happens verbally and non-verbally.  Don’t neglect either. If someone seems to be eager to engage, give them the chance. If they’re hesitant, be careful pressing in too much.

4. Ask follow-up questions. Instead of taking an answer at face value and moving on, linger for a while.  Ask a follow-up question that draws the answer out a bit more.  Ask the group for feedback.  Listen for similarities and differences in responses, and connect them.

Truth: The goal of a small group is not for the “right” answer to be the first answer.

Work to facilitate discussion.

Work to listen more and talk less.

 

This is the third part in a series on one specific model of recruiting leaders.  You can read parts one and two if you’d like.  These are my concluding thoughts on the value of using apprentices to grow leaders in your organization or ministry.

Advantages of using apprentices to grow your organization (#6-#12):

6. They have seen leadership in action. In my role, as small groups director, this is huge.  I love when a group leader has an apprentice, because that apprentice has seen their group leader navigate difficult situations and lead people effectively.

7. They are insiders. They’ve been a part of the organization for some time now, and the company’s DNA has become their own.

8. Others in the organization don’t wonder, “Where did this guy come from?” They have seen the apprentice in the halls on Sunday, or in the office throughout the week, and they’ve built a relationship with the person, whether that’s a surface-level or deeper.  There’s a credibility and trust that has been built.  Credibility and trust aren’t built overnight.

9. They have been preparing themselves for the specific role. They knew that this move was coming.  They knew that, at some point, they would be asked to lead.  They’ve been praying about it, reading books on it, talking with other leaders who are doing what they will be doing, etc.

10. They have influence within their sphere. They aren’t somebody who has no relationships.  They’ve been working to develop relationships.  When they’re asked to take the lead, there are people who will immediately follow them.

11. It’s not a risky way to find leaders. Leadership develops over time, not overnight.  The apprentice has been developing over the course of months, or even years.  If at some point you need them to lead, it’s easy to evaluate whether they’re ready or not by talking with their leader, who has been evaluating them over the course of their apprenticeship.  If they’re not ready, just give them some more time to develop.  No harm, no foul.  You can avoid placing them in a leadership position that they aren’t ready for, which is a definite “win”.

12.  You can put them in the exact position that fits their gifts. You have observed their leadership potential, have gotten to know them, and can help evaluate strenghts, weaknesses, and areas of interest.

In the end, apprenticeship sets up future leaders for success, equipping them for the leadership role to which God is calling them.

However, apprenticing has its downsides and challenges.  Check back for my thoughts on the disadvantages.

 

Wikipedia defines apprenticeship as “a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill.  Apprentices (or in early modern usage “prentices”) or proteges build their careers from apprenticeships. Most of their training is done on the job while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade, in exchange for their continuing labor for an agreed period after they become skilled.”

In part one of this series, I made a plea for apprenticing, gave an idea on how to do it, and encouraged you to both find someone who will apprentice you and find someone to apprentice.  In this post, I’m going to give you some advantages of using the apprentice method of recruiting leaders.  I tend to think of leadership through the grid of church ministry, and specifically small group ministry, but have tried to keep things broad enough so that if you’re not directly involved in church leadership, you can find these principles and observations helpful.

Obviously, there are tons of different ways to locate and recruit leaders for your organization.  This is one of them.

5 Advantages of using apprentices to grow your organization:

1. They already buy into the vision. If they’ve apprenticed for a time in the ministry, then they know the vision and have bought into where the ministry is headed.  This helps give your ministry synergy to take leaps forward.

2. They know how the organization should work. They’ve sat in leadership meetings, led some themselves, been a part of training events, and seen the organization in action.  This gives them a great advantage over outsiders coming into the organization seeking leadership.

3. Somebody else believes in them. The person who has been apprenticing them is a person who believes in the apprentice’s abilities, character, and leadership potential.  They will be a huge advocate for the apprentice, and likely already have been.

4. They have an insider who will continue to invest in them. Their leader, who asked them to apprentice, will not completely abandon their relationship with this new leader.  They have been developing the relationship over the course of their apprenticeship, and will (hopefully) continue investing in this person.  If you hire (or recruit) from outside of the organization, those support relationships have to be developed.

5. They’ve already been given the chance to lead. The apprentice isn’t taking a huge step when he or she becomes a full-fledged leader.  It doesn’t seem, to them, that they’re making a leap, but rather stepping into a role that feels more natural to them.

I’ve got a few more reasons.  Check back soon for the next post.

What’s your primary method for recruiting leaders?  Do you encourage apprenticeship?

 

One problem in any organization or church is finding good leaders.  Should you take a risk on a young person with unproven talent?  Should you hire the older guy who’s a proven leader but set in his ways?  Do you recruit somebody from within, or go outside the organization?  Do you put somebody into a leadership position who needs training, or who can hit the ground running?  Male?  Female?  Somebody just like you, or somebody who is nothing like you?

