Every Leader Needs an Apprentice

This post is part of the 4 People Every Leader Needs series.  We’re looking at the support team that helped make Moses one of the strongest leaders in the Bible.  If Moses needed help, so do we!  

We, as leaders, should always be looking for new voices around us and begin to pour into them. I get it. Your ministry is your baby.  You nursed it when it when it was just tiny spark of an idea.  You prayed for God to fan that spark into a flame.  Now that it’s burning brightly, the last thing on your mind is the handing it over to some else.

But a good leader identifies and grows someone take her place.  A strong pipeline of leaders who embrace your vision and culture ensures the longevity and stability of your ministry.  Having someone (or several someones) who can take over what you have been doing allows you personally to grow and move into new areas.

Moses found such a person in Joshua and showed us three important steps we need to take as we grow new leaders around us.


Joshua first shows up on the scene in the Bible to lead the Israelites in a critical battle against Amalek (Exodus 17).  But later references tell us that Joshua had been Moses’ aide “since youth.” (Numbers 11:28)   Moses had been pouring into Joshua for a long time.

Imagine the years that Joshua stood by Moses’ side, absorbing his wisdom and observing how he handled people and problems.  What an invaluable education!  And a self-less act on Moses’ part to share his spotlight with the up and coming star.

We, as leaders, should always be looking for new voices and young stars around us. Then we begin to pour into them … not making them duplicates of ourselves, but leading them to be the very best version of themselves.


After winning that battle against the Amalekites, Joshua rose in prominence among the Israelites. He went up on Mount Sinai with Moses to receive the law and commandments. (Exodus 24).  He was one of the scouts who went to check out the Promised Land.  (Numbers 13).  Moses made sure that Joshua was part of every important event and milestone.

If you’ve built your ministry from the ground up by yourself, it’s really difficult to hand over important tasks to someone else.  But that is the only way your apprentice will learn.  She may not do everything perfectly. She might make mistakes.  You’ll be right there to have her back and show her how to move forward.

Gracefully hand over control

After holding increasing responsibility among Moses’ leadership team, God instructed Moses to anoint Joshua as his successor in the presence of the elders.

And when the time came, Joshua was readily accepted by the Israelites as their new leader because of the careful grooming of Moses.

Moses invested in Joshua for years.  Through God’s leadership, he made sure everyone knew Joshua would be his successor, so there was no fighting or arguing among the elders about who was in charge.  Joshua grew to be a strong leader because Moses wisely set him up for success. And the Israelites had consistent leadership to follow into the Promised Land.  It was a win-win-win situation for everyone.

Sometimes we hesitate to set up a successor because we don’t want to hurt others on our team and cause conflict.  That’s why it is important that everyone not only sees you grooming your apprentice, but participates in her training.  If you’ve carefully selected your leadership team, full of people who care more about what’s best for the organization than what’s best for them, they’ll play an important role in honoring your selection and helping her be successful.

We can be like Joshua and learn from the good example Moses set for us.  We start by identifying the passionate and talented people in our organization.

Then, over months and maybe even years, we invest in them first as an apprentice and then as a successor, setting our ministries up for long-term stability and a peaceful transition. Then we set that new leader loose and let her confidently take the reins with her own style.

Are you working on your successor pipeline?

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