PODCAST | How To Cast Vision and Direction On Your Team (feat. Kevin East)

Kevin East Podcast (2)

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In today’s podcast, Carey Sumner talks with Kevin East. Kevin is the founder and leader of Mentoring Alliance, a Christ-centered mentoring program designed to help kids thrive.

In this episode, Kevin highlights the importance of leaders providing a clear vision for their team. He offers insights into how effective leaders communicate the "why" of their organization and how he implements this in his daily work. Kevin emphasizes the significance of having a well-defined vision for an organization, as without it, the organization may struggle to succeed and lose its direction.
We hope you enjoy this conversation!

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For more information on Mentoring Alliance: https://thementoringalliance.com/

Kevin’s Podcast Following To Lead: https://followingtolead.com/ 

Follow Kevin on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kevinteast/


Carey Sumner: All right, everyone. Welcome to this episode of the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast. I'm Carey. I'm part of the client relations team here at Vanderbloemen and we are excited to have Kevin East joining us today. Kevin is the president and CEO of the Mentoring Alliance. He also has a podcast called Following to Lead.

 At the mentoring alliance, they exist to mobilize godly people into the lives of kids and families and to provide tangible help and eternal hope. And so we're excited to welcome Kevin here. He loves working a chainsaw, so I don't know if we'll get into that. Today, but Kevin, welcome to the leadership podcast.

Kevin East: Thank you, Carey. Glad to be with you. And yes, I do love my chainsaw. Would love to talk about that, but that's probably another podcast for 

Carey Sumner: another day. That may be, that may be. Well, Kevin, first give us just a quick overview of maybe a little of your ministry journey the Mentoring Alliance, who you guys are, what you do.

Kevin East: Yeah, so, you know, I've been involved in, in Christ Center ministry for 30 years at a church level, at a large nonprofit level, summer camps. And then now I've been leading this ministry for the last 10 years called Mentoring Alliance. And basically what we do is our website says we mentor kids.

It's what we do. I consider it to be discipleship, right? We mentor kids through after school programs, summer camps and one on one volunteer relationships with at risk kids and communities. And so I came on about 10 years ago. Like I said, just celebrate 10 years and we've come a long way with it. But we've been getting hopefully better and better what we're doing.

So we can begin to continue to expand into other regions and continue to impact those kids and families there as 

Carey Sumner: well. Yeah, and so currently you guys are in Texas, correct? 

Kevin East: We serve East Texas and what we call Greater Tyler. We serve Central Texas and the Greater Waco area, and we're expanding to Abilene to serve the Greater Abilene area this next summer.

So it's an exciting time of growth for us, for sure.

Carey Sumner:  Yeah, that's great. That's great. Especially coming out of COVID and everything with that. I'm, I'm sure the challenges of trying to mentor kids during COVID, all of that were great. But what kind of kingdom impact are you guys? seeing right now as you kind of engage adults in local communities to actually be mentoring young people.

 What do you guys see in the Lord do and breathe on?

Kevin East: Yeah. So, so honestly, Carrie, my story goes back. You know, we've been foster parents for almost 15 years now, and in the foster system, we ended up adopting two kids out of the foster system. We still foster to this day, we have an eight year old little girl with us right now with our family.

And I just, you know, the burden that God put on my heart, I started recognizing that I had this, I would get angry at movies where I saw a fatherless child in the movie. And I was like, man, I, you know, I went and one time sat on the front porch in a rocking chair. I walked out of a movie that we were watching in our den and I sat in the front porch in a rocking chair.

My wife came out there. She's like, what's wrong? I was like, that is not entertainment. Like I don't enjoy that at all. And I started seeing this burden that God was really kind of growing in me about what can we do about kids and families and communities that are growing up. I think the key, the catchphrase these days is under resourced.

But with all sorts of challenges how can we get God's people involved in that? And God's people are already involved in so many ways, but how can we get God's people involved in it in a different way? And so we started asking ourselves, what would it look like to  provide, and the words we ended up putting to it were, we want to provide tangible help and eternal hope.

