The last couple of days, I’ve been arguing that we shouldn’t assume leaders will always “naturally” appear in the course of our ministry work – especially certain types of students.

Today, I planned to talk about systems for finding those leaders… but I realized some other types we might miss. Not only could we miss potential leaders who are new, introverted, on a different path, or wary of appearing arrogant (yesterday’s topics), there are other reasons we might miss our next, best leaders:

They don’t know their own strengths. Some of your students may not realize that “Leadership” is something to strive for within your ministry, or they don’t see themselves as potential leaders. So while their faithfulness and maturity could still get noticed, that all depends on how well people are noticing. In your ministry, there are likely some really strong potential leaders who will never apply for a position, let someone know they’d like to lead, or otherwise “raise their hand.” As their shepherd, it’s still our responsibility to help them become leaders. How will that happen?

They don’t know the right people. In some ministries, a potential leader (introverted or not) won’t get noticed until he finds a “champion” or a “sponsor” who happens to be well-known and well-liked. Unintentionally, a casual caste system develops, with the “inner circle” and their acquaintances filling all leadership roles. That’s a shame. Are all the leaders in your campus ministry already good friends with each other before they start leading? If so, that could actually signal a problem.

They’re serving faithfully in another venue. What if a student faithfully attends your ministry, considers it his spiritual “home” during college, but also serves as a chaplain in her sorority because it’s an amazing mission opportunity. Likewise, some of “your” students may serve outside of college ministry altogether – leading the youth at church, heading up a service organization, etc.. But four years is a long time (collegiately!), and some of those people would be great fits within the leadership of your ministry someday. But will they ever have the chance?

They’re scared off. This goes a little bit more toward pointing out the vicious-cycle nature of leadership selection. If your ministry really does trend toward selecting extroverts,  well-connected students, or students who have been around for multiple years, then your potential leaders will get that sense. In other cases, potential leaders may not see any clear path to serve within your ministry. Whether they realize these things explicitly or not, they still may wander elsewhere in an effort to lead – which is, after all, natural for the growing Christian student.

One final, vital note about these often-overlooked individuals: We need those types of leaders in our ministries. If our leadership teams are only made up of the type of students who organically “get noticed,” then we’re likely to have an unbalanced leadership team. In a large college ministry, you probably have several students who are faithful, mature, skilled potential leaders that haven’t been noticed yet.

How can you notice them? That’s tomorrow’s subject.