Why Your Ministry Needs An Apprenticeship Model To Survive

5 Steps To Building The Leadership Structure Your Ministry Needs To Thrive

One of my biggest fears as a youth minister was knowing who was going to keep the ministry going after I was gone. That fear became a reality when I left my job last year.

Anytime you leave there is going to be a void. People will miss your personality and leadership style; however, it shouldn’t create a situation where everything around you collapses. To bridge the gap and avoid disaster your ministry needs to:


In fact, it’s something every youth minister should be thinking about within their first year of ministry. That might seem premature, but the reality is your leadership can end for a variety of reasons.

The ideal situation is to have multiple staff in the youth ministry. That means a Director of Youth Ministry with coordinators overseeing different areas (i.e. middle school or small groups). When the director steps away one of those people would ideally be the next leader in line.

But, let’s say that your church doesn’t have the budget for multiple staff. What happens if you need to rely on volunteers?

To create a solid apprenticeship model you need to:


When you have a core team you already have a group of people who are taking on a leadership role. They are not only helping you with problem-solving but investing in the long term goals of the ministry. To build a core team read these posts:

Who to Recruit For Your Core Team HERE

Building a Leadership Core Team HERE

6 Steps to a Healthy Volunteer Core Team HERE


The key to investing in more teenagers is by investing in adult volunteers. While that’s one of your primary roles as a leader it’s something you need to share with other volunteers.

A basic structure would include:

  • Entry level positions (e.g. sering pizza)
  • Team leaders who are responsible for coordinating other volunteers.
  • Managers who oversee the quality and functionality of a certain area (e.g. hospitality).

By creating a structure it enables your volunteers an opportunity to grow in their skills and leadership. They’ll see that they don’t have to serve pizza forever, but have the ability to leave their thumbprint on the ministry.


When we need volunteers the tendency is to just throw them into the ministry pool and say, “SWIM!” The risk to just asking our volunteers to work on day one is overwhelming them and killing any confidence.

If you want your volunteers to consistently think, “What’s next?” you need to ease them into serving. Have them shadow a seasoned volunteer and observe how they serve. Give them permission to ask questions and learn before you give them actual responsibility.


You need your volunteers to think like leaders. To help them do that invest in them professionally. That might mean taking them to conferences and workshops.

Talk to them about best practices and what you are learning as a leader. Help them to see their commitment as something more so that they buy into the vision just as much as you do.


Don’t be afraid to discuss with your pastor and volunteers about the day the sun sets on your ministry. Talk about the margin needed to find a successor. Create a list of potential candidates that you can invest in to take over.

It’s an awkward and uncomfortable conversation, but it allows you to eliminate surprises. Even if you never leave you’ll build a ministry that is not built on your identity.

An apprenticeship model is constantly asking the question, “Who’s up next?” It’s giving people to serve at a higher capacity and lead in a new way. It’s allowing you to mentor future leaders who will take your ministry to a greater level.

Question:  What are some of the ways you are investing in the future of your ministry’s leadership?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.