Two trainers share how to get apprentices started well

Many factors contribute to the experience of an MTS apprentice and how they get started is a big one! Starting well has a profound impact on how settled, confident and comfortable apprentices feel as they step into all the ‘newness’ of their apprenticeship. This, in turn, contributes to how they launch into their ministry and training.

We spoke to two experienced trainers and gleaned wisdom from how they start apprentices well, and what are the ‘non-negotiables’ for the first few weeks!

Carmen Lau

St John’s Cathedral Parramatta

Carmen is on the ministry team at St John’s Cathedral Parramatta and oversees the children’s ministry and Kids’ Church. In 2024 she is starting to train her third apprentice.

How do new apprentices get started?

It starts with intentional conversations, confirming that they would like to do MTS and letting them know who their trainers are and what ministry they will be doing. Then they have to make a formal application, do a formal interview and then a formal acceptance of the position including expectations, a description of their role, and their ministry responsibilities.

The written description of their role and their written ministry responsibilities are so that we’re on the same page. But it’s relational, not a legalistic thing. So it’s open to discussion and change.

This conversation normally happens around August the year before they start. Then there is the process of support raising. 

What is your process for onboarding new apprentices?

When they’re starting, in January, I run an orientation week for my new apprentices. As a cohort, I orientate them to the church in terms of St. John’s as a church; the different cultures but also the structure and governance.   

I also orientate them to ministry. So I go through what I’ve done in my own apprenticeship. Then go through what I call the ‘10 Words of Ministry’.

These are:

  1. Remember Jesus Christ, and so remember who you and we are
  2. Remember to meet with the king
  3. Work when you work, rest when you rest
  4. Caring confidentially 
  5. Dealing with pride
  6. Be a trendsetter in generosity
  7. Exercise sober judgement 
  8. Modesty 
  9. Be men and women of God
  10. Suffering and joy in serving the Father, Son, and Spirit

These are some really key ministry principles that will become useful not only while they do their ministry apprenticeship, but for a lifelong ministry.

In summary, Orientation Week is designed to orient them to the church, but also to ministry with the key ministry principles.

Carmen also shared some of the ways the G8 Conference has helped her and her apprentices start well. 

In the trainer workshop I went to last year, Russ went through how to start well with your apprentice. It’s a very good guide for those who haven’t done an apprenticeship themselves before or don’t know where and how to start!

One key thing about what I remember about that workshop was thinking about your relationship with your trainee. Russ advocated for the relationship being like a father and son or mother and daughter relationship, because of how it is in Paul’s relationship with Timothy.

Sometimes it is often forgotten in ministry practice because I tend to treat them as maybe a sister in Christ – but I’m the trainer. Another thing Russ suggested is invite your apprentice over for dinner or do some kind of activity with them. I thought that was really good as well to help build relationships.

G8 has thought through how to start well and has spent a lot of time thinking about it and also has the experience of training up apprentices and also have spoken to other trainers, so it’s kind of like collective wisdom on what to do.

How do you see an intentional onboarding experience impacting apprentices in their apprenticeships?

Doing orientation or onboarding well will set them up for expectations, prevent disasters and help them to work better in your team. It also helps apprentices to be prepared for the changes that are about to happen.

Allan Blanch

Dubbo Presbyterian Church

Allan is a Pastor at Dubbo Presbyterian Church. He has trained four apprentices recently, and been involved in the training of more apprentices previously at Dubbo. 

What is your process for onboarding or getting new apprentices started?

At church, I’m the main trainer, but we involve a lot of people in the onboarding process. Very early, in the first couple of days of them starting MTS, we’ll have a meeting with all of the staff. 

There’s like seven of us in the room and together we collaborate on what we are thinking in terms of the new apprentice, they’re in the room as well. We involve everybody in that because we think more ideas are better. But I’m also conscious that I’m trying to train the apprentice in terms of what’s best for the apprentice in being trained, not just that they fill a hole for church. 

Then there will be the first initial meetings with me as the principal trainer. There will be just key things we need to talk about in terms of clarity about expectations, roles and responsibilities. We also look at the big key core values and objectives that we as a church have and make sure that they’re on the same page.

What is the importance of G8 in the start-up process?

For the last four years, we’ve come and I’ve come with all our trainees. I’m increasingly aware that it’s a really good thing in terms of onboarding new apprentices. 

Particularly maybe for people in regional areas. It’s just nice to go and see we’re part of something bigger. I went to the University of New South Wales, so if you are an MTS there, there are just so many. Whereas in Dubbo, you could be one, maybe two. You get the vision setting at G8 too.

So it’s that bigger picture, bigger network, and exposure to other people raises questions, which then we can then dive into when we get back to Dubbo. And so for all of that we definitely come to G8 as part of our onboarding. 

How do you see an intentional onboarding experience impacting apprentices in their apprenticeships?

That’s really easy. I reckon expectations determine so much. So if you haven’t got clarity about what you’re expecting, then you are just setting yourself up for either disappointment or frustration. And therefore unnecessary conflict that could have been avoided if you were just clear. So being intentional about onboarding is not just good for the apprentice, but it’s good for the relationship between the trainer and the apprentice to get off on a really good foot.