student leader upgrade #1: let ’em in when it’s cold outside

And… we’re back.

January is a great time to think about student leadership, since many college ministries’ leadership cores are well-established by this point in the school year. So I figured I’d create a brief series around this vital topic.

I say vital, but is it possible for even that word to be an understatement? Many (most?) college ministries stand or fall on the strength of their leaders. (Not that you can’t draw a bunch of students to an unhealthy, poorly-led college ministry. But that’s not what I mean.)

To kick off the series, I wanted to revisit a topic I’ve brought up occasionally. Believe it or not, I think one way to upgrade a campus ministry’s student leadership is to avoid the once-a-year “changing of the guard.” If you only recruit leaders in August (or in May, for August), then I think you run some risks:

  • Missing potential leaders
  • Frustrating potential leaders
  • Growing stale
  • Disrupting the ministry too much with all-or-nothing turnover moments

But wait – there’s more! Here are a few blurbs I’ve penned before, curated around this topic.

What’s Happened Since August?

The truth is, I believe your ministry and your campus are both too exciting to plan a whole year at a time.

But it’s not too late! If you did attempt to “master plan” things back in the summer, let me encourage you to evaluate what (or whom) should be added, subtracted, tweaked, spun off, reined in, increased, decreased, encouraged, discouraged, confronted, or otherwise changed for the semester to come.

Depending on how you do student leadership, it’s likely some new potential leaders have arisen since August. Have you considered re-establishing your commitment to student involvement by opening the leadership application process in January?

Who’s Frustrated?

My theory is that in any large college ministry – and very likely some smaller ones, too – there are several frustrated potential leaders. They truly are spiritually mature. They have real potential – or even skills developed in another ministry, other student activities, high school, or a summer experience. God has given them particular spiritual gifts…

…that they’re not getting to use. These students are unknown to the right people, they’re a little introverted, they transferred in from another school (or another campus ministry), or they just haven’t “paid their dues.” And so that vital piece of their discipleship – letting them lead – isn’t happening.

Who’s slipping through in your ministry? Who’s frustrated – not because they’re arrogant, but because they really aren’t being used as God has designed them to be used?

At Least to Do Something

Even if your student leadership backbone is rebuilt only once a year, there should be occasional opportunities for new leaders to jump in to do something. … Think about if you were in their shoes: mature enough to lead, excited to make an impact… and told to wait until May. Ugh.

At least there’s a good chance you’ll need new small group leaders mid-semester or mid-year. And there’s always an event to be planned, a new initiative to be directed, or an idea for next year that needs a good “directional team.” Each of these are opportunities for old leaders AND new ones.

A Staggered Approach

[T]oo often we “default” to using student leaders from August to May. January might be a great time for some fresh leaders, though. They can either replace outgoing leaders, begin to serve alongside (or apprentice under) present leaders, or help with newly formed ministries / ministry teams. Another important aspect: This means qualified students don’t have to wait a full year to take the step of leadership.

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