It’s interesting that college is actually a time when most United States students first have the chance to specialize. Barring attendance at a magnet school or other special arrangement, “majors” first pop up during the college years. And of course, the argued value of this approach is specialization and building on students’ strengths, rather than simply building “well-roundedness” for the rest of their lives (for lack of a better description).

On the other hand, we know college students aren’t always clear on their strengths/talents/passions/career paths. (Understatement?) College is a time for figuring things out, and even those who choose a “track” often choose a different one while still within those college years.

So here’s one thing college ministers should think about: In a different but vital way, the same thing is happening for your student leaders and their “impact paths.” The roles they’re playing right now in your campus ministry are strengthening their ministry muscles in certain directions for a lifetime. This is happening both broadly – leading a discussion group, building a team, hospitality, etc. – and more narrowly – focusing on evangelism, or helping with media, or leading worship, or focusing on fellowship-building events.

But have you realized these things are long-term preparation for your leaders? When you do, the whole effort takes on additional discipling elements, and consider not only how student leaders are set up for success in the short-term, but also how they’re growing in these ways long-term.

And you come back to what I discussed at the beginning: recognizing the tension of training specifically and cross-training. Some students should receive chances to lead more deeply from a particular passion or skill. But other student leaders – even though they’re extremely useful in their present role – should be moved, allowing them to flex those muscles in different ways (or flex other muscles altogether).