No church-based or campus-based ministry to young adults has too many leaders. In fact, there is usually a shortage of leaders. In my experience, developing leaders takes time, but it pays off in actually multiplying your time and the efforts of your ministry.
I’ve found that involving more leaders does several things. Cultivating many leaders will involve people who have different gifts than the primary leader. It also gives the opportunity to divide responsibilities between more people. Another benefit is that certain people respond to us and others do not. When there are more leaders serving, it widens the possibility of more and different people responding to that ministry. Lastly, one of the great killers of leaders in ministry is feeling alone and that no one else cares for that ministry. Involving many leaders decreases the chances of the primary leader feeling alone and unsupported. Simply put, more leaders tend to reach more people.
So, how do we grow the number of young adult leaders? Here are some ways to develop leaders for your ministry.
Look for those with potential. There are different types of leadership styles, from charismatic (super attractive personalities) to managerial leaders (those who lead from a gift of organization). First, realize that all leaders do not look the same and lead from the same strengths.
Affirm and challenge. Identify some young adults you believe have leadership potential. Next, express your belief in their abilities. Affirmation is huge in young adults responding and choosing to lead. Some have never been told what they are capable of doing. Then, challenge them to consider the possibility of being a leader in the ministry in the future.
Spend some time with them. Indicate your willingness to meet with them one on one occasionally to invest in them. Or, invite them to be part of a small group you lead with other young adults interested in growing in leadership.
Avoid a key temptation. An easy temptation is to ask a willing person with leadership potential to serve in a key role they’re not ready to handle. They may not be ready skill wise or maturity wise. The result can be a bad experience for them, making them very reluctant to serve in a leadership role in the future.
Walk with them in early leadership stages. Another temptation is to go on to other tasks once they begin to serve in a leadership role. Yet, it is at this point that your teaching and encouragement are vital. They will hit snags, have disappointments, and be let down by others. Help them process all this, consider ways to handle it, and learn from it.
Always express appreciation. For those of us who serve in full-time ministry, we sometimes forget that we are working with volunteers. They have jobs, families, school, etc. We must realize there are times they’re more stressed and have less time to give. Other times, they have been super sacrificial in the time and effort they have given. We need to never forget that and express appreciation for their efforts. Effort can always be praised.
As you begin to look for, identify, and cultivate young adult leaders, you will see your ministry time multiplied through their efforts. You will likely see your ministry multiply as well. Plus, you are building up leaders for the future of the church. That’s a very good thing.
Arliss Dickerson served as Baptist Campus Minister at Arkansas State University for 32 years and currently serves as Leadership Development Consultant for the Collegiate Ministry Office at Lifeway. He is a husband, father, grandfather, growing believer, and poor but improving golfer. He loves collegiate ministers!