On Friday of session 4 this summer, we were blessed as Tapawingo staff to hear from Dr. Paige Cunningham, president of Taylor University. During her stay at CAMP-of-the-WOODS, she and members of her family came to the island of Tapawingo to tour the island and speak with the counseling and administrative staff.
As a godly woman who has served in various leadership capacities throughout her life and career, Dr. Cunningham was able to speak to our staff in a profound way. At Tapawingo, we strive to love the Lord first and foremost. We seek to humbly serve and to lead with excellence and self-sacrificial hearts, as Christ exemplified for us. Dr. Cunningham spoke from personal experience how, in submitting our lives to God, He may call us into positional leadership - whether we feel particularly equipped or not. However, she also made a distinction between general leadership and positional leadership. “Everybody leads,” she shared, “because everybody sets an example and impacts others.” We may not always be in positions of authority or formal leadership, but we should recognize that others look up to us, and our actions either point toward or away from Christ.
Dr. Cunningham emphasized that self-sacrificial service is an essential part of leading others and should be inherently understood when talking about leadership. This is the biblical definition of leadership, as Jesus demonstrated to us and even taught to His disciples. With moving emotion, she described how moments of service and sacrifice from her own experiences shaped her and her family.
Questions were raised by Tapawingo staff regarding the particular challenges of being a woman in leadership and, if she had experienced such challenges, how Dr. Cunningham has responded to them. Dr. Cunningham shared that the biggest challenge has been working harder to gain credibility in various leadership roles she has held. While this has not been a constant challenge for her, she acknowledged its presence within our culture at large and even within Christian ministries and organizations. The Lord gives us strength to face whatever challenges arise as we faithfully follow Him into contexts of servant leadership.
In her closing thoughts, Dr. Cunningham exhorted us as young female leaders to prioritize our walk with the Lord, to be who God has created us to be, and allow Him to work through us to impact others - whether we are in formal positions of leadership or not. We pray that these things are true for us this summer as we continue serving our campers and being a part of God’s work in young girls’ hearts on the island of Tapawingo.