When we train apprentices or delegate tasks, sometimes we’re too slow to hand things off. I’ve written about this danger over the last few weeks, but we must consider another danger as well: being too quick to hand things off.
When we hit stage 4 for training new Bible study leaders (“You do; I watch”), we may feel tempted to simply send them out and commend their souls to God. We might even be relieved to have someone to take on some of our responsibility. We have complete trust in the person to serve and full confidence in God to work. But sending out new leaders must not flick like a standard light switch, on or off. It should transition more like a dimmer switch with increasing shades of brightness.
So when you send out your apprentice to lead a new group, you’re not yet finished as a trainer. You still should check in with that person from time to time to see how things are going. You’ll want to encourage the leader with evidence of God’s grace. You’ll want to expose areas of potential blindness. You’ll want to stimulate the leader’s thinking about ways to excel. And you’ll want to make sure the new leader considers finding his or her own apprentice to train and launch.
We can see this approach in the Apostle Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Paul’s chief aim on his first missionary journey was to appoint and train leaders for fledgling churches: “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). But he didn’t merely set them up and forget about them. Notice the impetus behind his second missionary journey: “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are” (Acts 15:36). That second trip covered the same ground before going farther and deeper into Rome’s empire. His third trip then revisited the same places as the second trip.
He kept visiting the same places to strengthen and correct the leaders. He didn’t control them or take those churches back over. He let the leaders lead, but he made sure to check in and offer help. There’s much for us to learn from this approach.
First, don’t forget your apprentices, even after they’ve gone to lead their own groups.
Second, you don’t need a curriculum or detailed training agenda. Just visit occasionally to “see how they are.” You might want to ask about what’s going well and what could be better. You may also want to make your own observations.
Third, decrease your involvement as they continue to develop.
Fourth, make sure your former apprentices take note of potential new apprentices they can train.
Fifth, rejoice in the Lord, who is multiplying your ministry and your influence before your eyes. Keep those eyes fixed on Christ so you can represent him well.