Move your campus ministry student executive from working group to governance board

Most campus ministries/'Christian Unions' in Australia, especially those connected with AFES are groups affiliated with their local university union or 'student guild'. These affiliated associations are governed by an 'executive committee' 

The role of the executive committee in smaller Christian Unions

In smaller campus groups (under 50 active students), the executive committee might be the majority of student leaders in the group. This group are also the small group leaders, evangelists and so on.

There are rarely big needs for a formal executive committee at all for these groups. It is a 'letter of the law' requirement. Most of the issues of governance are sorted out relationally and by consensus. As a result it's much more common to forget to tick the legal boxes at this stage.

The role of the executive committee as the Christian Union grows and builds teams

As the group grows, more 'ordinary members' get added to this committee, not as treasurer or vice president, but simply as another leader joining the leadership team. It becomes natural for this committee meeting to continue to be a place where collaborating, planning, training and relationship building take place.

But as a group grow larger than 50–70 active students, and the leadership team larger than 12–15 students some changes happen:

  • The committee becomes too large to function as one group, and so quiet voices remain unheard, or discussions drag on too long.
  • The committee becomes vulnerable to matters that require a formal vote. If all its members are constitutional committee members and a serious matter of doctrine, morality or strategy required a vote, things might get tricky.
  • Much of the committee functions are now happening in other team meetings. As you need to build teams for evangelists, or for small group leaders, more of these functions are happening there.

But until we realise this, we can carry on running the executive committee meetings the same way. But I want to suggest a better way.

The benefits of making the transition to more of a governance board model

Once the CU grows larger enough to strat running multiple ministry teams, I suggest shrinking the size, scope and meeting regularity of the executive committee. Move FROM:

  • A large group that meets for all sorts of planning and training on a regular basis TO
  • A smaller group that meets for higher level governance on a semi-regular basis

So the executive committee might just consist of its 4 or 5 office holders, and meet quarterly for 90 minutes to discuss major decisions.

What are the advantages of this approach?

  • It frees up time. Becuase students and campus staff have more flexibility with time, it can be easy to become inefficient with time. But we still only have limited time and energy. Time freed up in unnecessary meetings can be put elsewhere.
  • It trains student leaders in a lifetime skill of doing good ministry governance. God-willing our student executive members will go on to be pastors, elders, parish councillors and board members of other Christian organisations. If we can figure out theologically informed, ethically constrained and wisely effective 'best practice' for committees, we can equip them to be a force for good in a context where often professional adults waste lots of time in sloppy meetings.
  • It dignified and empowers the highest level of student leadership. Campus ministers often assume that empowering student leadership is about collaborating with students. Or leaving them to do what they want. But this misses out that the formal, constitutional power to make high level decisions about the association is a unique power that student committees have. By treating the executive meeting 
  • It clarifies the role of ministry teams. When the student executive meeting is clarified in its role, it really enhances the importance of the other ministry teams. For here is where the collaboration, planning, training and relationship building take place. This is where the day to day 'action' takes place.
  • It forces a decisions about the bits and bobs of ministry planning that are still with the student executive. Sometimes matters like Mid Year Conference (MYC)/Summit or Semester 2 Mission might still be on the student executive's agenda for no other reason than we haven't yet thought where these projects 'belong'. By making this move, it forces us to think about the organisational chart and figure out where these projects should be managed now. Should MYC be managed by the Student Events Team? Or should we form a new temporary ministry team each year especially for it?

The danger of making this transition

If we are not careful, we could create a problem in our CUs that is already present in our churches: we could have a class of leaders who make decisions for the ministry but are not actually involved in everyday spiritual activities at all! Elders/parish councillors who don't evangelism, edifiy, serve: but simply meet to say No to proposals from eager members.

While training students in the areas of governance leadership, we must keep investing in them the more foundational skills of prayer, Bible teaching, evangelism and practical love.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to