You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘for using student leaders’ category.

Last night, our church held an “international potluck,” bringing together many of the international-born members of our congregation (and another couple of hundred American-born folks). It was a great chance to celebrate our church’s growing international population and growing diversity, as well as to encourage those born outside the U.S. (who may not always feel “seen” in our largely white church).

Are there any populations within your college ministry that would be impacted by their own “banquet” or other celebration?

Clearly, care must be shown so other populations don’t feel relegated to “non-favorite” status. Much care. But at the same time, sometimes it’s really valuable to gather students around commonalities – not simply to celebrate them, but also to equip them, encourage them, and even help add other students from their niche to your ministry.

You’re not FCA (unless you are FCA), so what if you held an athletes’ gathering? What about a Liberal Arts majors lunch? A Seniors’ banquet? A Christmas gift exchange for all those who live on the south side of campus? An international student potluck? An artists’ breakfast?

There are three points here that keep this wise, even if it doesn’t always seem fair:

  • Communicate. Share why you’re doing this. As long as you communicate well the reasons a certain group is being celebrated (or being gathered for other reasons), students should be open to that.
  • Be strategic. Don’t hold a special gathering just because certain students might like it – or worse, because it makes you feel like your college ministry is extra-cool. Hold the gathering because you have strong reasons to do so.
  • Involve students in planning. You may end up having lots of special gatherings, led by students in those niches. If Ag majors or musicians or those involved in student government want to rise up and plan something, then so be it! That way you’re certainly not playing favorites. And when a student asks where their niche’s gathering is… you can ask them if they’re prepared to lead it!

An oldie but goodie, and a good season for it…

What if your college ministry developed a “care team” to encourage, minister to, and practically help students who are sidelined?

While my original thought here was loving on sick students, this could also work (and might be even more important for) those sidelined with other situations – family stuff, funerals, a service project or mission trip that cuts into school days, etc.

This is a relatively easy chance to help students serve each other significantly. It may mean having a stash of Get Well Soon cards (or care packages) ready to send. Or a team might prepare something more extravagant – like sending in the troops to hand-deliver flowers, notes from their friends, or a blanket and candy… or whatever a student’s mom says they might enjoy. (Yes, you can call their parents to get ideas, and their parents will likely really appreciate your gesture).

For those missing school: Unlike high school, missing a college class often matters, especially when a student hasn’t planned ahead for the missed day. Does a student need to borrow somebody’s notes from class? Do they need info on assignments they can be working on? Talking to their profs about why a student is out might help, too. So could “filling in” if they have some sort of class or other commitment that really needs a fill-in.

I’m thrilled about this idea, especially because it’s a very practical and very useful way for students to serve their peers.

How would you know?

The truth is, even your college students probably haven’t had enough exposure to “bosses” – and certainly not ministry leaders – to know whether you’re a good one or a lousy one. It’s scary: You could honestly be pretty bad and still gain quite a following (and see lots of fruit in your campus ministry), especially because of the age group you’re serving. They’ll follow lots of different kinds of people, including bad ministry leaders. (Like I said – scary!)

But you can change your ignorance of your current excellence fairly easily. Not by asking, “Am I a good boss,” but by breaking down “good boss-ness” into components and asking for student leaders to talk about those elements. Do you listen well when students express issues in their ministry arena? Do you treat various leaders without partiality? Are you open to new ideas? Are you open to critiques, confrontations, pushback?

Even questions that don’t seem personal can shed light here: “What do you believe our mission is?” “How overwhelmed do you feel by your role?” “Are your strengths being used regularly?” These indicate something about your leadership, but students may be more likely to answer really honestly here.

And a few objective questions can help, too: How often do students share new ideas – or even critiques? (If it’s rare, something might be wrong.) How often do students share about their personal lives? (If they don’t, why not?)

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list. There are leadership tools and Google searches for “good boss” and other ideas that can move you down the path here. But now would be a great time to find out, because it’s always a great time to get better.