Both how can we do that in communities and over a period of time we came up with was after school is an important time of the day that a lot of families may be like yours or mine Carey, kids are used to coming home and there's cheese. It's waiting for them. And there's, you know, whether it be a fun TV show to watch or a bike to ride or.

Parental supervision, things that we just kind of take for granted in a lot of communities, that's not possible when you have a single mom working or you have a guardian watching multiple families, kids or things like that. And so we started providing, we started mobilizing, as we say, godly people into that environment, into the afterschool environment in the form of part time staff to really mentor kids and afterschool programs.

We do Bible studies. In public schools and the afterschool because public schools can be used for religious purposes after hours. And so we serve five or six different school districts now in that environment. And then when you start looking at like our one on one volunteer mentoring, the whole goal is to mobilize the church.

You know, it's, it's the role of the pastor to prepare God's people for works of service in the church setting. And we go, man, that's awesome. There are so many people that want to impact. Kids, especially they come from tough backgrounds and they go, I don't know what to do. Maybe I could buy a turkey at Thanksgiving for maybe I could do angel tree kids at Christmas time.

What can I do in the communities we serve? We say, you know what? You could mentor a child. You can walk life with their family. We caught share life. with every child we serve, capital L I life. You're not their savior. We're there to share Jesus and walk life with them. That's great. And so that's the cool things we're seeing is God's people really stepping up and stepping into that environment, which we really love seeing.

Carey Sumner: Yeah. I love that you give people the opportunity. I love as you were just talking about it. So, so many of our listeners are familiar with church planting and You know, renting out a school for Sunday services, all of that. But you're absolutely right that after hours during the week just as important for those kids and to have that place to be able to go to, to have those people who will be investing Christ and what does it mean to walk in, in life with Christ?

I love that. Absolutely. You've been with the Mentoring Alliance since 2013. How, in that time frame, we had COVID, so you've seen a few different things happen. How have you seen what you guys do change? How have you seen even some of culture and some of that family structure and dynamics shift and change in those 10 years?

Kevin East: Yeah, so, you know, as an organization, we've come a long way in 10 years. But maybe at a greater level, what I've seen, what everybody else has seen, the sense of a global pandemic coming through and just upending everything that you do. For us, it's impacted us most because we hire hundreds of part time and summer staff, godly people.

And all of a sudden it's like. To hire people is become much more difficult to find the right people to hire them, train them well, mobilize them. It's become much more difficult. So, in the pandemic season, you know, we're serving school district schools are shutting down. We're having to adapt what we do to go.

How can we best come alongside school districts? To mentor kids in this space and time right now, and we partner with school districts. We were delivering homework and some school districts because they recognize these kids were what they call school dependent learners. And so when they're at home, they weren't learning.

Right? So we're delivering food to homes. We're delivering. Homework to homes. We had mentors, volunteer mentors, stay engaged and things like that. But over these 10 years as an organization, we've become much more clear about who we are as a ministry that, you know, in some organizations as many that I talked to, they were like, yeah, we're a ministry.

And what they mean by it is we pray and say the pledge of allegiance before board meetings, but being a ministry didn't go much further than that. And that we were one of those organizations. That we said, okay, what does it really mean in seminary? There's a phrase they would teach. They taught me and taught people, you know, you need to come to terms with authors.

What do they say when they, when they say this in a book, what do they really mean by that term? You need to come to terms with them. Why did it come to terms with my board? When we talk about being a ministry, let's talk about what we mean. Like, What I say ministry, what I really mean is we're hiring godly people who the gospels transform their hearts They are now ambassadors of reconciliation according to second corinthians five like And they're living and serving living out the kingdom in the communities that we serve like that's what I mean by ministry What do y'all mean my ministry?

Yeah, they're like We want that. That's what we want. So we changed everything to become a ministry in that sense of the word over these 10 years. And then now, as we go to other districts, we talked to superintendents. school leaders, school boards, and surprisingly we're able to work with public schools where they say, we love what y'all do.

