The purpose of the Freshwater Elder Apprentice Program:
To help men build their faith, discover their spiritual gifts, natural talents, equip them for ministry, and become effective elders.
DESCRIPTION OF THE APPRENTICE PROGRAM
The elder apprentice program is designed to help men become fully equipped leaders in their local church. This is accomplished through completing the required reading, meeting with the lead pastor and/or other Elders, and responding to the required questions. Not every Elder apprentice will complete the program. It is a demanding, and very rewarding program for mentor and student.
LENGTH OF APPRENTICESHIP: 3-6 MONTHS
After successful completion of the apprentice program, the Elder candidate will meet with the elected Freshwater elders and Pastoral staff for a formal review. If the candidate is approved for Eldership at Freshwater, the individual's name will be presented to the congregation as an Elder. The term of an Elder shall be two years. Every two years thereafter, the Elder shall have a review by his peers and the pastoral staff. Upon their recommendation, the Elder shall have the opportunity to extend his service for another two years prior to taking one year off per Freshwater policy.
HOW AND WHEN TO BEGIN THIS PROGRAM
You should start this program by praying that God will bring a man into your congregation or raise a man up within your congregation that has the potential to become an Elder. This program is also designed to be used by your existing Elders in order to help them refocus on their responsibilities and encourage them to continue to grow spiritually. If you are preparing more than one apprentice at once it is possible to go through this program in a small group format. I recommend going through it one on one, but you may find the team approach to be just as beneficial in your setting. You may choose to do it as a group with your existing Elders as well. By doing it in a group form you will save time and have the added benefit of building your team together with structured accountability.
I believe that people always rise to meet the challenge set before them. People will always rise to the height of the bar set before them. If you never raise the bar, they will never rise to meet the demanding challenges required of an elder. By working through this program you will rise the bar for the student, the congregation, and for yourself. If you work through this program and don't learn anything new, you have probably not raised the bar for yourself. If you want your Elder candidates to grow, you will have to model it to them.
Set up a meeting to describe the apprentice program to the candidate. Hand out the required reading. For homework, have the candidate read Titus and First and second Timothy to gain a better understanding of biblical Eldership. Also, recommend reading at least one chapter per week in addition to doing their daily devotions. (Daily devotions consist of a regular quiet time with God including prayer, scripture reading, and personal reflection of God's presence in your life). Begin reading "Spiritual Leadership", followed by "Sticky Teams", "Winning on Purpose", and finally "Fish or Cut Bait". Set time and location for second meeting date.
Start each session in prayer. Ask for God's wisdom for your time together and for His blessings upon you. Make this a priority. Your time together should focus on God and how you can grow closer to Him. He is the only one that can draw you closer to Him, so you need to ask Him to do that and the be willing to follow His lead.
Ask them which chapter they are currently reading in their required reading. Ask them what they are learning and how it is affecting them. Encourage them to read the next chapter before you meet again. Have them explain what they are learning from the reading.
Begin working though the questions on Elder qualifications. Read the verse that pertains to the qualification before you discuss the question. The goal is not to finish the questions in a hurry. You should solicit a response to each question from the apprentice and feel free to add your own feelings and personal stories. Your apprentice will learn as much from you as they will from the questions, so take the time to discuss each question at length. Specific questions pertain to some people more than others. For example, if the Elder does not have children, you can expedite the questions that deal with parenting if you so choose. You may only finish one qualification per session. You might want to take notes in the space provided. Don't try and write your thoughts down in their entirety. The goal is to facilitate honest, open discussion and not spend your time together writing notes.
The goal is to help the apprentice understand the qualifications in a practical way. Each qualification requires personal transformation. We become what we are committed to. When you commit to living out the characteristics that are required of an Elder, your life will gradually begin to change and reflect the image of Christ. This change takes time. Don't expect the apprentice to change overnight, but do expect them to begin to display the characteristics of an Elder soon after you begin the program.
Meet for about an hour. If you meet for much longer, you may overload the apprentice and hinder their spiritual growth. Cover the material thoroughly and methodically giving suggestions as needed and displaying transparency in your own life. Set up another meeting time. If possible, schedule regular meeting times so you can write them into your daily planner and make them a priority.
NOTE: If your apprentice cannot seem to schedule any time to meet, this is a good indication that they really don' have the desire to become an Elder. Maybe they do want to become an Elder, but don't have the time. Either way, take into consideration the fact that if you want your Elders to be active servants in the church, they will have to be available to the people. If they are not available to go through the apprentice program, who's to say that they will all of a sudden become available once they finish the program. I have found that people who desire to serve God, do it all the time. They do it while they learn, while they work, and when they are with their family. The person who says that they will begin to serve once they complete the program is probably never going to get any more involved than they are already.
Close in prayer. This is the time to pray for personal needs that the apprentice may have or that you may have. Model prayer, don't just rush through it to get on with your business. Spend time seeking God's wisdom. Do this after each session.
Finish working through the Elder qualification questions. This will take you several weeks if not several months. Do not rush the apprentice through the program or skip any steps. Once you complete the qualifications, spend one session reviewing what you have covered over the past several months. Be sure that the apprentice is keeping up with the required reading.
Once the Elder apprentice successfully completes the program, have the existing Board of Elders gather for prayer for the candidate. Lay hands on him and pray for God to use him in a mighty way while he serves in the role of an Elder. Formally introduce him to the congregation.
BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELDERS/OVERSEERS AND DEACONS
Below are questions that correspond with the qualification listed. Look up the Biblical text in your Bible as you work through the questions. Work through the questions with your "coach". Use the space provided after each question to jot down your answers. Come prepared! Fill our each answer completely. Ask God to help you to better understand the qualifications of an Elder and show you how you can be drawn closer to him through being involved in an Elder role. Be REAL in your response.
All rights reserved. Copyright Dr. John Braland 2001, 2010, 2012, 2015