Are you a college ministry that relies on the multiplication of leaders each year?
If you answered yes, then yay- this probably means your ministry is healthy and growing.
If you answered no, then yikes- this probably means continual and unnecessary weight on the few leaders you do have, which may include just you.
And I’m sure you’re amazing, but you don’t have to continue to carry all of that weight alone. Because when we neglect to identify, involve, and equip other leaders, we limit not only our ministry’s growth, but our necessary calling to empower the next generation of the church. If our ministries fail to multiply, we eventually fail to exist. If we don’t replace current leaders by identifying future ones, we cease to expand our influence and impact. And if we aren’t ultimately continuing to make more disciples, we are compromising our calling. In the ongoing work of the ministry, we have to make it our business to continually identify, invest in, and multiply leaders. Because the work moves forward according to the faithful servants who are willing to carry it into new spaces. And as a college minister who depends on student leaders to carry that work into new spaces, we are therefore a ministry where identification and multiplication of leaders has to take place every year.
If you have college students leading or serving their peers in smaller settings each week, then the spring is the time we have to be thinking about who will be leading in the fall. We must start identifying future leaders now. Here’s how our ministry aims to do this, and no, it’s not rocket-science, but it is a tried and true method that’s helped us multiply our groups and leaders each year. When it comes to identifying future leaders within your ministry, I suggest you start by asking your current leaders some questions, beginning with:
WHO should we look for?
Ask your college leaders now who they think has the potential to lead in the fall. I have each individual on my team identify 2-3 names that they can pass on to me for consideration. And while they are considering who to look for, I tell them we always need leaders that are FAT. Yep, you heard that right, and no, this doesn’t involve anyone’s eating habits.
I ask my team:
Who is FAITHFUL?
- Who already shows up consistently and is a dependable part of the group?
- Who already gives their time to make community a priority?
- Who among you is faithful (not perfect) in their pursuit of Christ and in their commitment to our church or ministry?
- Let’s start with them.
Who is AVAILABLE?
- Who is willing and ready to serve?
- Will they be a student next year and are they interested in serving and leading?
- Do their current or future commitments allow them to lead in a fuller capacity?
- Have they made room in their life for serving their peers and the work of the ministry?
Who is TEACHABLE?
- Who has the humility to learn, be taught, and even be corrected?
- Who understands they have a lot of room for growth and welcomes that growth?
- Who exercises a hunger for a deeper understanding of Jesus, His Word, and their own sanctification?
- Who is already welcoming feedback, accountability, and other’s wisdom in their life?
With the understanding of each potential leader having a clear testimony of faith and trust in Christ that they can easily share, the F.A.T. qualities are what we look for next.
Then, WHERE do we find these future leaders?
I tell my team to start here:
- Look within your current group or context. Who is already connected to your community? What person does your group naturally gravitate toward or respect? Who is already exhibiting leadership qualities?
- Look around you. Who do you know that’s awesome, mature, trustworthy, and currently not connected, but should be?
- Look amongst you. Who within our church or ministry could we be neglecting? Who may not look like a typical leader but consistently exhibits a love for Christ and others?
Next, we answer the question of HOW (HOW do we prepare future leaders NOW)?
Once my team has identified potential leaders, I ask them to:
INVITE: Remember, Christ’s ministry with the disciples began with an invitation.
He invited them into His work, so simply, we must do the same. Ask those future leaders the question of whether or not they have considered leading. What excites them about that opportunity and what makes them hesitant?
Many of the college leaders I encounter don’t see themselves as having leadership potential until they are asked directly about it. So once my team identifies them, then they extend the initial ask of whether or not that person would consider leadership.
INVOLVE: Jesus’ life with His disciples was also one of continual involvement.
He included them long before they were ready to go do anything alone. He challenged and involved them long before He released them. And we must do the same.
In the spring, I allow my current leaders to involve future ones in their responsibilities. This looks like involving future leaders in their planning, in their praying, and in their leading (with oversight and help). I ask my team what current responsibility can be shared with a new potential leader to help train them.
CHALLENGE: Remember, challenges often reveal character. But, let’s not neglect to challenge a future leader before we encourage them.
A beautiful and simple way to do this is by saying directly to them: “This is how I see Christ at work in and through you. And I believe He wants to extend the good work He is doing within you, to those around you.”
It’s both good and necessary to challenge our future leaders by giving them opportunities while simultaneously speaking gospel identity over them. This is an essential way to make sure our future leaders know we value them, see God at work in them, and want to partner with them as they share His goodness with others.
And when it comes to us inviting, involving, and challenging our future leaders, here is a simple methodology to pass down. You may have heard it before, but simply follow these four simple steps when it comes to a task:
I do, you watch.
I do, you help.
You do, I help.
You do, I watch.
Finally, now that we have a better understanding of WHO to look for, WHERE to find them, and HOW to equip them, let’s not forget these essentials when selecting new leaders:
- Pray throughout the selection process.
- Invite God, His discernment, and others’ wise counsel into every decision.
- Interview each potential leader and assume nothing.
- Ask intentional questions.
- Rely on references and utilize an application.
- Be clear about your expectations and level of communication.
- Use every opportunity to encourage and equip rather than condescend
We want people to know that leadership within any ministry is a privilege and a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. And although many of our leaders may be young college students, they will be leading their peers and serving Christ through their positions, and we will hold them accountable to that, as we should.
And remember, just because someone is not completely ready to lead today, they can be 6 months from now. In the life of a college student, one intentional summer of growth can be a game-changer for them. And we can do our part to help them grow by identifying, involving, and challenging them now. Our ministries are depending on it, and I dare say, so is the next generation of the church. Let’s do our part.