a student leader position: administrator

Last semester, I suggested the potential student leader position of “social connector,” an idea I got from the college ministry of Adventure Christian Church in Northern California. This week’s Fridea is similar, in that it assigns to students a role we often feel we have to play ourselves.

This week’s Fridea? Give student leaders ownership of administration tasks.

There’s a whole spectrum of ways to accomplish this, and I’ve seen many ministries apply this idea in some small way or another. But I’ve only personally seen two campus ministries enacting this in the most explicit way possible: By commissioning a student leader whose primary task is one of administration.

One was at the Rowan University Chi Alpha chapter, which I got to visit last semester. There, every leader was involved in leading a Bible study… except one. She was (quite happily and clearly quite effectively) a sort of “secretary” for the club.

The other ministry? My own! To be perfectly honest, I never had the chance to enact the plan. But I hoped to assign one particular girl as “director of administration” (or similarly) – somebody to “whip things into shape,” as well as easing the load of administrative details. She was perfect for the role – she was uniquely skilled, thoroughly enjoyed such things, and was also spiritually mature (she had already led one of our small groups). I would have had no problem turning over portions of the ministry to this gal, nor would I have seen it as any “waste of her talents” to give her that vital task instead of having her lead something else.

Though we didn’t have the opportunity to live out that experiment, the pondering helped stretch me in my thoughts about student leaders.

Maybe this happens via one “point person” devoted to administrative tasks. In other cases, dozens of students might play small parts in helping the ministry “happen.” Certainly the formation of an “administrative” Ministry Team would be an enormous asset for many college ministries.

This isn’t “slave labor.” It’s ministry. No less so than teaching a Bible study or leading worship.

If we’re honest, a lot of us college ministers struggle in the “administration” area, yet for various reasons we’re slow to delegate this area to students. Yet unlike in Youth Ministry, nearly any task in our ministry could be handled well by a student leader – sometimes even better than by the college minister! Certain students could easily take ownership of aspects like communication pieces, visitor follow-up, phone-answering, purchasing, attendance records … even support-raising help, perhaps. In fact, some of your college students have already self-identified as potential Administrative Student Leaders by the majors they’ve selected – or by already taking up these tasks without being asked.

Some students’ giftings, talents, temperament, and passions point them this administrative-organizational direction. We have the chance to show them that God wants to use those things for His Kingdom. And we have the chance to help our ministry thrive all the more.

written from Ft. Worth, Texas, as I continue my mini-exploration here
(
In these 3 days, I’ve gotten to visit 4 campuses and encounter at least 6 ministries)

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6 Comments

  1. We have the equivalent of an administrative team in our ministry, although we call it “Student Staff.” When recruiting students to be a part of this team, I’ve found the best analogy to be that of an offensive line. It’s the most important part of a football team, and yet when it does its job correctly it goes completely unnoticed. Its whole purpose is to serve in the trenches so others can shine.

    The original idea behind the team was that I didn’t want students who were leading small groups or discipling other students to be bogged down with planning events or carrying out other administrative details. I’d much rather them spend as much time as possible investing in others.

    This was the first year the Student Staff team was in place, and we’ve got some tweaking to do for it to function better next year. But it was very helpful for our ministry and has also served as a leadership development area for students who weren’t quite ready to lead a small group or just don’t have the desire to serve in that way.

  2. Among other aspects of ministry where I am currently serving, I am the director of a Discipleship team–60 students (15 in each “class) that commit to being in the program all 4 years of college. In my third year as the director, one of the students became the “Team Administrator” and he or she does exactly what you’re talking about. It has been HUGE in the development of our program. The student takes a huge amount of ownership in overseeing the team and actually “runs” our monthly all-team business/planning meeting, along with does a great deal of administrative tasks (ordering/overseeing design of t-shirts, keeps us the team directory, sends our weekly email, and quite a few other administrative things). It’s an incredible way for the student with the administrative gifts to exercise them and really helps them see how they have significant ministry impact now!

  3. Working at a Christian university, and being a part of the institution, we have the luxury of not only having an office manager, but also having 3-5 students a semester who are a part of the federal work-study program serving in administrative roles in our office. They answer phones, hang up posters around campus, send out facebook messages, run errands around campus… really anything and everything that needs to get done… their work is so important to our office running effectively and efficiently!

  4. Hannah

    Yea Jason, I’d like to hear about those tweaks as well.

    Our staff team had a discussion similar to this topic today. We know that there are two sides of the pendulum and a middle ground.
    One side is having the students do all the administrative work and ‘grunt work’ needed to have good small groups, a good weekly meeting and campus events. While they do it, they understand the vision of the ministry and can multiply themselves in that way. But the problem we find is that we just make good student ministers and don’t prepare them for their Christian walk after university.
    The other side is the staff (we have a large staff team) doing all the administrative work and ‘grunt work’ so that students can be freed up to have time for relationships with their non-Christian friends. However, the problem with that is most natural leaders want to be a part of investing into a ministry, and when the staff do all the work, there is no room for student ownership.

    We see a theoretical middle ground, but we are now working on how structurally that would look in a campus ministry. We don’t want to have our students bogged down with so much ministry work they don’t have an influence with their classmates, but we also don’t want to lose good student leaders because they don’t feel like they can contribute.

    Got any good ideas?

  5. Great question / thoughts, Hannah. Thanks a bunch for chiming in.

    I think in some ways you’ve answered it yourself – you have to strike a balance somewhere in there. But I would probably tend to argue that it most naturally leans toward giving student leaders the bulk (75%?) of the responsibility for their own ministry’s administrative work.

    But that’s because I think that IS preparing them for their Christian walk – whether it’s called “administration,” commitment, responsibility, or something else, the ability to accomplish less-than-fulfilling tasks is a HUGE part of their walk with Jesus (including in their occupations and otherwise).

    Hopefully students are making those connections – understanding that the Christian walk and vocational holiness are completely tied. And it may be that this administration work would provide a teachable moment for that very topic – I know many college ministries don’t focus much on helping students think through how they will follow Jesus in the “real world.”

    But this particular idea (the Student Leader position of Administrator) is something different from having all your student leaders do some admin work, though it complements that focus. Some students will have the supernatural gifting and/or natural talents that make THIS their “sweet spot” of ministry. It’s great if they’re encouraged to run with it, helping all the other student leaders (and the staff) with this area of ministry. For them, admin isn’t “what you have to do to get the good stuff done,” it IS the good stuff. (In fact, they may need to be stretched by doing other ministry activity, just like other student leaders may need to be stretched by doing administration work!)

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