All week, I’ve been writing about a favorite counter-intuitive principle: Fantastic potential leaders aren’t necessarily easy to spot. While “the cream rises to the top” may be an alright principle, if treated as a rule it keeps students and our ministries from achieving what we could. [Start here if you’re catching up on these posts.]

In other words, I don’t think the “organic” approach alone will locate everyone who should be leading within our college ministries. And what does this “organic-only” approach look like? I wrote this awhile back (edited a bit):

I have long been a believer in “testing and approving” students before they step into leadership within a college ministry. I know I’m not alone in that.

But in keeping with that principle, college ministers will sometimes only appoint leaders directly from among the “tested and approved,” instead of opening up the process ministry-wide. For example, future small group leaders might have to be secretly “nominated” by present small group leaders, a “leadership council” might be hand-picked from among those who have served regularly for a year or more, or only students “in the know” could explain how the leadership application process takes place. And so on.

But here’s an important note: I’m not opposed to the idea of pursuing students who have proven faithful. In fact, I think it’s pretty smart to explicitly encourage obviously strong students to lead within the campus ministry.

On the other hand, there’s good reason to make the PATH to leadership at least available for everybody (while still using great discernment about whom we actually allow to lead). I’ve come to recognize that some great leaders may simply not be noticed through the “normal” means. If your ministry is larger than 30 people (and perhaps even if it isn’t), it’s very likely there are strong potential leaders you don’t know about.

Sometimes without even realizing it (and other times on purpose), we make leadership opportunities rather secret… (see the entire post here)

It’s so natural to made leadership selection easy for ourselves. Sticking with students we know makes the whole process less “messy,” and it requires a lot less effort. But as shepherds, the sheep we’re missing are still sheep we’ve got to care about.

So what does this look like? Just in time for the Fridea, we’ll look at specific systems that can help tomorrow. But first, some questions that can help:

  1. Are leadership opportunities explicit? Even if we especially encourage notoriously strong students to step up, we can also let others know about the chance.
  2. Is “Leadership” something you teach? Shouldn’t all students be striving to lead, whether in your ministry, with their friends, or in other ways?
  3. Do you “showcase” the present leaders in your ministry? Since we cultivate what we honor, this is one key to raising up other great leaders.
  4. Are leadership opportunities regularly available? In college ministry, opportunities that are only “annual” may be easily overlooked.