Practical Ideas for Leading Your Core Team
One of the greatest ways to leverage your impact on campus is to put together a team of student leaders to be the tip of the spear for sharing Christ and making disciples on campus. They are the secret weapon of every college ministry that is consistently multiplying disciples. Our goal is to constantly be adding new students to this team each semester. We are seeing God use our team of around 50 people to lead hundreds of students to Jesus and God is working powerfully in their lives as they serve Christ alongside us. I have had a number of people ask me how we lead and structure our core team. In this post I will share key elements we focus on with our core team and explain the thinking behind some of what we do with our student leadership team.
Keep the Bar High With Clear Expectations
Let me plead with you to resist being afraid to call your student leaders to a high level of commitment. It’s better to have a small team that is willing to pay a large price than to have a large group of “leaders” who are dragging their feet about reaching the campus. We meet weekly with our student leaders for an hour and a half. On average, our student leaders are investing at least 10–15 hours a week into leading and laboring on campus. They lead small groups, share the gospel, disciple new believers, and serve in various other roles in our ministry—as well as in a local church! You can find a list of our expectations that we go over with each student leader before joining the team in the appendix of my free ebook Tips For Starting A College Ministry.
Our weekly Core Team meeting is essential for keeping them encouraged, equipped, and motivated to see them continue to serve and grow. Each Core Team member is also being personally discipled by a staff member or upperclassman leader. This may sound like a lot, but the stark reality is that college students have more available energy and time now than they will at any other time in their adult life. So don’t shy away from a big ask! There is a reason Jesus used the word “laborer” for someone who will be used by God to bring in a harvest of lost souls. It is because it’s a lot of work! I believe that challenging students to make sacrifices to reach their peers now will set a pace for their entire lives to serve in strategic kingdom roles on campus, in local churches, with church plants, and in overseas missions. If a student isn’t motivated to join a weekly meeting for training, it’s unlikely that they will be willing to wake up for a 5 a.m. discipleship group before work when he has a wife, kids, and many other responsibilities on his plate. This is equipping not simply for college, but for life.
Unless there are very unusual circumstances, I would highly recommend a weekly core team meeting with your student leaders. One of the goals your ministry should have is to ask God to raise up a growing number of students to join the core team. Each semester is another chance to add people to the team. On the low, I think spring is one of the best times to add leaders to the team. This article explains why.
In addition to a core team meeting, there is nothing that you can do that is more important than personally spending time developing your most motivated leaders. Focus specifically on those who are seeking to share the gospel and have a personal ministry of disciplemaking. We like to say: “Move with the movers.” I would recommend that every leader who is showing a desire to multiply receives intentional, relational, and reproducible discipleship from you or a key leader in your ministry.
Know this: there are no shortcuts to true spiritual multiplication. Period. It never starts as rapidly as we would like it to, so it’s tempting to try and “streamline” the process and make it more efficient. My state director, Neil Walker, says it this way, “Be efficient with tasks and effective with people. Don’t be efficient with people.” It takes consistent, unhurried personal time with a few key people before you start to see multiplication. Neil also often says “You can impress people from a distance, but you impact them up close.” If you decide to truly invest deeply in leaders, it will be the most difficult part of your ministry—and also the most rewarding. Dave Englehart, director of Christian Challenge at New Mexico State, says it this way, “More time spent with fewer people leads to greater lasting impact for the Kingdom of God.” So don’t fret if your effort to personally develop leaders doesn’t appear to be growing your ministry right away. It will be worth it when you see a growing number of kingdom leaders raised up and sent around the world!
Create a consistent flow for your weekly core team meeting
It helps to have a consistent structure for your weekly core team meetings for the sake of your sanity and the meeting’s momentum. Here are key elements that our ministry focuses on during a typical Core Team meeting.
1. Share stories from evangelism that happened during the week.
It’s a great idea each week to spend some time sharing about your gospel conversations that you had at the start of the meeting and praying together for those who heard the gospel. If anyone that you are training takes the smallest step towards sharing the gospel do back flips out the window! You want to show how excited you are when someone shares about an evangelistic encounter. You will get what you celebrate. If you create a culture where people have an opportunity to humbly tell their evangelistic stories you will be surprised by how the stories will keep rolling in week after week. This is also a way for students to inspire one another. Don’t miss out on one of the greatest motivators for evangelism. Currently we have students share their stories within a small cluster each week as well as on our secret Core Team Facebook group. If someone has a gospel appointment that week they will post about it in the group before hand requesting prayer and then provide an update of how the meeting went! It is such a joy for everyone on the team to see and celebrate the lives being changed by Jesus! One thing I encourage the students with is that every person that is lead to Christ through our ministry should be celebrated as if you personally were the one that lead them to Christ because ministry is a team sport.
2. Have staff give trainings on essential evangelism, discipleship and leadership skills.
Each semester our Core Team reads a key discipleship book together. Each week a staff member will prepare a 20-30 minute training expanding upon or applying a key concept from the chapter they read that week. Sometimes we will go “off script” and address a key training topic that the book doesn’t address like how to do gospel appointments or common mistakes in disciple-making. This is a great opportunity for newer staff to get teaching reps in a more forgiving environment than the weekly large group meeting. During this training time we try to include a variety of methods including lecture, discussion, in depth Bible study in smaller groups, videos, or brain storming things together as a group. It has been fun to explore different methods of training the group and mixing up the way we lead the training keeps the meeting interesting and fresh.
3. Take time for planning and prayer for ministry assignments.
After the training time our students split up into their life group teams for 10-15 minutes of planning and prayer for the small groups they are leading. We have student leaders who lead each of these teams. During this time they strategize how to make their groups better, delegate responsibilities to the team, and then spend time praying for their groups. For more information about how we equip our students leader to lead our community groups check out this post and here is what typical community group looks like for us.
4. Split into smaller groups for peer to peer accountability. The last 30 minutes or so of Core Team is dedicated to students breaking into a “cluster” of 3-5 people of the same gender to ask key accountability questions and pray for one another. Who is in these groups say consistent for the entire semester. We try to separate the clusters based on the personal ministry targets they are focusing on or who we think will effectively encourage one another. When possible we try to put people in different cluster from the person who is discipling them one-on-one each week for the purpose of cross training. Each week our Core Team will answer the same questions based on our “Big 5” spiritual disciplines we emphasize — Quiet Time, Scripture Memory, Prayer Lists, The Heart Attitudes, and The 3 Habits of Everyday Evangelism. This weekly time of accountability has been one of the most life changing aspects of Core Team for students! For many this has been the first time in their life that they were consistent in their time alone with God or scripture memory. The clusters have been a perfect way for us to keep our Core Team meetings personal even as our team has grown over the years!
I wish I had time to share the stories of God changing students lives from being a part of Core Team! Many students are growing from lazy, undisciplined, and addicted to diligent, loving laborers for Christ! God is using the consistent structure and authentic relationships to transform their lives!
Remember our mission is not to grow a huge ministry, but to reach the world for Christ. Your ministry may never grow to 1,000 or become what you daydream about—but over time, God can raise up hundreds and thousands of students to make disciples for the rest of their lives as you focus on training the leaders God has brought your way! Get to work!
I am encouraged by this quote in The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman: “Making disciples will be slow, tedious, painful and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious even if we don’t live to see it. We must decide where we want our ministry to count. In the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on the work when we have gone.”
What does your ministry do to train and equip student leaders?
What does your weekly student leadership team look like?
What questions do you have about equipping student leaders?