You're meeting a huge need, which we call providing tangible help. Doctor school programs, summer camps, partner with school districts where they're teaching one hour of math and one hour of reading right in the middle of our summer camps that are happening in schools. Again, how, because public schools can be used for religious purposes after hours, that's already been decided by the national Supreme court.

in the early 2000s. So that's a neat thing for us to see, like, wow, Lord, look at what you've opened up. Look at the opportunity you've opened up for us to do. And we're going to shoot that gap. We're going to run into it and pray, Lord, you would use us in a powerful way as we do. 

 Carey Sumner: Well, and how amazing you're using the ability to meet a tangible need to make a pathway for the gospel.

And as we look at the book of Acts, that's exactly what the early church does the Paul journeys into a town and miracles and healings and all of this happen. And suddenly everyone's very attentive at that point to the gospel, but you go in and you just start preaching in it and there's a stoning that's going to happen.

Right. So I love, I love how you guys have taken that very practical approach of. How do we be helpful, right? How do we not be a burden to the school system? But how do we actually help meet a need that they have that helps what they're doing be better? Even if they're not explicitly Christian they can see the impacts that the gospel has before having to actually even give themselves over to the gospel.

That's great. That's great. 

Kevin East: It's a neat partnership. It's, it's something that we're, as we tell them, we want to provide tangible help and eternal hope. Both people in this day and age, as you can imagine, they get, get scared off by, well, you're going to talk about Jesus. And it's like, well, our Bible studies are optional for families.

They have to opt their kids into them. But of the five or six different school districts where we serve right now, about 98% of the families opt their kids into our Bible studies. They're like, I'd love for my child to learn about God. Sure. And then you hear all sorts of families going, you know, we've, we've, we've told stories of kids coming to Christ and afterschool programs, going home and sharing Christ, their parents, their parents getting saved, going to church and them all getting baptized.

It's really an amazing opportunity. Yeah, but it's the same thing. There are great people listening that lead all sorts of neat ministries and nonprofits. They're pastoring churches. And it's that same question. We ought to be asking like, Lord, how do you want to use us? Like, how can we be a part of bringing your kingdom here to earth right now?

And for us, this is how it's played out, you know, mentoring kids, walking life with their families through these three different programs that we do. 

Carey Sumner: That's great. That's great. So part of that journey. It has to begin with vision and I know that's a big passion of yours. And so you have a platform here to speak to other CEOs other pastors who have that same ministry drive.

They feel that passion. I was talking to someone just yesterday. And he's going and meeting with his board and trying to get some progress on some things. Maybe let's spend a couple of minutes and if you wouldn't mind sharing just a little bit about vision and some things that you've learned about vision through the years and just share it with us so that we can be learning and growing and really hearing, Hey, how do we make this applicable?

I run into people all the time who will say, I don't know what to do with vision and. We got a statement, but I don't know what to do with it. So any, any wisdom you would give us from your. 

Kevin East: Yeah. So like, look, people listening there, I'm sure executive pastors or senior pastors, there's executive directors of nonprofits, there's department leaders, there's people who aspire to lead.

There's all different types of people listening. Right. And what we know is the why behind this is that Proverbs 29 tells us where there is no vision that people perish or the people running around wildly. We know that the Bible says that. And then we get in these roles of leadership and it's like, okay, maybe somebody else will provide it.

I was sitting one time with a business owner, sharp, sharp guy owns an oil company. And he said, you know, Kevin, I'm just not like you. He said, I don't speak like you from stage. I just, I feel so ill equipped to be. Basically, the leader of this company, and we had a really sweet conversation about what it means to be a leader of that company or to be the leader of this ministry like I am, and I just started thinking, you know what?

I want to bring vision and what it is down to a lower shelf for him in the sense of don't be intimidated by this. So, in other words, I started writing down notes over the years, trying to make it catchy to go. How can I get people to remember this? But in 1 sense, I was, I was telling him that day when we think of vision, most people picture.

