potential leaders you’re missing

Yesterday I wrote about a common misconception: that student leaders will automatically “become known” soon enough, that even in large college ministries, the “cream always rises to the top” without a lot of effort on our part.

My concern is that we rely on this as though it’s a fact (rather than a principle). Of course we often come to know about leaders in this way. But without some other systems in place, we may miss out on some leaders who would have been fantastic – and whom we could have impacted in the process, too. And we run a giant risk of frustrating students who – for whatever reason – didn’t get the chance to “be known” and then use their gifts.

Some brainstorming on this...

Potential student leaders we might miss

The new student: Some college ministries do have systems in place to get to know freshmen and begin noticing their gifts, spiritual maturity, etc.. But we’re less likely to make room for the transfer student OR the student who joins our ministry outside the normal recruitment periods. Not only will the new student not have the same number of relational connections as others, we might not be aware of their years of faithful service and Christ-following elsewhere.

The introvert: Note – I didn’t say “the extreme introvert.” Lots of us who lean toward introversion are less likely to put our gifts on display. And in some cases, this may even be an error. But even if it is, if introverts err on the side of false modesty, will this one weakness in a potential student leader doom them to remain unused? And not only does introversion keep people from being known to the group as a whole, it also limits the number of relational connections a person will likely form – making their potential leadership all the less likely to be spotted.

Those with a different path: For some students, your ministry’s normal “involvement path” doesn’t fit. What if they had class during small groups time last semester? What if they were studying abroad when you were training leaders last fall? Or maybe they’ve been serving faithfully in their church the same night you have Large Group Meeting. Or maybe they jumped in to your ministry right after small groups were formed (see “The New Student,” above)? If we expect every potential leader to “follow the yellow brick road” to leadership opportunities, we’ll miss some key people.

Those who have “learned” the same principle: Finally, there are students who have already learned NOT to be the squeaky wheel, not to make an exerted effort to express a desire to serve or lead or use their gifts. They believe that doing so is arrogant, and they might have even been shot down in the past. They, too, believe the “cream will rise to the top,” so they keep on being faithful… but the noticing never happens.

Next up – more students we could easily miss


  1. Pingback: cream, rising, and a common assumption | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes on our field)

  2. Pingback: potential leaders you’re missing, part 2 | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes on our field)

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