Sep 26, 2016


Leaders. Now.

Benson Hines writes about ways that you can find and deploy the ready leaders in your ministry now, regardless of season.

You may not be thinking about student leader recruitment, but you can be. And not just for December or May, but even for right now.

I’m in the camp of those college ministers who believe we should vet our student leaders well. I don’t believe we should promote students to actual leadership (as opposed to service opportunities) based on potential success but on displayed character and commitment. Though I do believe skills can be on-the-job trained, I believe in a high bar for leadership in collegiate ministries.

That being said, I think there can be a variety of ways a student can show themselves ready to lead. And that doesn’t always require…

  • multiple semesters of involvement
  • a certain age
  • knowing the right people in the college ministry

My theory is that in any large college ministry – and very likely some smaller ones, too – there are several frustrated potential leaders. They truly are spiritually mature. They have real potential – or even skills developed in another ministry, other student activities, high school, or a summer experience. God has given them particular spiritual gifts…

…that they’re not getting to use. These students are unknown to the right people, they’re a little introverted, they transferred in from another school (or another campus ministry), or they just haven’t “paid their dues.” And so that vital piece of their discipleship – letting them lead – isn’t happening.

Who’s slipping through in your ministry? Who’s frustrated – not because they’re arrogant, but because they really aren’t being used as God has designed them to be used?

How will you find them?

Here are a couple of ways to minimize frustrating those students and missing out on how they can impact our ministry.

An open call alongside personal requests. It’s tempting to raise up leaders only from students you know or whom your present student leaders know. And while referrals and hand-picking are effective ways to find new leaders, they can’t account for every gifted, mature student in your ministry.

So alongside that, I think it’s always important to provide some sort of open call – whether by offering an application, holding an interest meeting, establishing an explicit pipeline (“if you want to lead next semester, you need to come to this study for six weeks”), or spreading the word through your small groups. Yes, you’ll get some unqualified people applying – and some of the best discipleship college students can get is through the word “No” (especially with the conversation that follows). But you’ll also find out who wants to lead, and you’ll likely stumble upon some excellent candidates. (You’ll also run across people who shouldn’t lead now but are ready to be built up.)

Mid-year opportunities alongside annual ones. Even if your student leadership backbone is rebuilt only once a year, there should be occasional opportunities for new leaders to jump in to do something. (And I think there’s a pretty good argument to be made for staggering your leadership opportunities, raising up some positions each August and some each January… but that’s not for every ministry.)

Think about if you were in their shoes: mature enough to lead, excited to make an impact… and told to wait until May. Ugh.

At least there’s a good chance you’ll need new small group leaders mid-semester or mid-year. And there’s always an event to be planned, a new initiative to be directed, or an idea for next year that needs a good “directional team.” Each of these are opportunities for old leaders AND new ones.

This article originally appeared on Benson’s site Exploring College Ministry where you can find lots of articles on college ministry.

about the author

Benson Hines

Benson is a veteran of college ministry and has turned his focus on serving college ministers. He is the author of Reaching the Campus Tribes.