It’s a sign of health if your campus ministry is saying No to a large number of applicants for student leader positions.

It means:

  • You have a student leader structure
  • You don’t take just anyone into leadership roles
  • Lots of students want to be student leaders
  • You’re willing to tell people No

But what happens next? Here are a few actions that should kick in at that point:

1. Tell them why. Saying No without providing a reason – or “letting them down easy” without authenticity – means you’ve missed one of the best possible discipleship opportunities you’ll have with this student. Students are, after all, just a few years (or less) out of high school. This may indeed be their first significant No, or at least an unexpected one. So while those same characteristics mean you should take care in how you respond, it also means you have the chance to help them grow through this very “adulting” form of adversity.

2. Give them options to serve. While plenty of college ministers might be faithful to accomplish #1, this one’s easier to miss. What could the student do to be involved? Volunteer in the area they were hoping to lead? Volunteer in a different area? Take on an assignment based on the talents and strengths you discovered in their application process? (I love that one!) Apprentice under the leader that was chosen instead of them? (Just don’t do that as a way to “let them down easy” – only if they’re truly qualified and ready.) In the same meeting where you tell them why, offer them some great options (if there are some).

3. Give them opportunities to grow. This is all discipleship. You’ve taken a great discipleship step by saying No. Now continue the job! What are some ways the student could grow in the areas they lack? Do they need leadership training? One-on-one discipleship? A personal growth strategy for the area(s) they could improve? Regardless of whether they have glaring issues or there just aren’t enough spots for the number of applicants, every student can become a better leader – help them realize how!

Every college ministry should be churning out leaders. If campus ministers take these steps, their “future leaders” number goes from a few to many.