Leadership is a popular buzzword in the current Western Evangelical Christian community. Its all about leadership and, encouragingly, increasingly about young leadership. In churches throughout the UK students are pioneering, preaching and sitting on church leadership teams. Elsewhere, churches are even scheming to church plant with students!
This is an exciting season. When we talk of ‘leadership’ though, its most often short-hand for ‘church leadership’. A vital question, often side-stepped (or perhaps not even considered) by those of us involved in student work is what about students who lead on campus?
We mentor in leadership those who use their gifts primarily in the church, but do we mentor other student leaders in godly leadership too? Its one thing to help a student who is preaching - you can practice with them, be there for the talk and debrief afterwards. Perhaps you can offer experience and advice and create opportunities for them; the fruit from that time is also really evident. But what about those who are leading the football team, starting up an anti-trafficking society on campus or getting involved in the Student Union? What about those who would do those things with the right encouragement and support? Do we mentor them in the character of a godly leader, support, debrief, offer advice or connect them with those who can?
The Bible is full of godly leaders who God blesses and uses in their places of influence. Joseph, who held a number of leadership positions and demonstrated obedience, sensitivity to God’s spirit and diligence and saved a nation from starvation. Boaz, who kept the law concerning care for the poor in his business, went out of his way to redeem those in need and choose to do things the right way, trusting God to come through for him. Daniel, who chose to be distinctive and didn’t compromise on both working hard for his masters and being true to his God. These were leaders in their spheres, honoured by God. So often we focus on raising up leaders in the church (a brilliant pursuit, of course) but if we’re honest, we can often forget about those who are leading elsewhere.
We need those who will lead with godly character in all areas of society; university is a great place to learn how to do that well.
Who are the leaders or could-be-leaders in your church community? Are you supporting, mentoring and challenging them into godly leadership? How could you be generous in supporting those who lead in university life?
Here’s one student’s experience of being a student leader on campus:
I’ve always had a sporty background but I wanted to do something completely different and how different can you get than cheerleading?!
I love that the team are so close and like a family. It is truly amazing some of the conversations that come up and the relationships that build through the training sessions, socials and competitions. The opportunity to find real community through sport at university shouldn’t be underestimated!
It can be challenging being a Christian, especially in my role on committee where I have had to make difficult decisions. But it was totally worth it, and I have loved sharing my faith with the team. One time I took 14 cheerleaders to church! We needed to fundraise for a national competition so we did a bake sale. Everyone was so welcoming and generous and the cheerleaders had a great time stunting (performing lifts) with some of the kids! It was an amazing point in my year.
My university experience has been completely changed and improved by doing something that hasn’t just revolved around my course, church or my housemates. It has given me a chance to excel in something, make some great friendships and to share my faith in a new way! I can’t emphasise enough how important it was to me to find a local church where I would be supported and built up in my talents and skills.
My church community have been the support and encouragement that I needed throughout my university life, and I have grown in my faith and confidence through the love from my church family.