I am a huge believer in students serving in leadership roles in a college ministry. One of our key roles is to develop leaders for the future for our churches....and for business and government. You may have read one of my rants in regard to not using all professional musicians for weekly college worship events. In addition to building leaders and future church band members, we are teaching students that faith and church is not a spectator sport. It calls for and requires a personal investment.
A few years back I was asked to write an article about why it was good to have a student president for campus based ministries. There had developed a trend among many campus ministries of not having an over-all student leader. I knew the frustrations that were taking some ministries away from it. But, one of my key reasons for believing very strongly in using student leaders is, God often uses that experience to call students to full time vocational ministry. Much of who I am today personally is the result of having served in student leadership roles. Yes; I'm embarrassed as I think of some of my actions then. Yes; I'm surprised my adult leaders did not disown me.
But, God used those experiences in my life.
BUT, HOWEVER, AND WAIT A MINUTE! If students have very negative experiences, it will not be a positive experience in their life. What are common reasons that student leaders sometimes fail and what can we do to help avoid that?
9 Reasons Student Leaders Sometimes Fail:
1. Right student...Wrong spot
They are a great student who loves the Lord and we just have put them in the wrong place. It is particularly easy to do with one who will do anything we ask them to do. Proper placements by gifts and temperament is huge on our part.
2. We HAD to have someone.
This is closely related to number 1. We have a position and we feel the pressure of having someone there. So, we place them in a position they either just don't fit, or they have the potential for but just are not ready for it. One year I served in the role of our student Lunch Team Leader just because we did not have anyone who fit there.
3. They are overwhelmed with discouragement.
Sometimes, a student does everything that can be done and there just is not the result anyone would desire. That's where we must help them evaluate not on result, but on effort. Praise them for doing what they are doing and helped them see the rsult is not of their doing.
4. They were never taught how to do what they are asked to do.
Some believe the way you teach leadership is to throw someone into a role and let them sink or swim on their own. I believe this is a recipe for disaster. One of the reasons I strongly believe in weekly meetings with student leaders is that it is a continual coaching and teaching time.
5. They wanted a position...not a responsibility.
Everyone wants to be chosen. Everyone wants to be recognized. One of the difficult things in selecting student leaders is discerning if they just want a position or are they really willing and able to accept responsibility. Some people will apply or ask to serve for the position. I will confess to having one role on our Leadership Team for those with great potential, but not much sense of responsibility. Some grew into it and some did not.
6. They were not told clearly what the responsibilities really were.
We must communicate clearly before a students accepts a leadership role what is expected and then we must continually communicate it after they have begun to serve. We are supposed to know more than they do...but we need to communicate it.
7. They function last minute with poor advance planning.
Many students live day to day and moment to moment. Student leaders cannot function effectively that way. That is another function of a weekly meeting with student leaders....we are continually helping them look to the future and stay ahead..not behind.
8. Not knowing WHY they are doing something.
Why does this position matter? Why does this action or event matter? How does it fit into the grand scheme of things? Beleiving in the why gives energy to the how.
9. We ask them to do too much.
We must remember they are not paid staffers; they are volunteers. They are full time students and many are also working a part time job. We must be sensitive to how much load they are carrying. This also varies at different times in the semester.
Building a ministry and building into the lives of our student leaders requires us to take seriously helping them BE successful and FEEL successful.