As I’ve often talked about (and I’m sure you already know), you cultivate what you honor.

So if your college ministry prioritizes disciplemaking/mentoring (whether one-on-one or small group), then here’s a particular and peculiar way to honor that – and to cast a vision for value in the process.

What if you recognized those whose impact has traveled generation-to-generation through your college ministry? Surely (if you’ve been prioritizing these forms of discipleship) you can trace “lineages” of disciplemakers-and-disciplees: That senior whose small group from two years ago spawned a few small group leaders. That one-on-one gal who (just as you encouraged) raised up ladies who discipled other ladies… who in turn discipled other ladies (a la II Tim. 2).

Maybe you’d even recognize (in-person or in-picture) alumni whose legacy is one of impact. Depending on the history of your ministry, it’s very possible that some of your current leaders can (with your assistance and some major research) trace their “disciplemaking genealogy” back to some who’s in their 40s now (or older). How awesome would it be to come up with ways to recognize that heritage?

On the far end of this idea there are likely concerns to watch out for: competition, hero-worship, shame for those whose lineages are “broken,” etc. But we shouldn’t avoid possibilities because of potential, avoidable problems. And again, we’ll all cultivate what we honor, so if this isn’t how your campus ministry energizes and rewards multi-generational discipleship, what is?

In my current role, I work hard to get church people to find their “fit” for serving others. Obviously, finding a place to impact others, where passions and spiritual gifting and strengths and schedule, is a great goal for every Christian – even if we all learn along the way that sometimes “getting done what’s needed” may be our calling in the moment, too.

But the setup of many college ministries probably aids students in exploring the latter (doing necessary things) a lot more than the former (finding their fit). Even student leadership structures that offer a diversity of roles may “lock students in” to a particular path their Sophomore year. They’re small group leaders, then leaders of small group leaders… or they serve on the tech team, then they lead the tech team… And so on.

But do you think students gain new insight about passions/gifts/strengths during their college years? Shouldn’t this be a season when they (1) get to explore options, and (2) figure out their “best and highest use” for impacting others?

You’re not necessarily called to make a new leadership position for every student, positions that are as unique as the students that populate them. But I can also say that one of the “output goals” for college ministry should probably be students knowing their leadership bent, knowing their strengths, knowing their spiritual gifts… and having at least an inkling of ways they might be deployed in their “best and highest use” for years to come. But discipling in those things will require some sort of structure aligned around that goal.

So somewhere, somehow, college ministries need options and flexibility enough for leadership disambiguation along the way. How can you start students on the path to their unique “good works prepared beforehand”?

Yesterday’s post provides an example of what so many shepherds – of all kinds – can miss. There’s great value in caring about the flock’s everyday sort of needs, the small trials and small blessings that pop up throughout a life. If shepherds are only really interested in “making great strides” – fighting particularly onerous (or scandalous) sins, getting a grip on spiritual disciplines, witnessing to non-believers, etc. – then they’ve revealed a disproportionate interest in these things (versus loving the people).

When I say “shepherds of all kinds,” I do mean college ministers, but I also mean student leaders (and adult volunteers if you have them). It may even be these leaders who are slower to recognize the glories of “daily bread” care for people, the great beauty in providing sheep with the “everyday feed.”

If helping students in their “underwater weeks” (for instance) just doesn’t really seem… like it makes the priority list?, then maybe your student leaders (or you yourself) need to be reminded of the greatness of simple care and simple love and weeping/rejoicing with those who do the same. So help them see it!

What happens when your students face an “underwater week”?

The difficult mid-semester week, when it seems like all projects are due and mid-terms come calling and a paper or two still need to be written, is a universal facet of collegiate existence.

My question is this: How do you use these moments to shepherd students?