What casting vision is is motivating people to movement. Okay. Simple phrase, a leader. When you cast vision, when you motivate people to movement, I immediately think JFK, I've got a dream speech, right? We all know about it. You see the pictures of these thousands and thousands of people on the lawn. They're in D.

And he's casting this vision. I have a dream, right? A leader motivates people to movement when they cast vision. But my point to this, this friend of mine that day and my point since, and I try to apply it to what I do, there are so many other ways that leaders provide vision. Here's an example. I say another way the leader provides vision is providing clarity during confusion.


That you're like, okay, what does it look like that, okay, I'm not the leader who speaks from stage and motivates people to movement. Okay. But, you know, at times, and Patrick Lencioni writes about this even in his book, The Motive, the importance of increasing clarity, decreasing confusion. It's one of the top three things he talks about that a leader should do in an organization.

So it's like, okay, a leader casts vision. Maybe sometimes you go before your staff or your department and all you're doing is providing clarity during confusion. Like, okay, Hey, look, you know what? I know we have some confusion about who reports to who, or especially dotted lines when you have a.

Geofunctional matrix where you have this person is a straight line, direct report. This person's dotted line. And how does this work? Sometimes leaders need a step and you cast vision by going, let me, bring some clarity to this confusion. That's casting vision. People can see more clearly when there's clarity than when there's confusion.

Does that make sense? That it's not just motivating people to movement. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Another one. I, another one I talk about, I love this one. A leader casts vision when they inspire hope when it's hard, you know, Winston Churchill's 1941. He's kind of known for this victory picture. He took among many things, but he, he did this thing with his fingers, right?

He's casting a V for victory, but he does it backwards starting in 1941 and he's pictures that he became very famous for. He's, he's, he's doing it backwards. Now. Yeah. He was actually doing it as a double meaning. In one sense, he's saying victory. In another sense, he's saying like, Hey, it was in a sense, kind of like flipping the bird, the enemies in a sense.

And for the people there around him, it was like, he was inspiring hope. And he recognized it's hard. He's inspiring hope. And it's hard sometimes as leaders, we just have to recognize with our teams. Look, I'm disappointed too. And I'm sorry. Where are we going now? Like we just lost this big agreement of this big contract, let's say, but we're gonna be okay.

That's a leader casting vision. So maybe you're a leader listening and you got a big heart and you care about people. Well, you know what? Sometimes what you need to do. It's just an inspire hope when it's hard. You don't feel like you need to be JFK and motivate people to movement. You might not even need to provide clarity to confusion.

Maybe in that moment, you just need to provide hope when it's hard. A couple of quick other things and I'll quit talking about it. But I love this one that a leader cast vision when they communicate a conviction about what needs to change. You know, being a foster parent, I just saw, you know, what if we got more godly people involved in this?

And that's the only question I asked for the first couple of years I was here. Like I would tell people, tell me why you're leading this organization, Kevin. Well, I'll tell you what, I'm a foster parent. Let me tell you what I learned at the beginning, and I'm just communicating a conviction about something that needs to change.

I think about Rosa Parks, you know, she recognized something she needed to change. She didn't stand up on stage and give a big speech, didn't rile people up. She sat on a bus in the quote unquote wrong place. And it was her way of saying, this needs to change. She communicated a conviction about what needs to change.

As leaders, sometimes we just need to share the burden that's on our heart. 

Carey Sumner: And that's casting vision. And sometimes even with that, there are those seasons where as a leader, you've lost that conviction. Where for you, that's even dwindling. And I think to the gospel is where we see Jesus kind of getting off by himself.

I think sometimes that that's that conviction welling back up, right. Where we've got to have that time. One of the things that noticed on, on y'all's website is after working with you guys for so many years, you give people 30 days to kind of go have a sabbatical, right. And that's an important. Part of that rhythm of resetting with the Lord and getting that conviction back.