One method of raising up leaders is the apprenticing method, and I happen to be a big proponent of finding and training leaders this way.  I know that it comes with its set of problems, the main problem being that it takes time to produce leaders.  The number of leaders needed in your ministry will (hopefully) increase (assuming your church is growing numerically), and if your only method of recruiting leaders is by requiring existing leaders to apprentice somebody in their group, you will find your ministry in a leadership deficit.  So, at GCC, we have a hybrid method.  I strongly encourage apprenticing, but am also aware that we will be desperately hurting for leaders if we only get leaders who have apprenticed for 6-18 months.  So, I have my cake and eat it, too.  Apprenticing is the best way, I believe, but I’m willing to place others into leadership position that haven’t yet apprenticed.

If you have an apprentice, whether you’re involved in a small groups ministry or in any kind of leadership, let me encourage you with one thing: take them with you when you go places.  Ask them to tag along when you go to conferences or to meetings.  Share with them what you’re reading, how you’re growing, and what you’re learning.  Let them see what you do and how you do it.  Be available to answer questions, whether they’re professional or “life” questions.  Give them a snapshot of your leadership on a regular basis.

Isn’t that what Jesus did with his disciples?  His disciples traveled with him, asked him questions, and did ministry together with him.  He even gave them authority! (Try doing that with an apprentice…I bet they’ll love it)

I had coffee with a leader and the apprentice from a small group here at GCC.  It was definitely worth my cost of one more cup of coffee!  I was able to help the leader evaluate his small group (what they’re doing well, where they need improvement, how they are continuing to grow, etc.), cast our vision of group life to the group leader, and thank him for what he’s doing…right there in front of the apprentice!  It was amazing to see the leader and the apprentice interact, and to give them a taste of what group life would look like if everybody in the group would take significant steps in discipleship throughout the life of the group.  I could have communicated only to the group leader, but meeting with the leader and the apprentice was more effective for everybody.

Do you have an apprentice?  Are you apprenticing anybody?

 

Leadership Training

Ben Reed —  May 1, 2009 — Leave a comment

One of the questions that I had for other groups pastors when I began leading group life at Grace was, “How do you do leadership training?”  Honestly, I didn’t get any satisfactory answers.  Some said that they do an intense, all-afternoon training once/month, 2 all-day trainings/year, and even more training for new leaders.  Whew!  It wore me out just hearing their plan!  Other leaders only take their group leaders to conferences for training.  Some churches don’t do anything.  I wasn’t satisfied with any of those plans.  I’m always trying to think of outside-the-box ideas on how to train small group leaders here at Grace Community Church.  This week, I’m leading a training, and I’m pretty excited about it.  Here are some of the highlights.  If this is something you can apply in your setting, feel free to use it!  If you’re a small group leader, consider sharing this with your groups pastor.  I’ve laid out the general idea/direction that we’re going.  I haven’t included specifics, because I haven’t completed the training yet, and want leaders to feel like they’ll get new information by coming!

Here are the guiding principles I developed for leadership training:

1. Do training on the night that groups meet.  By offering training on the nights that each of our groups meet, I ensure that they’ve got the night available.  In other words, if your group meets on Tuesday nights, then you’ve set aside every Tuesday night already, so the excuse of, “I’ve already got something else planned on that night” doesn’t work.  In addition, this pushes group leaders to find an apprentice to lead their group that night.  Group leaders must ask someone in their group to lead while they attend the training.  This helps us to locate potential leaders, and gives those potential leaders the chance to actually lead the group for a night.

2. During the training, give leaders time to talk with each other.  You do that in small groups, right?  Then why should leadership training be any different?  If your small groups are driven by discussion (and not by a teacher behind a lectern), then why should your training events be vastly different?  Leaders can connect with each other, be encouraged by each other, and learn from successes and failures that they’re all having.

3. Make the training worth their time. I’m presenting new information, new stuff that they could not get elsewhere.  It’s not stuff that I could simply share by email.  It’s much better to communicate these things with them face-to-face.  If the leaders feel like it’s a waste of their time, they won’t come.  I need to make sure that what I’m sharing is helpful for them and their group, both immediately and as they’re thinking about how to grow their group in the future.  If what I’m sharing could be shared in an email, I’d share it in an email…that would be much easier, quicker, and cheaper.

4. Honor them.  They’re leading groups for you on a regular basis…at least get them some food!  Let them know how much of a difference they’re making in the lives of those they’re ministering to.

5. Cast vision.  I’m going to change their minds about something.  I want them to leave with a different view on small groups and the church than when they came.  If they don’t leave with a different thought, then why did they come?  If I don’t work to change their minds about something, then I’d say the training wasn’t worth their time.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to sound the trumpet for small groups here at Grace.  My prayer is that others would hear the trumpet and come on board.