3 Signs to Know It’s Time to Start a Student Leadership Program

How do you know when it is time to start implementing a student leadership program? Here are three signs I’m using.

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If you’ve followed me for very long, you know that I moved to a new church last March. Since moving, I’ve been able to do some reflecting on the transition, specifically when it comes to creating a culture of leadership.

One of my greatest learnings is there is a difficult balance between “time in” and movement forward.

My brother once told me one of his professors talked about a ministerial checking account. Every minister, when starting a new ministry, gets a relational checking account from which they can write checks. Big changes require big checks. But it’s very difficult to add credit to the account. Therefore, more often than not, a minister will overdraft their relational accounts too quickly.

Full transparency: I still don’t know if I’ve waited too long to start, but this week I’m rolling out an introductory version of a leadership team.

I do know this: when I think back over the grand arc of my time in my previous church (almost 7 years total), there was never a grand sweeping change. Everything was done bit by bit. We started with a leadership trip one summer. Then we adjusted the trip the following summer. The next year I added monthly meetings. The year after that we moved away from monthly meeting and toward weekly follow ups (which ended up being our sweet spot).

Developing a leadership culture was a process literally years in the making.

How do you know when it is time to start implementing a student leadership program? Here are three signs I’m using.

  1. You have students in the room. You don’t have to have the right students. Too often we can fall into the trap of what we want versus what we have. Don’t. Work with what you have and you’ll be ready for what’s to come.
  2. You have the relational capital to leverage your own influence. If you’re trying to turn the boat, it takes time. If you’re asking for someone to make a big change, make sure you’ve built up the trust first.
  3. You have a grasp of the culture. I never want to let my experience dictate what I do next. I do, however, want it to influence what I do next. That means I have to understand the culture of where I am, and that culture is different from anywhere I’ve been before. This is always true. No church culture is the same. There is always something different.

Keep leadership conversations going. I am just now starting a leadership team, but I’ve had countless leadership conversations along the way. It’s part of my regular vocabulary, and so when an opportunity presents itself, I’m talking about leveraging influence.

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