Students growing in leadership

By Andy O'Connell

Student training seminar

As OCC, we're wanting to see everyone flourish, and be who they're called to be as part of God's purposes! In other words, we're really committed to making disciples (person mentoring), every member ministry (everyone gets to play a part), and everyone having a specific calling to make a difference in God's world (everyone has a call to serve God).

For students that come to either of the Oxford universities, we're eager to partner with you during your time here, looking to give you opportunities to learn, grow, have a go and be mentored. Our dream is that you when leave here, you can be sent by God into all kinds of areas of society and into all kinds of places empowered by him to do all kinds of good stuff! Read more about our Dream here

Connect and grow!

That's why, as students arrive in Oxford, we encourage them to connect with a church where they will get mentored (aka discipled) and taught and find opportunity and community!

If that's not OCC, but another church, great – we love all the churches in Oxford – but we are really keen that students plug in well *somewhere*! You'll get the best out of your time in Oxford if you do!

For more about our personal mentoring – which we call "personal pastoring" (as The Pastor can't pastor everyone!) – check out this blog.

Lead and grow!

Many of the students attending OCC get asked to take leadership roles in Christian unions or other groups. We're often asked for advice: "Should I do this thing?"

These roles definitely help the student grow in leadership – a significant enduring benefit! People will be impacted through the events or teaching that the organisation provides. And it's great to have charismatic students bringing their contribution to University Christian life.

However, we often observe that, having gone into the role with excitement, students often end up frustrated and deflated that they were unable to achieve what they wanted, through challenges of organisational culture, or the difficulties of leading inter-denominational organisations (that is challenging enough for us mature leaders!). They don’t often grow as much as they could do, as they don’t get the right mentoring. Their impact can be short-lived, as committee roles typically last only a year, and the long view is that if anything does change, it can often regress the following year. Finally, their organisational leadership responsibilities can draw them away from the very thing they have passion for, e.g. evangelism or justice.

So, if someone asked us that question – "Should I do this thing?" – there are a number of questions we would ask in return (drafted in conjunction with a former OCC member of an OICCU Exec):

  • What has God said about this role? Are you just wandering into it, pleased to have been asked, or is God really leading you to do that? For some, this may be one of the first 'life choices' they need to make outside of their family home, and so whatever decision they make, it's a point of growth in hearing God.
  • How does doing this role help you personally develop into the person God wants you to develop into? This question nudges at whether this role is personally purposeful, or just a role that is of benefit to others? There's nothing wrong with the second, but the first is better!
  • What impact do you expect to have? This question teases out any unrealistic expectations – of changing the world singlehandedly – and you may need to help them enter into the role with more realistic ideas, to avoid disappointment or regret later.
  • What are you going to have to stop doing to make space for this role? Have they thought about their work, their friendships, their involvement with church, time with their pastor, etc. – and the cost of the choice they are about to make?

Once they are into it, the questions might change to these: How are you growing through your role? What support do you need? How can I being praying for you? How are you managing your time/work/Christian friendships/personal mission/etc.? 

For more on our approach to Student ministry and mission you might like to read some blogs…

There is also some advice here, from UCCF, for people who have been asked to lead a group.