Recently we celebrated the expansion of our church’s preschool – Kingdom Kids Learning Center. It is an incredible program that prepares children for Kindergarten while providing a safe, fun atmosphere for them to learn about Jesus.
It is now one of the celebrated aspects of life at Westside … but it wasn’t always this way. Let me take you behind the scenes for a moment.
To get to where we are, it took good leadership. Lesley Emerson, assisted by Penny Perkins, has provided stellar leadership. They have had a vision for this program and have followed through.
Because of them, it’s not just a program – it’s a culture. After the first two (tough) weeks of each school year when it is natural for kids to struggle a bit, they end up loving it. As I open the doors in the mornings for the parents and children, the children are often running ahead of their parents to get to their class. It’s obvious that they love the program.
KKLC is so healthy that I suspect that there may even be more talk of growth in the future. And while Lesley, our fearless leader, might act like she’s overwhelmed at the growth and new responsibilities, I don’t doubt at all that she’s up to the challenge. Her leadership lid is high.
But, there was another type of leadership that was necessary to get us to this place – a type of leadership that wasn’t as visible.
(To illustrate the second kind of leadership and with a desire to encourage leaders to recognize the potential of working behind the scenes, I am afraid that the following might be misunderstood by some. Please know that I only say the following to illustrate from first-hand experience what behind-the-scenes leadership can look like.)
When I arrived at Westside a little more than 5 years ago, I was made aware that some folks in the church weren’t excited about KKLC. They were good people but they were holding onto some animosity over the fact that the $1 million debt we had at that time was due to KKLC. In fact, it felt to me like KKLC was, in some ways, the step-child of the church and it had to operate under the radar.
In my estimation, KKLC was a wonderful program that was horribly misunderstood. It was unfair for them to be negatively viewed as they were.
The folks who were upset weren’t bad people – they simply misunderstood what was fully visible to me. I knew that KKLC was a fantastic ministry of our church, it provided a wonderful service to our community, and the debt would eventually get paid off (God allowed us to pay it off in about 4 years).
What KKLC needed was a public leader that championed it. As the new pastor of Westside, that privilege fell on me.
But my leadership would have to look different than Lesley’s. She was (is) a great leader but she needed someone to make the sky that KKLC flew in a little friendlier. I couldn’t organize my way out of this. I would have to go about it a different way. As the pastor of Westside, I would have to leverage my position of leadership to find the fires and put them out.
I believe that leaders create the sky that others fly in. So, I went to work behind the scenes. I talked with committees and met with folks. I sung the praises of KKLC and corrected erroneous views held by some. Because of my leadership position and the fact that people trusted me, they listened to what I had to say. Perceptions about KKLC began to change.
Social media came in very handy. For instance, when Lesley had the brush cleared around our church’s playground, I reposted the picture and publicly thanked KKLC for what they did. I went public with my appreciation for KKLC for purchasing new playground equipment. Essentially, I was trying to show that Westside’s relationship with KKLC was mutually beneficial.
I also took advantage of many opportunities in front of the church to celebrate the KKLC leadership and what God was doing in the organization. People trusted me and they listened to what I was saying. Lesley had the much, much tougher job but she needed me to create a better environment for her to do her job.
Over time, the perception was changing. As Lesley led KKLC and her pastor took the role of cheerleader-in-chief, we now have a program that is highly celebrated by the community and church. It is now free to do even bigger, better things.
So, friend, when you are in a position of leadership, you need to find out what kind of leadership is necessary. Maybe your leadership is direct and in full view of others. Maybe it is more of a cheer-leading role and happens more times than not behind the scenes. Regardless, just make sure that you are leveraging your position to help those under your authority to become better and poised for growth. Honestly, it’s worth it!