Feb 20, 2017


When Student Leaders Fail

Tim Richardson, University Pastor at South Side Baptist Church (Abilene, TX), shares four lessons we can learn from scripture about how to deal with student leaders who fail.

For many of us, trusting students with leadership positions can be a daunting proposition. I freely admit; I have a hard time trusting others, particularly students. But I know what’s best for our ministry and our students is that I provide a place for them to lead, which in turn gives them opportunities to fail.

So, how do we respond when students fail in leadership?

When I speak of failure, I am thinking of matters related to personal sin. Perhaps it is sin that has caused poor decision making as a leader and directly affects your ministry effectiveness. These would be areas like laziness, undermining authority, procrastination, or others. Or it could also be personal sins that indirectly affect your ministry and hurt the effectiveness of the leader like sexual sin, drunkenness, poor witness, anger, and more. There is a familiar story in the Old Testament from which we can glean much guidance in approaching student leaders with a sin issue you think needs to be addressed. In 2 Samuel 12, the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to confront King David after he has committed adultery with Bathsheba and essentially murdered her husband Uriah. Below are four lessons we can learn from Nathan as he confronts King David.

1. It comes with the territory.

Notice in verse 1 the Lord sends Nathan to confront David. It is part of his job as a prophet. In confrontation of sin, we must believe we have been sent on behalf of God himself. It is not because we are better or more holy than someone else. It is part of what God has asked us to do as spiritual leaders in the lives of students. We do not go in pride and arrogance, but rather in great humility knowing we have been sent with the authority of God. It is part of our job as leaders to shine light on and expose the sin in the lives of our students. We must not take this calling lightly nor neglect this part of our job.

2. He exposes the sin and its consequences.

Nathan first presents a story to help King David see the terrible sins he has committed. However, once it is clear King David doesn’t get it, Nathan speaks candidly. Here’s the sin, here are the results of your sin, and here are the consequences you must face because of it. We must be honest and straightforward with students. We must not only help students see their sin, we must also help them know there are consequences for their decisions. Some of these consequences are natural effects of sin and some of them are ones you must enact to help them see the serious nature of sin. Certainly there are times when a warning might be best, but it should be accompanied with the reality of consequences for future offenses.

3. Repentance is the goal.

We have been sent by God to expose sin in hopes that the follower of Christ will come to repentance. Exposing sin and its consequences is meant to bring the offender to a place of confession and repentance. Our ultimate goal and the aim of our hearts must not be primarily about our ministry but the heart of the sinner. God desires repentance that leads to restoration that leads to obedience.

4. These students need the gospel.

“The Lord has taken away your sin; you will not die.” What an incredible gospel statement in the middle of the OT. Repentance leads to an experience of the grace of Jesus Christ. We cannot miss this step. We must help students see their great need for the gospel even after salvation. Forgiveness is granted to us because of the work of Christ, and we will not face the full punishment due our sin. We will not die. God is incredibly gracious to us in Jesus Christ. Our sins are forgiven and we are counted as righteous. As God says in I John 1:9 (HCSB), “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”

What scriptures have you found helpful when dealing with your student leaders’ failures?

about the author

Tim Richardson

Tim has served as University Pastor at South Side Baptist Church in Abilene, TX since 2001. He holds degrees from Hardin Simmons University (BBS) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MA). He serves students at Hardin-Simmons University, McMurry University, Abilene Christian University and Cisco College. He and his wife, Kara, have four children.