When you’re looking for new student leaders for your ministry, what do you look for most?
Is it particular skills and abilities? A vibrant faith? A certain kind of personality?
Are there particular qualities and characteristics that you need to see, at least at some level, if you’re really going to consider a student for leadership within your ministry?
While I think we can build a case for including most everything I’ve mentioned so far, I’d like to suggest three elements that have become increasingly essential for me in working with this generation of students — and potential student leaders.
Teachability. Many of the students I encounter have a sort of entrepreneurial spirit within them that tends to make (at least some of them) less inclined to look for or receive the wisdom, instruction, and/or advice of others. They struggle to see the value in being mentored and want to figure a lot of life out on their own. Too many of these students, once chosen to be student leaders, take the posture that they were chosen because of what they already have to offer, as opposed to the potential that is seen within them.
I want student leaders who understand themselves as a work in progress — a leader in process.
Focus. A lot of students who pursue leadership opportunities on campus tend to pursue multiple opportunities. If one’s good than two’s better — and five is insanely awesome!!! But what proves to be true for most students who get sucked into wearing too many different leadership hats is that they over-extend themselves such that they aren’t able to give any of the leadership roles their best focus and effort. In fact, I’ve known too many student leaders who have had their world come tumbling down, having believed that they could keep all of their leadership (and class and work and social life) balls up in the air, only to realize far too late that they could not.
I want student leaders who are willing to say “yes” to one or two leadership opportunities they really feel called to (secondary, of course, to their academics and job if they have one), and “NO!” to all of the other great opportunities out there. They can always change things up the following year. And of course, they can participate in other experiences — they just don’t have to carry the additional burden of leadership within them.
Dependability. In our fast-paced, flash-in-the-pan, what’s new and what’s “trending” culture, it’s getting harder to find students who are willing to stay the course for an entire year of leadership (or even a full semester). Things that seem exciting and “a part of God’s will” can take on an entirely different look and feel when the newness of the leadership role wears off and leadership becomes real work. There arises a temptation within some student leaders to let other things take priority, or to give less than their best effort, or even to give up on different aspects of their leadership role.
I’m looking for student leaders who see the value in doing hard work, seeing things through, always giving their best, and never giving up. I want student leaders who are willing to step into responsibility, accountability, and ownership of their choices. I want a leader that others can look to and depend on in appropriate ways and levels.
I don’t know that any of these characteristics would have made my “Top Ten List” back when I was first starting out in campus ministry.
But today — today they are essential in what I’m looking for.
What about you? What characteristics do you look for most in potential student leaders?