Melissa Sandel serves as a minsitry coach with Milligan’s MLP program.

“Try Something New.” It’s one of our family values and posted in the entryway of our home. Even though I’ve attempted to live out this value for decades, I need constant reminders to try new things because my natural inclination is to return to the places, people and patterns I know. Why? Because we humans are drawn to comfort like college students are drawn to large quantities of coffee!

New experiences can make us feel clumsy, vulnerable and uncomfortable. It takes intentionality and discipline to consistently lead with a “yes” when new experiences come our way.

One of the best moves you can make in your college years is to develop a hunger for experience. This value is especially important for those of us who are entrusted by God with leadership gifts, as experience is the single best way to grow as a leader. Trying something new on a regular basis is a recipe for exponential leadership growth.

  • When a door opens to visit a healthy church or organization, say yes as often as possible. God will use these moments to direct your leadership future.
  • When presented with an opportunity to catch a conversation with a seasoned leader, don’t miss it! Their nuggets of wisdom will build your leadership foundation.
  • When podcasts, books or resources are mentioned by trusted voices, lean in and listen. What you hear and read will fan the flames of your leadership momentum.
  • When internships, serving opportunities and mission trips pique your interest, don’t let those opportunities pass you by. There’s no substitute for actually doing the work!

The young adult years are ideal for experimenting with all kinds of leadership roles in a wide variety of settings. Try your hand at as many leadership gigs as possible, and you’ll find God clarifying what you like and dislike… where you thrive and where you merely survive. With every failure, crucial conversation and new experience, you add to your leadership story. God is preparing you now for future chapters of your life.

In short: “Try something new” every day. It’s what effective leaders do.


Melissa Sandel serves as a ministry coach for Milligan’s MLP Program, where she mentors and teaches current ministry students. Since 2004, Melissa has served at West Side Christian Church in Springfield, Illinois. As director of ministries and a senior leader, Melissa oversees West Side’s ministry staff and strategy. Her strengths are strategic planning, building healthy teams, leading crucial conversations and cheering for the Chicago Cubs. Melissa also serves as a coach for Intentional Churches (an organization that helps churches double their kingdom impact). She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and a Masters of Divinity from Lincoln Christian University. She and her husband, Chris, love parenting their two children: Jack (age 10) and Aly (age 7).