Campus Leadership Transition Part 1: Foundations

Across the country, this is leadership transition season for our healthcare campuses.  Often, I’m asked about the key ingredients that make for a successful hand-off.  I’d like to address that question here in two posts, the first dealing with foundational issues, the second with more practical ones.

Let me begin with a working definition of “leadership” – Leadership is using the time and abilities you have, joining God in what He’s already doing in the people around you.

Does this sound too ordinary to you?  Aren’t leaders supposed to be take-the-hill kind of people who “do more with less”?!  Not necessarily, actually.  In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins discovered that the best leaders are servant leaders – often humble, unnoticed people who also have a strong will and passion for what they do.  Sounds like Jesus to me.

So, we’re not necessarily looking for flashy, outgoing people with big personalities.  And quieter, background-type individuals are not necessarily disqualified.  What are we looking for then?

1 Timothy 4:16 presents a good, balanced starting point: “Watch your life and doctrine closely.”  There are two main qualifications here – how we live and what we believe (“doctrine”).

Let’s start with doctrine, what we believe.  It’s not popular to say so, but what we believe matters, especially in our leaders.  Campus leaders are essentially asking other group members to follow them as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).  This means, at a minimum, that they must be Christians.

So, what does it mean to be a Christian?  One answer is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7, where the Apostle Paul speaks of “the Good News that saves you” (verse 2).  Then, he unpacks that: it’s the fact that Jesus died and rose again “according to the Scriptures” (3, 4).  But it’s not mere agreement that these things happened; it involves believing that Jesus’ death and resurrection make us right with God and form the basis for everything that matters.

While this basic requirement is very important, it’s also encouraging because it means any true Christian can be a leader on campus.  We’re not looking for Presbyterians or Baptists or Catholics only.  We don’t focus on what someone believes about baptism, the details of Jesus’ return, or any number of other things that are important, but tend to divide Christians.

Now that we’ve considered what we believe, let’s take a very brief look at a leader’s life.  We can’t cover this exhaustively here, but what we’re talking about is Christian character.  Various places in the bible unpack this (i.e., 1 Timothy 3, Galatians 5:19-23), but a leader’s life should generally back up what they say they believe.

That doesn’t mean leaders are spotless.  All of us have significant defects Christ is still cleaning up, myself included.  At the same time, someone who bears the name of Christ, yet persists in obvious disobedience, is not ready to be a leader.

With the background of belief in Christ and a life to back it up (1 Timothy 4:16), let me close by returning to the definition of leadership I laid out at the beginning.  I want you to see that leadership is within reach, something that you should consider for the upcoming year.  You can do this:

Leadership is:

  • using the time and abilities you have – if you only have a few hours a week, that’s fine; every skill and ability can be put to use.  It’s using the time and abilities you do have!
  • joining God in what He’s already doing – leadership is mainly following: asking God to show you what He’s doing, then saying “yes” to that.  It’s all about Him, not us.
  • in the people around you – God promises that He’s put you exactly where you are because He wants to use you right there.  If we just look around, and are willing to move outward into others’ lives for God, there will be plenty to do.

That’s it, guys.  If you believe Jesus is who He said He is, are trying to live for Him, and want Him to use you in others’ lives, you can play an important role on your campus this year… and beyond, wherever you find yourself.


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About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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