I’m in a situation where the vast majority of our congregation is in their twenties. That means that I have lots of potential apprentices but that we can’t afford them! You may face a different situation. You may have an older congregation with the money that may offer but few younger people to recruit. But principally I want to try to find apprentices from within the congregation. To do that need confidence that it’s a hugely attractive proposition to young men who want to go into full-time ministry.
Andrew Nicholls, with whom I did an apprenticeship at Dundonald Church in 1997-1999, had been converted at Cambridge and got involved in a flagship evangelical church there. He subsequently became UCCF Team leader in London, for whom he worked for five years. But when the opportunity came to do an apprenticeship in a small local church he jumped at the opportunity. He knew that there were things that he’d only learn in the context of local church ministry as he was mentored by a local church minister.
It’s worth asking why guys like Andrew, and myself, wanted to do apprenticeships
1. They want exposure to real ministry so that they can work out whether it’s for them. It’s quite an ask to change a career. And so an apprenticeship helps them to work out whether they’re any good at local church leadership. We’ve had guys who end up deciding that the best place for them is secular work. That’s great. It’s certainly not failure. Failure would be going ahead with ministry training when they don’t possess the requisite gifting or desire to be involved in it.
2. They want exposure to a pastor and his family so that they can see how families function in ministry. Their wives, in particular, value the opportunity to look into the future and work out whether they think they can cope. They want to know what’s different about family life as a result of being involved in church leadership.
3. They want exposure to leadership with a degree of risk so that they can have a go. It’s one thing to run a home group whilst you juggle a secular job but it’s another to take responsibility for a church evangelistic programme and run a Christianity Explored course. But you can do that when you;re an apprentice. You can get your teeth into something substantial and get a real taste of leadership.
Alternatively you can try to find apprentices from outside the congregation and recruit from wider networks. That may be your only option. But I want to encourage us to look within, then look again and then, as a last option, look once again! It ought not to have been surprising that the apprenticeships that we’ve found hardest, have been those where we haven’t had an existing relationship. It’s so much easier for both sides to enjoy a mentoring relationship where they know each other well. Obviously recruiting from outside means that’s unlikely. But we’ve also struggled where an apprentice comes with a family because not only is your availability limited by your family commitments, but their availability is limited by theirs.