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As with any ministry, it’s possible for formerly effective leaders to become bottlenecks toward the progress you’re aiming for.

Of course, the fact of graduation applies implicit “term limits” on most of our leaders – a factor that most other ministries don’t experience. But occasionally we will still encounter student leaders who are no longer as good a fit as they once were – either for their ministry position or for their role in our “core” at all.

Maybe they aren’t up for the commitment or the demands, because those demands have grown since the student first “signed on” to lead long ago. Maybe their own attentions have adjusted, but they’ve hung on to that position without really having the focus or time for it anymore. Maybe the new methods needed are different from the methods they were truly best at. Maybe you simply sense a need for “new blood” or “fresh eyes” in that particular area of your ministry.

Whatever the case, we have to be willing to move our ministry forward, to tighten our core by adjusting or removing the people in it. Graciousness is important; how we handle it could really affect that individual student leader.

But not handling it will affect every individual in the ministry.

Tomorrow, some thoughts on helping leaders move on… so your ministry can move forward.

As I’m spending a little time writing about ways to refocus a college ministry’s core leadership, I’m reminded of something.

All of this gets easier when we call our leaders to it from the start.

For many ministries, the legacy of how leadership has been doesn’t match the expectations on leadership in the future. That makes sense, as a ministry grows and develops, and as more leaders are raised up.

So if you’re feeling a need to “tighten your core,” make sure to spend some time tightening your “application process.” If those expectations are laid out from the beginning, you’ll have a much easier time… expecting them.

Another vital need for those in the “core” of your ministry is community. Are there people they regularly connect with who hold them accountable, mull over big decisions with them, pray for them, and would likely know if weakness was creeping in to their lives? Can they help your leaders process next ministry opportunities within your college ministry, or encourage / exhort in the ways they’re leading now?

Sure, your core students may be in a small group – many of your core students are probably small group leaders. But that doesn’t mean those things are taking place – or the small group leader may be least challenged or least cared for of all.

If this community culture hasn’t been built within the entire campus ministry, we’d do well to foster it for those in our core. Even if that means college ministers or other adults need to jump in to provide that, it’s worth getting your core students into intimate, Christian community.

Yesterday I asked just how sure you are that the “core group” of your campus ministry is participating in the vision for your ministry. There can be a lot of “vision leak” between the college minister and his lowest-level leadership!

But not nearly all vision leak comes from insubordination, arrogance, or even just slacking. Plenty of it – especially with college students – comes from not having a clear grasp of what that vision is.

So that brings us to this week’s first “checkbox” for assessing your core students (whether they have a leadership position or not). Have you presented a vision that is memorable, and can your core students remember it?

When I say “vision,” I’m not talking here about something pithy, like a smoothly crafted mission statement that inspires but might not convey much. I’m talking about the practical vision for your ministry, which may involve several notions about underlying principles and main methods.

Have you ever put on paper those principles and actions you believe are central to your collegiate ministry? Once you do, you might find it’s not so easy to put them succinctly, clearly, and concisely – what I mean by “memorable” in this case.

But once you have crafted a well-worded statement, then it isn’t too much to ask for your core leaders (and hopefully others) to be able to share them – and explain them well.

When’s the last time you cast vision for your ministry, with those who are most fundamental to helping your ministry run well? When did you last talk “foundationally,” explaining the pillars of your ministry? How well are you assessing each of your programs and activities?

For many college ministers, the last time those things were a high priority was likely in the beginning. But our students (including our “core”) are consistently changing; every two or three years that core experiences complete turnover in most ministries.

This week, I thought I’d post some ideas around tightening the core, making sure that the foundations you intend for your ministry are, indeed, the foundations you’ve still got. For today, though, I just want to present the question, because it’s a bit of a haunting one: How well are your core principles AND your core purposes being lived out throughout your college ministry… and how do you know?

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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.



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