Steve Grose shared his testimony about being a twenty-three year old church planter in an article entitled The Secret of Church Growth: MULTIPLY UNITS. He attended a three-week church growth seminar in which he heard from men like Chuck Swindoll, John Macarthur Jr, Gene Getz, Bill Yeager, and others. One of the men was Bill Taylor who at that time was the Minister of Education at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas (later served as Director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources). In the seminar, Bill Taylor said:
“Your body grows each daily by multiplying units of itself. When parts of your body stop doing this, then that area stops growing” he said, patting his balding pate. “The same is true in the Body of Christ! For any area to grow, we must first of all multiply units. If we want more small group Bible studies, we must multiply the number of small group leaders. If we want a larger Sunday School we must multiply the number of effective teaching and recruitment units in Sunday School. If we want more men in discipling ministry, we must multiply disciplers.”
Paul summarized it simply to Timothy when he said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV). This should be built into the fabric of the body of Christ. Sunday School classes should be working to multiply themselves. Small groups should be working to multiply themselves. Teachers/group leaders should be working to multiply themselves. Outreach and ministry leadership should be working to multiply themselves. Christian disciples should be working to multiply themselves.
A sheep pen can only hold so many sheep. A shepherd-steward can only care for so many sheep at one time (John 10:1-16). In order to hold onto new wine, new wineskins are needed (Matthew 9:17). For Sunday School to grow, new units are absolutely necessary–even if space is still available in the old units. But new units are always easier to start when a God-called teacher/leader has been trained and is ready to step forward.
What are you doing to apprentice new leaders? What are you doing to discover, train, and prepare them to launch new units? Consider some of these steps each of which should be done in a spirit of prayer for God’s leadership and help:
- ask God to guide you to a potential apprentice;
- ask the potential apprentice to help you with small portions of the task over a period of time (like preparing a short report, making a visit, calling some guests, preparing for a fellowship, etc.);
- ask the potential apprentice to teach a session when you plan to be present (give him/her feedback);
- show, watch, and assign other tasks to prepare him/her;
- help the potential apprentice to discover his/her gifts, abilities, and experiences that God wants to use as a teacher/group leader;
- at the appropriate time, ask the potential apprentice to become your official apprentice (this heightens the intentional learning/teaching process);
- ask the apprentice to teach once each month;
- as new unit launch time approaches, ask the apprentice to teach more frequently, perhaps even the entire final month; and
- launch the apprentice: either send the apprentice out with a seed group of 1-5 persons to start a new class or leave the apprentice in charge of the old class while you the teacher goes forth with a seed group of 1-5.
Do you want to grow? Then start new units. Do you want to start new units? Then apprentice new leaders. Do you want to apprentice new leaders? Then begin today praying that God will guide you to a potential apprentice. Don’t go through another year maintaining the status quo. Pray and plan to grow. Multiply units. Be revolutionary!