ways to find student leaders who you wouldn’t find otherwise

Yesterday I discussed the need to look high and low for potential leaders, regardless of how well it seems the cream is already rising to the top.

In a recent paper I penned for Made to Flourish about mobilizing within the local church, I attacked that notion a bit:

Staff members may assure ourselves that “the cream will rise to the top,” that members with significant skills will be widely known and acknowledged—and thus be obvious when needed. But do we truly have reason to believe that every useful asset, volunteer, or leader will come to light organically? This levitating cream theory may apply fairly well to certain types: strong extroverts, those with easily visible giftings, or people with well-known conversion testimonies. But other members, perhaps just as fitting or even more so, may remain unnoticed and unasked.

So how can you “get to the bottom of” your ministry so that you find potential leaders? Here are some quick ideas:

  • Always offer leadership applications… and broadcast them
  • Regularly hold leadership training classes – a great chance to train for leadership AND assess potential
  • Ask your small group leaders for recommendations… and require them to suggest at least one “dark horse candidate”
  • Allow rolling leadership applications throughout the year or at least several times during the year
  • Advertise your ministry as a place that wants leaders and raises up leaders (if both of those are true!)
  • Make it very clear that “Leadership” is part of the pathway you hope students will walk within the college ministry
  • Ask students to share ways they’re leading outside your campus ministry – even small ways
  • Survey or otherwise look for leadership characteristics that students might not identify as “leadership”-related
  • Create opportunities for a variety of leaders – not just those skilled in small group facilitation, teaching, or manual service
  • Use “asset-based mobilization”: Discover the talents/skills/experiences of your students, and (as you’re able or as themes arise) build ministry teams, efforts, and leadership roles to fit
  • Ask for “peer nominations” for potential leaders
  • Ask every student if they see themselves as a potential leader, and then ask questions (and disciple appropriately) from there

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