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FAQ: What should we look for in Christian Union leaders?

Choosing New Leaders - Tuesday 8th November 2005.
Reposted today with some addditional comment:

Over the coming months the current leaders of Christian Unions I work with will begin to search for new leaders. Its an exciting time, releasing new students into ministry within the context of the Christian Union. This generally works with a period of open nominations, then the existing leaders seek to put together a team who they will put forward to be approved by the CU. This seems favourable to out-right democracy since its hard to discern Biblical qualifications that way, and to construct a team. It also seems to have some parallel with the involvement of the people and their leaders in selecting leaders in the cases of Moses and also the early church in Acts 6.

My underlying presumption is of course that a Christian leader is a Christian... once that's in place... It should also be noted that in many situations a Christian Union is of a size where these factors are not luxuries available to consider. Being an available Christian in such a group may be enough! Where possible, five factors worth considering.

Titus 1, when Titus is told to find leaders he's instructed to look for people of impeccable character. The search there is for church elders, for a new young church. No reason to aim lower just because Christian Union leaders don't have all the same responsibility of church elders. The search is for leaders of a student-led gospel centred mission team. People with good character, humble servants, self-controlled and applying the gospel to all of life. As Don Carson notes the qualifications are essentially pretty ordinary for a Christian...

Character shows in service and relationships. Sometimes leaders have to be picked within a few months of a person arriving at University. That makes this more difficult. Ideally it'd be good to pick those who have been tried in action a bit more. University placement schemes often prohibit this.

Character also shows in study. Laziness is not a virtue, neither is being a workaholic. But, good character should make someone work hard without it becoming an idol. Excellence isn't the same thing - some of us could work very hard and still not get a First Class Degree, but if I'm honest there were reasons why I got a Third rather than a 2:2 which have nothing to do with my intellect, and quite a bit to do with my pride and slackness in my 2nd year at University.

Another key for character comes in how we deal with getting things wrong. A qualified leader wont have an impeccable record, but they will deal with mistakes well. Do we become defensive and try to hide it? Or are we humbly correctable? That's not to say failure should be flaunted or pursued but that teachability and desire to change and learn is a vital evidence of grace.

In Titus 1, the final consideration is those who are committed to sound doctrine. The healthy teaching of the gospel. Why? Because sound teaching is what is used to encourage believers and to refute those in error. Sound teaching equips God's people for action, false teaching corrupts.

Even if a CU leader doesn't actually teach in the CU (though they could), they are responsible for arranging teaching and training programmes. They need to know the importance of sound teaching, and in a CU context the central truths concerning the gospel, the cross, scripture, the holy spirit - as set out in the CU doctrinal basis (the central truths that form the basis of fellowship for a CU). This isn't exhaustive of Christian belief but they are the essentials. Beyond them there is much room for difference.

Convictions shape service and they shape character. Error in practice very often comes from error in convictions. However, we are all learning so direction of travel is vital in both character and convictions. One may well have areas of clear error but be making good progress, whilst another is "sounder" but travelling in the wrong direction.

To be a leader in a Christian Union will require commitment to its vision. Its true in all walks of life - you can't lead if you're not committed to the vision.
The Christian Union vision is: "Live for Jesus, Speak for Jesus as a Student-led Gospel-centred Mission Team on Campus"
. This can be worked out in various ways and the application of the vision may need some correction, but the vision remains. Get the inside story. Commitment to the vision shows in various ways, though essentially an evangelistic lifestyle.

A Christian Union leader needs to be rooted in one local church. Good pastoral oversight and support is essential. Christian Unions gather students from a wide range of local churches to do evangelism together.

The second consideration then is to try and get some kind of church mix on a leadership team - its not essential, but just helpful as the Christian Union seeks to unite believers across the local churches.

This is really not essential but is helpful - its just good sense to have a mix of guys and girls on the team, and to have a range of people, people with different personalities, perspectives etc. People are different and that's ok! In fact our differences display God's glory in being able to unite people by the gospel. A team don't need to be friends already, in fact it probably helps if they don't all know each other well at the start of the year, and if they don't live together - because they need to be connected to the rest of the CU and living with those who aren't Christians is a pretty good idea. This last section is common sense stuff, and the kind of stuff only a big CU can probably have the luxury of considering.


  1. This is helpful stuff - I wish we'd had the section on "church" way back when. I was on the leadership at Loughborough CU (always the UCCF rebel - must have been to do with proximity to Leicester) and virtually the whole CU attended one church (though not me!) - that turned out to be very unhealthy and tended to diminish the importance of rooting Christian students in a local church, never mind the leaders themselves (I think because Church and CU became indistinguishable - same people etc).

    I think it is useful (desirable and wise, not biblically justifiable) to have a CU leader involved in a local church (and a home church) which recognises the work he or she is doing and commits to them in terms of prayer, advice and support. Again, I missed out on this, to my very great regret, at least from a home church background - though the church I attended whilst at Uni were quite the opposite - and the leaders met to pray with me and encourage me whenever I asked (and sometimes when I didn't). Somehow they managed to do this without stepping over the line of the delicate CU/Church balance - and what a joy to know you have such wise backing!


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