Communicate Along the Way
Don't keep apprenticing a secret. Talk about when you were apprenticed, share what's involved in apprenticing, and let the group know when you've found an apprentice. The more you talk about it, the less of a surprise it will be. Plus, it doesn't feel like you're doing something behind the group's back. And when you decide to birth, keep them in the loop along the way. Why is the leader ready? When will it happen? When will you celebrate together? How will it affect the current group? Answer the questions your group members are asking themselves.
What you celebrate shows what you value, so think about what you celebrate with your group. Get excited about your new apprentice, talk about exciting leadership developments in the church, and congratulate group members in their leadership at work and home. And be sure to throw a party when you birth the new group. You'll be able to commission the new leader and celebrate all that's happened in the group.
If you're not excited about apprenticing, no one else will be either. So go to God if you're not feeling it. Pray for vision and excitement. Additionally, commit to the process. If you truly value raising someone into leadership, don't take shortcuts. Your apprentice will feel cared for and will be fully trained. It also sends a message to your group members that apprenticing is important and you don't want to throw someone into leadership unprepared.
Think Outside the Box
Too often we do only what we've experienced (or what we've grown comfortable with), but there are many ways to birth a new group. If you're continually apprenticing new leaders, there's no need to split your group. Consider sending off new leaders to begin a new group to a demographic that they're passionate about. Help them see the specific needs in your church and investigate how they might meet them with their new group. Is there an abundance of newly married couples? Are there several unconnected people who can meet on the same night? Some of your current group members may want to join the new leader on this adventure as well. Another option is to allow the apprentice to remain with the current group while you go off to start a new group. Or perhaps you co-lead for a time until one of you is ready to move on. If group members react negatively to the thought of birthing, it may be to the specific method of birthing they've experienced. Think through a different method to use.
Keep Health Central
Above all, keep healthy groups as your focus. Healthy groups should be missionally minded with a focus on love, trust, and encouragement. They're a place where we live out the one another commands and are truly known by others. It's the perfect breeding ground for healthy leaders. But if things aren't healthy in the group, you will need to start there. Unhealthy groups won't produce healthy leaders, and they'll likely be hurt by a birthing experience. Know your group and work with your coach or small-group point person to build a healthy small group. If you have an apprentice, have him or her help you with the process. He or she will be a stronger leader for it.
—Amy Jackson is the Associate Editor of SmallGroups.com and has served as a small-group leader, coach, and director; copyright 2012 by Christianity Today.
- What is your group's initial reaction to the idea of birthing? Why?
- How can you improve your communication about birthing?
- Are you committed to always having an apprentice? Why or why not?