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This is the third part of the series 5 Values of a Great College Leader.

1. Gospel-Centered 2. Sent

Leading college students can be tricky. College students have a lot of knowledge, and sometimes not enough wisdom to go with it. That means great leaders need to empower and coach students as they lead, allowing them to fail and picking them up when they do.

WHO THEY ARE: Empowerer

When Jesus left this earth he told his disciples,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, CSB)

When Jesus said these words, he was affirming to his disciples they have the power and ability to lead through the Holy Spirit. Every person who has placed their faith and trust in Jesus has the Holy Spirit and is empowered for the work of ministry.

A greater leader has faith in this truth and empowers others to lead as well. They know God has made everyone uniquely with certain gifts to build up the church and advance the gospel (Eph. 2:10). They empower because they know ministry is a team effort and not a lone ranger endeavor. They are constantly looking at each individual, figuring out their unique gifts and abilities that God wants to use and leveraging those gifts and abilities for the sake of the gospel. A great leader sees that without empowering students to lead they will not realize their purpose in ministry and the ministry will not have its fullest impact.

WHAT THEY DO: Student-Led, Leader-Supported

A great leader is willing to hand over responsibility. They empower college students to learn how to handle the pressure of leadership. They have the patience to allow college students to fail and pick them up when they do. Failure is often the best teacher. They start by giving away small responsibility and as students prove faithful, they give them more. I heard one college leader say, “We don’t give them the keys to the Corvette at first; we give them the keys to the Corolla. It’s less expensive to fix if they wreck it.” His point is they let college students learn how to lead by leading something that if it fails, won’t necessarily be a big deal. With time, they give them more responsibility as they grow in leadership.

One of the major roadblocks to becoming a student-led, leader-supported ministry is most leaders want their energy, ideas, and work to be seen as what makes a ministry succeed. A good college leader dies to this mentality. They empower others to lead and allow others to take the credit. College students don’t want an adult to be the hero; they want a college leader to be their guide. You will be surprised at how well you can lead and influence when you decide to guide your students rather than direct them.

Diagnostic Questions:

  1. Think of the last three times you’ve gathered as a ministry. Who was largely responsible for those meetings? Who carried out the tasks? Did students carry any significant load?
  2. Who comes up with ideas for the ministry?
  3. If you were to stop leading the ministry today, would it cease to exist or be significantly impacted?

Key Verse:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, CSB)

Leader Statement:

If I do not empower students to lead they will not realize their ministry purpose nor will the ministry have its fullest impact. I will be patient to allow college students to fail and pick them up when they do, knowing that failure is often the best teacher. I will give away small responsibility and as students prove faithful, give them more.