“Underwater Weeks” are phenomenal opportunities for (1) pastoral care, and (2) mentoring… even if the latter is done after the fact. Whether it’s you as college minister or students’ small group leaders, somebody has a great chance to care for students in the midst of the mini-crisis of a very long, very hard week. Just think of the possibilities for action steps…

As such a week looms ahead: Talk with students about their particular temptations in the middle of these weeks. Do they get angry? Get anxious? Slip into looking at porn? Become a bad roommate? And then ask how you – or others – can help. Are these students asking for help when they need to?

In the middle of the Underwater Week: Let students know you’re praying for them (and actually pray for them!). Hold them accountable on stuff discussed earlier. Offer them space to study, encouragement to sleep, and whatever other resources they need. Round up encouragers and encouragements.

After the week: Sit down to discuss how it could have gone better. Was the craziness pretty unavoidable… or could they organize better in the aftermath? Did sin “get ’em” during this stressful time? How should next time look different? And in the midst of the trial, how was God big and real and close? What did He teach them? In other words, debrief.

Does your college ministry provide any short-term opportunities for students to lead?

If your ministry is like many college ministries, you’ve got student leaders over small groups, ministry teams, or both. But did those students – currently in ongoing leadership positions – have opportunities to practice leading before taking this commitment?

Secondly, do current leaders have any one-off opportunities to “lead their peers” or otherwise practice leading at an even higher level?

Maybe some examples will clarify what I mean. For current non-leaders, this could look like…

  • Being asked by their small group leader to lead the discussion for a week
  • “Owning” one specific event or project for the campus ministry, possibly with a few other students
  • Serving alongside current student leaders – perhaps “apprenticing,” or simply on a committee for a specific activity
  • Teaching (from the stage or, more likely, in a smaller “elective class” setting) about something they’ve recently been learning
  • Writing a blog or other resource, either about something they’ve been learning or something you ask them to research

For current leaders, additional leadership might include…

  • Leading the leaders’ meeting for a week
  • Directing a different project for the ministry than whatever they usually work on
  • Being pulled in individually or in small numbers to help with a large task, like helping prepare the weekly message or the spring retreat
  • Teaching from the stage
  • Writing (or helping write) curriculum for small groups

One of the most overlooked needs in ministry (and not just collegiate ministry) is creating stepping stones or midpoints between where people are NOW and where we want them to be. This is one great way to raise up leaders… or prepare/test/invigorate current leaders for even bigger opportunities down the road.

I hope your students read the campus newspaper, as an act of spiritual discipline in loving their campus.

(Heck, I hope YOU read your campus newspaper as an act of spiritual discipline in loving your campus.)

But there’s also room for a college ministry to help students access good reads on a variety of important topics. Have you ever considered creating curated lists of articles your students should check out?

There are a few directions a ministry might take in this regard, but one manpower approach I’d suggest is giving this to students. Depending on direction, anybody from a Communications major to a Poli Sci major to future ministers can do this… and there are plenty of others who might be a great fit too.

As for approaches, some varieties come to mind:

  • A site that points students to smart reads about current world/national/city events – a basic, curated news feed to keep them up-to-date
  • An email that offers excellent reads from Christian sources about spiritual topics and/or current events
  • A blog that lists four to seven longer articles that hit on one important issue, like Maxwell Anderson’s Weekend Reader
  • Or just connecting students to sites/lists that already do that well!

So here’s a wild idea:

What if, each week, two or three different student leaders had the chance to serve as “pastor on call” for your college ministry?

They could plan to tag along at meetings with students (or others) they wouldn’t otherwise be in, meet with any students who reach out for encouragement or support, or help accomplish other hands-on discipleship tasks. You’ll have to fill in the blanks with areas these students could “do a little more” in your ministry context – maybe their hours include extra prayer, time hanging out in your building, fielding phone calls to the ministry, or simply “ministry of presence” in the dining hall. I don’t know.

But I do know this can be a powerful way to push students, while asking for a little sacrifice too. A week “on call” isn’t the easiest thing, but it offers a taste of life as a college ministry, plus allows some of the “messiness of ministry” to get delegated to students (as it should be).

Enter your email address to get new posts by email.

Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

Categories

Twitter

Posts from the Past