Student Leaders

Leaders Who Live in the Gray of Life

Do you have standards for your leaders?

You know, those people who mean so much to your ministry efforts — the ones who serve as extensions of you and the ministry you oversee. Those people who multiply your reach and effectiveness exponentially. Those individuals that magnify the effectiveness of your ministry because of the unique gifts, passions, and talents the bring to the table.

You know, those folks…

Do you have standards that might qualify (or disqualify) them for leadership within your ministry?

If so, what are they?

How did you come to that set of standards?

And how effectively have you communicated those standards to your leaders?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done this better some years, more than others.

And I’ve had students who have pushed back, for one reason or another, at different points along the way.

Our student leaders are also students — and with all of the new-found freedoms, their will desires (and temptations) to try new things.

And that’s one thing…

But increasingly, the students who come to our campuses, and find their way into our ministries, and eventually become leaders within our ministries, have long been exposed to — and in some cases, become entangled with — a number of harmful influences.


Under-aged drinking.


Hooking up.


Sexual experimentation.


Eating disorders.

And more…

Some of these activities are straight up illegal, while others might be considered morally wrong and/or hazardous to one’s health.

Yet all — in one way or another — have become somewhat normative in our culture. Students see these things differently than most of us who are older,  and many struggle to see anything wrong with what they’re doing.

They come to campus — some struggling, others fully taken, with one (or more) of these debilitating activities — and we begin to walk with them.

Some students will recognize their struggles for what they truly are.

Others will not.

Some will  share their struggles with us.

Others will not.

Some students will strive for change and transformation in their lives.

Others will not.

And as all of these students walk with us, and become more involved with our ministries, some will aspire to leadership.

Which brings us back to the first question I posed about standards for leadership.

James 3:1 states:

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

And if we are to understand leadership as the active manifestation of what we believe (or teach), then I think we should hear James strong warning to leaders as well.

So, if not many of us should become leaders… then what is the takeaway when it comes to recruiting and working with leaders who struggle, especially in light of our own limitations and imperfections.

We all know that leadership can be one of the most fertile grounds for growth and transformation…

But is a leadership role the best place for someone we know to be struggling?

What about the student leader who comes to us — mid-year — with a confession of a serious struggle, and a genuine desire to get help?

And what about the student leader who gets caught, or exposed, and doesn’t see the problem with the issues we raise?

Things are not as black-and-white as they once were — and in some respects that is a good thing.

And we’re definitely dealing with a generation that struggles with the legalistic nature of institutionalized religion.

But we’ve got to draw the line somewhere — right?

So when it comes to knowing how to talk with this generation of student leaders about what it means to be “Holy and set a part,” where do we being?

What do you think?

    • What challenges you most about walking with this generation of student leaders?
    • How do you define, communicate, and defend the standards you set for your leaders?
    • Is there anything that would disqualify one of your students from leadership?
    • How do you talk in black-and-white terms with a generation that only knows varying shades of gray? Or do you?

I’d love to know what you think!

Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

  • Ryan Lindsey

    Here is part of the leadership guidelines that I have used the past few years.  As I am transitioning to a new ministry these guidelines will continue to hold the standard for next year’s leadership while the search for a new director is underway.

    Our Purpose is to: Reach,
    Train, and Live for Jesus Christ in a real and personal way on the campus of Colorado State
    University – Pueblo to lead future generations to in turn
    Reach, Train, and Live for Jesus Christ.


    An active member of Christian Challenge for at
    least one semester.

    Has a lifestyle of personal devotion to Jesus
    Christ with a desire to see others do likewise. 
    Includes reading their Bible, prayer, volunteering and/or serving when

    FAT – Faithful,
    Available, and Teachable

    A desire to see Christ have a personal impact on
    their fellow students at CSU-Pueblo.

    Able to commit to leadership team for
    consecutive spring & fall semesters.



    No alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use.

    Lead or co-lead a weekly Bible study.

    ‡   Studying
    the material ahead of time.

    ‡   Praying
    for the Bible study: lesson, leader, and participants (current and future).

    Involved in a same-gender discipleship

    Active in the leadership of Christian Challenge

    ‡   A
    modeled and reproducible lifestyle that is above reproach nor causes others to

    ‡   Personal
    involvement and investment in the ministry and students.

    ‡   Holding
    the other leaders and staff accountable to the purpose of our ministry.

    Active in Christian Challenge events through planning,
    promotion, and participation.

    ‡   Attend
    Bible study, Thursday Challenge meetings, retreats, leadership meetings, and
    mission trips.



    You will grow in your ability and desire to
    disciple another student.

    You will be able to host a Bible study of your

    You will find how God has gifted you and
    minister out of your gifting.

    • This looks well thought through! Good stuff Ryan.

      But what happens when a student pushes back on some piece of this? Or if they choose to live in a way that breaks one (or more) of the expectations you list? What happens then? And do you run into students who opt of of being on your leadership specifically because of one (or more) of the things you outline above?

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Ryan Lindsey

        The students get this list when I first talk with them about joining leadership team. Some have said no but I believe that students will step up to the plate or learn to push back against spiritual authority like their future pastors and churches. If they, as a group, ask about one of the rules we will discuss it but I explain each rule again at the first leadership meeting. Thus far I have been blessed not to have too much push back.

  • thank you for sharing your think, in indonesia campus ministry having the same way facing the problem how to raise standard, in some campus they already put the line of standard very high and i see for they who set the standard is survive even they became a light and role model, but for they not puting the standard they will and always struggle with problems : 
    dating issues – sex, 
    leaders should or should not going around and hangging around in cafe, any place for hang around ? 
    mentoring – fathering, standard about mentoring or fathering in indonesia became to much problem, each church they do different standard, needed of a real role model in campus needed in indonesia