Mar 16, 2015


Are You the Bottleneck?

Collegiate Collective’s Tim Casteel identifies a common problem for collegiate leaders – we can be a bottleneck for ministry leadership. 

What we need in order to reach an entire campus with the gospel is exactly what Millennials crave – empowered leadership.

The Millennial Generation (born from 1980-2000) is the largest generation in American history. Our new staff and all of our college students are Millennials. It’s a generation leery of corporate America. A generation that does not respond to command and control management. They want choices, experiences, autonomy, and opportunities to lead.

As Travis Robertson has written, “Millennials won’t tolerate being controlled. They want to be led. Big difference.”

So what is the bottleneck holding back this tide of Millennial Leaders?

Wikipedia describes a bottleneck as “a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources.”

What would you say is the bottleneck in college ministry?

I’d say Campus Staff. More specifically: staff spending their time doing ministry instead of empowering student leaders to do ministry.

When we started in college ministry, I think most of us had a picture in our heads of what college ministry would look like. Here was mine: Cruising down the highway on an epic road trip with 4 guys I’m discipling. Windows down, good music blasting (in that day – Pearl Jam!). Ministry! That’s seriously what I envisioned. Seriously.

I think most college ministers come on campus to do ministry, not to empower others to do ministry.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the role of a Christian leader is to: “equip people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up,” (Ephesians 4:12).

So staff’s job is not to do ministry. But to equip others to do ministry. Our job as staff is to cultivate an environment that encourages the people of God to be stewards of the gifts God has given them and help them use those gifts to minister to others.

In other words, we are to create an environment where ministry bubbles up instead of being carried out by, or commanded down from staff. A decentralized, permission-giving ministry. In the phenomenal book Unfinished Business, Greg Ogden writes:

“Ministries can only extend as wide as there are self-initiating, Christ-honoring leaders. It’s the pastors job to hustle and keep up with and encourage the ministry that is bubbling up everywhere.”

We tell students: “If you have something you are passionate about, get a team together and come tell the staff what you are doing so we can platform you and help you get others involved and resource you to get there (as long as it fits into our vision to Win/Build/Send).”

Back in 2007, NASA foresaw a need to change how they worked with the incoming Millennial employees and asked a consultant to recommend changes. The full article is worth the read, but here’s an interesting insight:

Top-down or command-and-control methods will prove less effective for the next generation, but millennials can be brought together for a mission they consider meaningful. Defining the mission, and remaining flexible enough to refine and redefine it, will create an environment in which leaders will emerge.

That means organizations will need to rethink leadership and management and make them more distributed. A distributed, empowered movement of leaders. Sounds exciting. And messy.

A pastor friend once told me, “You can either have a ministry that is empowering or controlling.” You can’t empower and control at the same time. The moment you are controlling, you are no longer empowering.

Which of these two has the most potential for explosive growth? Which is more predictable?

If we’re serious about reaching every student on our campus AND engaging this massive generation of leaders staff, have to do less, control less, and empower more.

How have you empowered students to lead?

What changes do you need to make in how your staff team operates?

Do you agree that staff are THE Bottleneck?

about the author

Tim Casteel