student leaders & the vital task of tweaking

As I was roaming through some old blogs, I noticed that the link for an article I wrote for Baptist Collegiate Ministries isn’t working anymore. The article is particularly fitting for summertime, so I figured I would repost it (with some edits) for your reading enjoyment!

The topic for that month was Student Leaders, so I used that area as one example of where small tweaks might make a BIG difference in various campus ministries.

The Vital Task of Tweaking

What simple little tweaks could be made to your ministry? What small – but important – changes might be made to your Large Group Meeting? To your recruitment? To your teaching? Or what tweaks, as I discuss below, might be made to your Student Leadership structure?

You might be surprised – a tweak made this semester might, in a few years, be seen as the best change you ever made, as your own little “revolution” in retrospect.

the big picture vs. the little ones

By spending time with hundreds of college ministries, I’ve had the opportunity to explore numerous ministry models. This includes, of course, methods for organizing student leadership – both in church-based as well as campus-based ministries.

When a college ministry is building its leadership structure from the ground up, the staff can probably ask around, find a ministry in a similar context, and fundamentally “copy” the structure that seems best. It’s not too hard to network with others and find a good student leadership model, or to adapt the models you’ve personally experienced to your present context.

But in the day-in, day-out work of collegiate ministry, the value of simple adjustments may be underrated. What I’ve discovered as I’ve traveled is that brilliance in ministry isn’t just found in the “big” structures we use in our ministries. It’s found in the smaller “tweaks” we make to our methods, too.

This certainly applies to a student leadership structure – one of the most important parts of building a successful and impactful college ministry. By getting to know hundreds of ministries, little divergences between them in this area have become particularly apparent.

one example of a very specific “tweak”

For example, what about the single question of when a ministry’s leadership team is formed during the year?

Sure, it’s natural enough to follow the school calendar, picking new collegiate leaders sometime in August to serve throughout the upcoming school year. This “traditional” method certainly works just fine in many cases.

But even for an extremely specific question like this, college ministry leaders have sometimes found great benefits reaped from little changes.

For example, some college ministries I’ve encountered now prefer to start new leadership in January (or after Spring Break). They’ve noticed that the summer then becomes a natural time of preparation for seasoned leaders, and those at the helm for the all-important start of school aren’t “newbies” each year.

Another college ministry I know does both. The start time of the various one-year positions is staggered – so some leaders begin leading in August, and some in January. This way, that ministry never has a truly “brand new leadership team,” and there are certainly benefits to that.

Yet another ministry, instead of re-choosing its leadership team each year, instead gives student leaders “tenure.” That means a chosen student is on the leadership team as long as they choose to be. Could this method help students to see leadership as less about “assignment” and more about “ownership”?

Of course, a slightly bigger “tweak” could even involve changing from year-long to semester-long student leader commitments (or vice versa).

In many cases, the leaders who have put them in place are often very “evangelistic” about these models, because they have proven quite helpful. And this has all been looking at only one area of your student leadership structure! We, too, should be on the look-out – through networking, yes, but even moreso through prayer, study, brainstorming, and more prayer – for minor tweaks that could make a major difference in our very particular contexts.

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  1. Pingback: mid-summer mobilization: re-open | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes on our field)

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