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I was born and raised in Buffalo and went to high school in the early ‘90s. Allow me to save you the mental math—the Buffalo Bills lost the Super Bowl when I was in 8th grade. And 9th. And 10th. And 11th.

I haven’t lived in the area since and gradually lost track of the Bills over the years. Fast-forward almost 25 years to this past season when the Bills made the playoffs—yes.  their drought was that. long. I tuned in with my 10-year-old son for old times’ sake. We shouted. We cringed. We shrieked. We high-fived.

In the days that followed, a funny thing happened. A dinner conversation retold a playground debate on the merits of the Chiefs vs. the Bills. A Christmas Amazon gift card was cashed in for a Buffalo Bills shirt. A question about when the NFL season officially starts arose during bedtime snuggles.

Without any proactive strategy on my part, my son felt called to a new identity—Buffalo Bills fan—simply by experiencing my passion. I didn’t recruit him or even suggest that he join my cause. He was irresistibly drawn to it because of what he saw in me.

As Christian school leaders, we devote much energy to communicating truth to move those we serve to share in our belief. We want faculty, staff, students, and parents to glimpse the irresistible beauty of Christ’s love and embrace it as their own.

So how can we make recruiting Jesus-fans as seamless and natural as recruiting Buffalo Bills fans? Here are a few reflections that come to mind that Jesus modeled for us in Scripture, as well:

Cheer at the Top of Your Lungs

The Bible is full of examples of Jesus boldly sharing His emotions in order to communicate clearly. He did not shy away from anger in the face of hypocrisy, engaging the religious elites of the day with “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Isaiah 9 speaks of “the zeal of the Lord” and was brought to the mind of the disciples (John 2:17) as they witnessed Jesus clearing the temple courts.

Passion is contagious. People want to see what makes us tick. It’s one thing to tell others what you care about; showing them is altogether different. Those we lead need to see us excited, energized—dare I say, worked up?—about what matters and what should matter to them. Emotional control and professional composure go without saying, but a little “fire in the belly” can make all the difference in inspiring others toward new ways of thinking.

Don’t Hide Your Disappointments

Jesus was often moved by compassion for the vulnerable and those who suffer in this broken world. Whether raising the widow’s son in Luke 7, feeding the four thousand in Matthew 15, or simply traveling from town to town witnessing humanity in need (Matthew 9:34-38), He did not hide His sorrow and sadness in the face of sin and its devastation.

Likewise, our leadership efforts must convey the truth of not only what we celebrate, but also what we lament. It’s tempting to push aside our frustrations in favor of communicating hope, positivity, and forward thinking. These fundamental building blocks of leadership are important, but can be enhanced—not diluted—when combined with the authenticity of genuine disappointment that is inevitable here on earth.

Be In It Together

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus was intentionally up-close-and-personal with those He served. He recruited the disciples to not just report for duty 40 hours per week, but to literally live and travel by His side indefinitely. He washed their feet—an intimate gesture of vulnerability and service—and called them to follow suit (John 13:12-17). He shared meals with many, including people that most religious leaders of the day avoided at all costs (Mark 2:15).

The tumultuous and conflict-heavy times in which we lead create a very real temptation to retreat behind a hedge of protection for the sake of self-preservation. Keeping our school communities at arms’ length prevents many wounds to which we open ourselves when we invest our whole selves. But Christ didn’t model intimate personal relationships for us by accident. Our Creator knows that without digging in, getting dirty, and assuring others that we are “in it” alongside them, our call to follow is less compelling, authentic, and ultimately effective.

Leadership like this can be terrifying—particularly for female leaders, many of whom have been conditioned to carefully regulate emotion in the professional sphere. Moderation in all things certainly applies here, but there’s much we can glean from my son’s newfound allegiance to the Buffalo Bills.

Let’s hoot and holler when we see the Gospel become real in the lives of our students. The next time our hopes are dashed by an unforeseen turn of events, let’s mourn that loss and share our sadness with our teams. By being indisputably all-in—for the highs and the lows—let’s lead our schools in such a way that faculty, staff, students, and parents are inexplicably drawn to the cause we love and can’t resist the urge to join with us in our Kingdom work.

Author Nikki Daniels

Nikki Daniels is the Head of School at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, California. Her career spans both higher and secondary Christian education, as well as nonprofit leadership. Nikki and her husband enjoy living on campus at MVC with their three children ages nine, eleven, and thirteen years old. Nikki can be reached at [email protected].

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