Finding the “unknown” Superstars

UnknownA few months ago, before the NFL draft, USA Today columnist Nate Davis did an article about finding the best, most successful undrafted players of all time.  Among them were Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates, London Fletcher, Dick “Night Train” Lane and Jim Otto.  The whole list can be found here.

I found this article interesting because, as in many occupations, these “unknowns” ended up being very successful in their craft, some even in the Hall-of-Fame.  This, in turn, made me think of the “unknowns” who people discount and overlook because they “don’t fit” the role that we are looking for in ministry.  For example, in student ministry, I am constantly looking for volunteer leaders to help me minister to youth.  But often times, my “ideal” volunteer is an early 20-something, single, good looking guy or girl who is either in college or has plenty of time on their hands.  Considering that those can be very hard to come by, I often find myself having to think “outside-the-box”.  I have to find people who may not look like my ideal volunteer leader but can be just as effective.  So here is my list of people who may be “unknown” but can be just as effective.

I find people who…

  • Have a love for the Lord and a love for students.  I know that these seem like no-brainers but you’d be surprised how many friends of my leaders who don’t know Christ and aren’t really passionate about kids want to be apart of our leadership team because of the unity and connectedness of the team.  Volunteers have to be passionate about Christ (and be growing in HIM) and students.
  • Are gifted to serve in areas you have voids.  There are always opportunities for volutneers to serve in.  But finding the right person to fill the right opportunity can be tough sometimes.  The problem sometimes becomes that we just put a “warm body” in each position and hope they are successful.  That is why finding a person gifted in a particular area of opportunity for you will be much more successful than finding some random “Joe” to fill in.
  • Are teachable and willing to learn.  Natural leaders stand out and pick up on how to lead rather easily.  But for the rest of us, we need to be taught how to lead and have that desire to learn.  If they have that, it will be rather easy to get them up to speed on how to be a leader in your program.  If not, you may have a really hard time teaching them all they need to know to be successful.
  • Have the time.  Time is key.  Someone may have a huge desire to work with youth but don’t have enough time in the day to give to one more thing.  That is why I really ask my leaders before they sign on and throughout the time they are with me if they have enough time to really commit to this.  If they don’t, they won’t be nearly as effective or successful as they can be.

Despite identifying these qualities in potential volunteers, in order to make these “unknowns” into really effective leaders, as a Student Minister, I need to do my due diligence as well.  I need to meet with them regularly both individually and as a team to make sure they know the direction we are headed and how they can be more successful and end up in the Student Ministry Hall of Fame.  Because, ultimately, once I get a volunteer leader to help out, I am just as responsible as they are to help make them successful by setting them up to succeed.

Thoughts?  Experiences?  Would you add or subtract to my 4 qualities that you look for in volunteer leaders?  Post a comment so that we can all learn and benefit.

Tom Pounder

A father of 4, Tom is the Online Campus Pastor as well as Social Media Director at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. He blogs, vlogs, periscopes and podcasts regularly about student and online ministry stuff. Check out his work at and on iTunes (search YMSidekick).

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