Today (if all has gone well), I’m in Ethiopia with 20 young adults, partnering with local churches through e3 Partners. So this week, I’m re-posting five entries that touch on the idea of “raising expectations” for what we do in our campus ministry. For all the posts (including last Friday’s introduction), click here.

If you’re the head college minister in your ministry, there’s plenty you can put in place to raise expectations about various ministry activities – especially the large group meeting and any “big events” you’re in charge of. But what about small groups? Or any other area of your ministry you don’t have direct control over?

If you really want to help students anticipate excellence, fun, impact, etc., you’re going to need a top-notch cadre of student leaders.

One time I had the chance to help a marriage minister think through his large premarital preparation program. Even though his program is excellent, he still wants to make it better. And one point I brought up made him especially excited.

I pointed out that even though the “table leaders” for this multi-week study seemed to be really great people, there still might be room for them to become trained discussion leaders.

This thought came directly from my explorations of college ministry (and my own campus ministry adventures).

You see, we often forget (or don’t realize) that small group leadership involves actual, learnable skills. This is true even when students are just “facilitating discussion.” And it’s true for other forms of leadership: There are a billion ways trained student leaders can help strengthen a weekly Large Group Meeting. One-on-one disciplemaking has major skills and “best practices.” So does Sunday school teaching. Even leading a Ministry Team of students – whether it’s running a Men’s Ministry, planning a mission trip, or reaching out to the Athletic Teams – is done best by those who are trained to lead.

This need for training applies to students as well as adults. It applies to those who seem to be “naturals” at their given task, too.

I’m not claiming that spending time training your leaders is easy. But I will claim that this is one of the best ways you could improve your ministry (and raise students’ expectations as they come to your events).