Sandy Knap was one of the best leaders I’ve known. Her staff title was Administrative Assistant, but make no mistake about it, she had influence. Sandy was a leader.

Sandy lost her battle to cancer last week, and now knows the joy of seeing Jesus face to face. Her funeral service was Saturday (Feb. 13) and it was a genuine tribute to a Proverbs 31 woman. Her leadership and ministry of 16 years to student pastors, and thereby thousands of teenagers at 12Stone Church, was truly extraordinary.

For anyone who thinks leadership (influence) comes from a title or your spot on an org chart, Sandy taught us all differently. For those who are tempted to think that leadership from behind the scenes has less impact, Sandy’s life was a constant refresher about the power of servant leadership.

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Lessons from a leader behind the scenes:

1) Kindness always trumps authority.

My wife Patti recently said: “In all these years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sandy without a smile.” I agree. She was truly a kind person. But don’t mistake kindness for weakness in a leader. Sandy was a momma bear when it came to the spiritual welfare of the student pastors and teenagers! Kindness draws people to you, opens doors, and and allows you to find the path to the hearts of people. This is the entry to true leadership, and gains you the ear of many.

2) True power comes from intimacy with God.

Sandy was a devoted intercessor. Her prayer life was a model for all of us. Sandy’s walk with God developed an intimacy that translated to authentic connection with God’s power. That power delivered life-changing impact. If you lead from behind the scenes, never underestimate the power of God that is accessed through prayer. There is no position so modest or seemingly insignificant that God cannot use in powerful ways. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, your role matters!

3) Humility wins the hearts of many.

Philippians 2:3-4 makes it clear.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

This is what Jesus modeled and Sandy took after Jesus in remarkable ways. Humility wears well in any leader. When you are good at what you do, especially behind the scenes without much credit, an authentically humble heart keeps you going. A humble heart allows you to experience the joy of serving as you lead.

4) A sense of humor solves many problems.

Local church leadership can be serious and difficult, and a good sense of humor makes things go so much better. I don’t think you can serve well without a sense of humor, and I’m certain you can’t serve for 16 years in student ministry without the ability to laugh easily. Sandy had a quick wit and crazy good sense of humor! Humor diffuses difficult situations, helps us gain perspective and lowers our blood pressure on those difficult days! When you serve behind the scenes and deal with deadlines, personalities, and things that were forgotten, you become an extremely valuable player when you add lighthearted humor to your skill sets.

5) Loving people oils the machinery in any organization.

There isn’t any actual machinery in an organization. It’s all people. But you know what I mean; there are systems, policies, communication and all kinds of things that make what can seem like a machine. Love oils that machinery so that the relationships involved actually work. Sandy was a master at that. She had a way of living above petty things and kept our eyes on what really mattered. That engenders massive respect from everyone. Influence birthed from love knows no barriers.

6) Your job description doesn’t limit your passion.

Sandy’s job required her to organize, keep track of details, cover last minute changes, fix problems and dozens of other things. She helped organize everything from weekly services, to camps and mission trips. But her passion was clearly life change. That’s why she did it! She never got tired, nor did her passion wane for seeing one more teenager say yes to Jesus. If you lead from behind the scenes, keep your focus on the mission, that’s what really matters!


We on the 12Stone team and church family, are deeply grateful and will miss Sandy with all our hearts.

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