Student-Led Movements in Nebraska

In the last few weeks, I happened to be included in three different conversations initiated by others concerning Student-led movements.

In one conversation, CFM Executive Director, Patty McCain, asked Terah Wiekamp, where they have students as MTLs and what it was like. Terah and her husband, Ethan, are MTLs for the Nebraska Team. Besides working with the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, their team also coaches student leaders around the entire state.

Patty:  “Can you describe where you have students as MTL’s and what it’s like?” 

Terah:  “I love your question, and the short answer is—it’s awesome having students own the whole movement!!  Finding the right students is key, of course, but the campuses we coach that are student-led are some of the most fun for us to be on.

“Just to give you a short description of our team and scope…as we’ve joined with the past UNL team over the last two years.  Our scope consists of 17 schools that have a consistent group and are led in different contexts.  Seven of those campuses are 2-year Community Colleges and the other 10 are 4-year schools, both public and private.  As you mentioned, we have volunteers and pastors heading up the coaching on a few of these campuses, and some are purely student-led.

“The most success we’ve had with student-led ministries (where students are acting as MTL’s) are on our 4-year state schools, and a couple of our 4-year private schools.

“Probably the school we’ve seen the most from, as far as multiplying movements go, is Wayne State College, a campus of 3,200 students.  WSC is two hours from the city our team is in and was launched in 2000.  It has had a movement with anywhere from 120-250 students involved. On average, we go to this campus 2-3 times a semester and may see these student leaders at Fall Getaway, Christmas Conference, Men’s & Women’s Retreats, and Summer Project.

“The majority of our coaching happens over the phone and isn’t necessarily an every week appointment.  We have phone conversations and plan trips to campuses, kind of on a needs basis.  If student leaders want us to speak, do training, or come help with team dynamics or hard issues they are wrestling through, we plan accordingly.  We’ve encouraged students to seek out people in their church to connect with on a regular basis for discipleship sort of stuff and made ourselves available to call whenever for coaching and ministry related things (of course some personal development naturally happens in this as well).

“The paradigm we work out of is VR SELC.  Vision, Relationship, Surface, Empower, Launch, Coach.

  • Vision:  We are always casting vision for seeing multiple movements everywhere, so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.  Vision is not a statement, it’s a word picture, and we make sure students and staff can paint that picture for people who are interested in getting involved.
  • Relationship:  We have real relationships with the students we are working with and initiating with.
  • Vision and Relationship are an umbrella over the next four part cycle.
  • Surface:  Finding people of peace and fresh leaders.  Seeing the places on campus we aren’t on and praying for someone in that context to be raised up.
  • Empower:  Calling out greatness in people and showing them they have what it takes to follow where God’s calling them.  We appreciate our leaders personally and publicly a lot.  We resource them to help them be successful.
  • Launch:  We let go!
  • Coach:  Just like a good coach on a basketball team, we observe from the bench, show them drills to improve their skills at practice, and demonstrate certain skills when needed.  We are only a phone call away and they know we are accessible.  We also lead with questions a lot while coaching so they figure out why they are doing what they’re doing.

“And then the cycle repeats itself.  At any point on campus we could be in one of these areas with one person and another with the next person. (Ethan has this paradigm in a training document we’ve used.)

“On any of the student-led campuses we coach, we are most intentional with the students who make up the Servant Teams.  Depending on the time we have on the campus, we may meet individually or in groups with these students.  We also have a retreat in August for every leadership team in the state for training, encouragement, and to take time to solidify plans for their first 6 weeks.

“One thing we consistently train on is DNA.  Check out

“One of the most important things on a student-led campus is transitioning the leadership well. This means we are looking for new leaders already in the Fall and begin asking our student leaders to write down lists of potential leaders by Christmas Conference (this includes any Freshmen they see as upcoming leaders).  Every Spring we spend much of March and April working on transitions.  We try to meet each of the people the Servant Team is hoping to invite on, and that also gives a quality control as far as getting the right leaders in place.

” feel like a lot of what we do is pretty simple, it’s just a matter of putting our feet on campus and being willing to start something new.  If staff are willing to let students have a few crazy ideas and fail every now and then they might be surprised!  Students are so effective at reaching their campus because of their presence in classes, the dining halls, clubs, etc.  Where we as staff come in as outsiders, students have an insiders-advantage at relational evangelism.  The campuses we see multiplication happening on are places where students understand that there are lost people on their campus and they care enough to do something about it.  They understand that the weekly meeting isn’t for them, as much as it is a venue for their non-believing friends to experience a Christ-centered community that is made up of transformed lives.

“When we came on staff Craig Johring would always tell us, “Do what only you can do”.  Empowering students to lead in the capacities they can enables us to go to new places on campus or even go to another campus that may have no Christ-centered community at all.  Until we launch them though, we may find ourselves “empowering” over and over again because true ownership has not been given.  Trusting students and allowing them to really own the mission and movement sometimes causes us to question whether we are useful or needed, but I think this insecurity comes only because we haven’t taken the time to think about where we could really be used or needed.

“I hope this answers some of what you were looking for!  We love student leadership and see it as incredibly strategic to reaching every student, but by no means do we think we have it figured out. We are working to establish UNL with a Servant Team currently and know that a larger University setting looks different too!”


Thanks, Terah, for letting me pass these insights along.

Previous tips on Student-Led Movements
Student-Led Movements
Moving from staff-led to student-led…from a student’s perspective
Student-Led Movements in Brazil


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