For most of human history the way to learn a craft was to work side by side in an apprenticed model. From Rabbi’s to blacksmiths, this model of learning has been used to transmit some portion of a lifetime of knowledge from one generation to another.
In today’s society, the written word (books, blogs, etc.) and organized education (grade school, trade school, graduate school) have taken a primary role in the passing on of institutional knowledge. There are even really good books written about how to organize your institution in a way where this knowledge can be passed in a written manner so employees bring as little creativity to their jobs as possible. Almost every organization of any significant size has written job descriptions for every position – and employees wandering too far outside those descriptions will find themselves looking for new organizations. This is the definition of a factory, even if every job in the organization is a white collar job.
But in a post factory world, there is a groundswell back toward the way of an artist. This model of apprenticed learning is at the heart of our Ministry Residency Program, which is modeled after the medical residencies in which future physicians participate.
It may even be helpful to think through occupational ministry in the context of another career. Many large churches consider the lead pastor a CEO, and in many ways the carry the responsibilities for a staff, building, budget, and planning. But I think that comparison emphasizes the business side of a church too much. My favorite metaphor for occupational ministry I’ve found so far is this: The physician of the soul.
To become a qualified ‘physician of the soul’, it makes sense to put the time in learning under the tutelage of a qualified mentor.
BONUS: Several years ago Tim Ferris blog had a guest posting by Robert Greene. He posted a six part series with autobiographies of famous people who used some form of an apprenticed model of learning toward their life work. Here are those links: