Can you remember a time when you had a dream to lead, but lacked the confidence needed to fully pursue it? What difference would it have made if an experienced leader told you they believed in you? And what if that leader then came alongside you and invested in you?
When I was a senior in college I did my student teaching under a woman named Marianne Melema; an excellent seasoned teacher. She was an interesting mix of take charge, no nonsense, and caring – and if I’m perfectly honest, I was more than a little bit intimidated by her. I will always remember the day I first led a group of seventh graders through a lesson with Marianne sitting in the back of the classroom watching and taking notes. After the kids left, Marianne and I sat down to discuss how we thought things went. I will never ever forget the first words that came out of her mouth. She looked me straight in the face and with an emphasis on each word said, “You are a natural!”
Wow! Hearing those words from this seasoned teacher that I respected made me believe I had what it took to become a teacher. Of course, I still needed development and experience, so Marianne continued to invest in me and help me fulfill what I believe was God’s call on my life in that season. In our church community we would call Marianne Melema a “hero maker!”
In ministry, developing leaders in every area, be it children’s ministry, the arts, or small groups, is important life giving work that every leader needs to engage and invest in. At some point our current leadership roles will come to an end either due to a move, to following a new call, or to being called Home! In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul instructed Timothy with these words, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
For the mission to continue we need to be intentional about investing in the lives of others, who someday will invest in the lives of others! Here are four practices that I’ve learned that have been helpful in investing in others that I want to pass along.
- Investing in others begins with an invitation. At Community Christian Church the way we encourage all of our leaders to invite others to join them on the mission is through apprenticeship, and it begins with what we call an ICNU conversation. ICNU (I see in you…) An ICNU conversation involves meeting one on one with someone and sharing what you see in them that would make them a great apprentice candidate. In the small groups' world in which I currently lead in might sound like – “I love how you really listen to people in our group and how you ask great follow up questions. I think our group knows you really care for them. And I can see that comes from your love for God and your desire for others to know the love and truth about Jesus.” Next, you make the ask!
- When you make the ask use the word explore. “Would you pray and think about apprenticing with me, and explore what it looks like to be a small group leader? I think you will be a natural!” I’ve learned that using the word explore takes some of the pressure off. You’re not asking anyone to commit to a leadership role. You are just asking them to explore the possibility. It also, doesn’t mean they “get” to be a leader. If some red flags or real concerns about their ability to lead appear during the apprenticeship process that you feel they can’t correct or overcome then you can change directions without backing out of a promise of them becoming a leader either.
- Don’t make a general ask to a large group of people. Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t announce to a crowd, “Hey, I need some disciples – who wants to join me?” No, he chose specific people and invited them individually to follow Him and apprentice with Him.
- Don’t ever under sell what you are inviting people to join you in. Do not say, “Hey, this is no big deal.” Or “Anybody could do this.” First of all, it’s not true; God has given us each a unique personality and the Holy Spirit has given us specific gifts that make us a great fit for some areas of ministry and not so much for others. Secondly, it’s not very motivating to be invited to something that “anyone” could do. As leaders we need to cast a compelling vision because we are inviting someone to apprentice with us in God’s life changing, eternity changing work. At Community when we invite someone to apprentice in small groups – we let them know that God is going to give them a front row seat to watching Him change lives!
In Matthew 4 Jesus saw the potential in specific people and invited them to come follow Him – and He promised to develop them into fishers of men and women! That is what it means to invite someone to apprentice with us!
Marianne Melema made a big difference in my life and I have tried to follow her example by investing in the lives of others. I really don’t know how many apprentices I’ve had over the years, but there have been many, and those women have gone on to invest in the lives of other women. Like Paul instructed Timothy, I’ve been blessed to invest in generations of “hero makers!” This fall I will be leading another small group and I will have an apprentice named Colette leading alongside me. My goal is to invest in her desire to follow Jesus, give her opportunities to develop the skills needed to lead a small group, and over time to turn the group over to her leadership. I want to make her a small group hero!
What potential leader needs to hear from you? Who is it that God wants you to invest in and be a hero maker to? Developing other leaders is important, difference making, Kingdom building work that allow us to invest in the next generation of leaders!
Community Christian Church, Adult Ministries Associate