February 5, 2018

Priorities Series: Leadership Development – Apprenticing

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NOTE FROM LUMINEX: This is the fifth entry in an 8-week series on Priorities. Today’s focus is Leadership Development – Apprenticing. Enjoy!

Hopefully you’ve been keeping up with our series on Priorities.  So far, you’ve read about Kingdom-focused prayer, evangelism, discipleship, and servant leadership.  If you haven’t read them, now is a great time to catch up!

This week, we’re going to talk about apprenticing.  Apprenticing might be the most important framework for developing emerging leaders that exists.  It is certainly a cornerstone for any organization that wants to multiply (the topic of the next Luminex blog post), is essential for any church that wants to get stronger (the blog topic for the week after multiplication), and is certainly foundational to cultural transformation (you guessed it, the final topic of our “Priorities” series).

There are many good resources out there on apprenticing.  One of them is a short little book called “Developing an Apprentice” published by the New Thing Network and Community Christian Church in Chicago.  You can find a copy of it here.  It’s also available in Spanish.

For today, we won’t be taking an exhaustive look at how to go about the apprenticeship process in your context.  If you want to know more, start with the book I mentioned above, or look for a great training opportunity that will be launched in late winter right here on the Luminex website.  For now, let’s focus on two concepts that serve as the heart and soul of apprenticeship: Access and Purpose.

First, an apprentice needs access to the life of the person apprenticing them.  Regularly scheduled formal one-on-one meetings where the apprentice can reflect on their experiences and performance are important.  But the apprentice also needs permission to ask questions about their mentor’s life, rhythms, patterns, mistakes, thought-process, mental-models, assumptions, successes, failures, personal life, discernment process … you get the idea.  And the apprentice deserves open and honest responses to all appropriate questions that they pose.  As a general rule, if they’re brave enough to ask, you should be brave enough to answer, as long as it doesn’t violate your ethical standards.  In other words, you have to be vulnerable.  Apprentices need to know that the person that they are following is human (just like them) and they need to see that their mentor is actively walking a developmental path, engaged in their own journey of learning and growing.

One of the best ways to allow yourself to open up to your apprentice is through creating opportunities for informal interaction.  An apprenticing relationship should be structured around formal meetings and intentional conversations, but it also needs to include opportunities to connect in “downtime” when you’re both off the clock.  Informal settings are rich opportunities for growth.

Try one of these:

  1. Travel with your apprentice. Find a reason to take a road trip, and then ask questions and answer theirs.  Be genuinely curious about your apprentice, and let him or her be curious about you.
  2. Ask for your apprentice’s perspective on a difficult decision that you are making, and then engage them in a conversation about their thought process. If they offer good advice, take it and give them credit.
  3. Invite your apprentice over to dinner with your family, or a group of friends. Keep the evening agenda-free, other than growing your friendship.

In other words, open the doors of your life and let them in.  Access is the only way to foster deep relational connections.  And relationships of trust and integrity are the fuel for missional partnership.

That brings me to the second aspect of apprenticeship that you will need to embrace: a clear purpose.  Both you and your apprentice need to share a deep concern for and commitment to the same priorities.  Your purposes must be aligned so that you both understand what you are trying to accomplish.  Without a mission and a sense of how you will try to accomplish it, your time together will be meandering and neither of you will know what your apprentice is supposed to be learning.  You will eventually stop meeting because you lack a purpose for meeting and other priorities will push your relationship to the side.  Multiplication simply cannot happen without clarity of purpose.

Define the purpose of the apprenticeship at the beginning of the formal relationship.  I recently met with a new apprentice and we identified her two priorities for the next year: creating relational bridges, and learning to reproduce herself into emerging leaders.  Relationships and reproduction are her two primary purposes.  We both believe that these two things are important, and we’ll focus her responsibilities and our conversations around these ends.  Sure, we’ll talk about other stuff, too. But, we’ll be certain that she is learning about building relational credibility and leading in a way that grows leadership capacity in others.  Our formal meetings will always include questions and action items that move her toward learning in those two areas.  We will be attentive to our clear purpose.

When apprentices are given access to your life, and a clear purpose to their work, they feel valued and their engagement with their own learning and ministry grows significantly.  Access and purpose communicate dignity, value, and respect, and foster integrity, which is always worth multiplying.

What about you?
Think of a time when a leader you respect gave you access to their life.  What did it mean to you?  How has that changed your life?

Think of a time when you were given a clear purpose that mattered deeply to you.

How did that purpose foster your growth?

Think of the emerging leaders you know.  Who might you identify as an apprentice?  How could you invite them into your life (access), and offer them responsibility (a clear purpose) that matters?

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