Do you have assistants at your church or apprentices? An assistant is someone who helps you do your work. An apprentice is someone you’re raising up to do what you do. An assistant is a helper. There’s no expectation in the title that they’ll eventually do the job themselves– they’re just helpers. An apprentice, on the other hand, communicates that you’re raising that person up to do what you do.
Interestingly, apprentice is a good translation of the word disciple. It means a follower, someone who is shadowing you, imitating you, learning your skills, becoming like you. Some ministries use the term apprentice now in place of disciple. Adullam Church in Denver uses this definition: Apprenticeship: Stewarding the individual development of every person to be more like Jesus.
Consider how you use terms and titles in your church and why. What are you communicating with your choice of words? Do you call people “visitors” or “newcomers” when they first attend your service? Visitor, while in some contexts a perfectly fine word, communicates a come-and-go expectation. Newcomer, on the other hand, communicates the impression that they are new but that you’re hopeful they are going to stay.
Over time, terms may change. Sometimes a term that used to work may not work for you anymore. Whatever words you choose, be intentional.