So, yeah, 

Kevin East: I love that's exactly why we do it, you know, for us, it's, if you've been on staff here for five years, I'm not just talking to just pastors, just the lead, but just the leader of me. You know, if you're in full time staff here for five years, it's a five year point. You get 30 days off and we, you know, we have a guy right now, what we call our extended time off policy.

And it's like, now, how's he resting? Sky loves Disney World. He wants to bring his family to Disney World. It's like, that's awesome. Go have fun with that and let your, let your spirit breathe and just relax. Yeah. Don't think about us. 

Carey Sumner: And in some senses in leadership, you, you can be beat up that, that happens so often.

And if you're just staying in the grind the whole time and you don't have a place to have that reset for conviction, that's where I've seen in leaders, the conviction really drained down. It is not having that reset, not having that solid relationship with the Lord. That's 

Kevin East: great. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. Well, I, I say it a few other ways when it comes to you know casting vision.

I talk about you cast vision when you establish direction for the drifting. I think JFK did that well in his moonshot speech from Rice University in 1963 saying, you know, we're going to send somebody the moon and bring them back safely in the next 10 years. He's like our NASA program. It's drifting right now.

And so guess what? I'm going to set some direction here. Now, look, we know it in a fiery speech as well. That was kind of fun to watch. And I think that's an important part of casting vision. And lastly, I'll say it's about vision because I love it. That's my, my, probably my favorite point about casting vision is a friend of mine's an operator of Chick fil A location.

And I'm like, okay, look, I, I'm like your biggest fan. Tell me how y'all train your staff all that stuff. And I was surprised at least from this one operators that vantage point, like, yeah, not a lot comes from kind of corporate on that. Like, the operators kind of do their own way. So he talked about for me, I have 6 different interviews with anybody wanting to work here part time because I want to see, do they get to the interview on time?

And they dressed appropriately all the different things. And then he laughed and he said, Yeah. Cause what we do is we serve chicken, right? I mean, how hard can it be? And I kind of laughed and he said this in front of our staff and he said, but that's not all that we do. And I said, what do you mean? And they talked about, there's these YouTube videos you can watch there.

It's called like every life has a story, I think is the name of them. And it just these these little bubble things that pop above their head of what they're thinking. And so these people walk into this video in this Chick fil A video, and they're, you know, a bubble, a bubble above their head said, I immigrated to America when I was 12.

You know, I just received my citizenship recently, or another bubble above their head might say, my mom died during childbirth, and my dad blames her for me, blames me for this, or these serious things. And his point was, Which I go, a leader casts vision when you give meaning to the mundane. And his point was, we give meaning to the mundane.

We don't just serve chicken. That's not what we do. And in these, every life has a story videos you can find on YouTube from Chick fil A. They're kind of bringing this meaning to what they do that. I mean, they serve chicken. I mean, let's be real, right? But 

Carey Sumner: it is good chicken. It is good 

Kevin East: chicken. And then, you know, and they give meaning to the mundane.

Here at Chick fil A, we serve people. And those people have a story. And they share those stories in commercials we all love about this. Great employee. Look at what they did. I went above and beyond, but they bring meaning to the mundane. That's what leaders do also and how we cast vision. Sometimes we need to remind our teams by bringing meaning to the mundane, the everyday stuff of why it's valuable, why it's important and the impact it can have.

Carey Sumner: Man. That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, Kevin, you have been a delight to have on and share some vision. And I've just from afar love getting to know a little bit more about the Mentoring Alliance and what you guys do and the impact you're having. And part of my background, being a former kids and student pastor and executive pastor love that you guys are finding ways to activate people in the giftings that they have.

in their local communities that they're at. And it's just such a blessing to those communities. And as you guys are moving into a new community coming up here in the next year we are certainly going to be praying for you, but would love to connect people more with you guys and who you are, where you are.

So if you wouldn't mind just sharing with our listeners, how They can find you, how they can find the Mentoring Alliance best ways to find you, follow you and support you guys. 

Kevin East: Yeah. Mentoring Alliance. You can find us at, you know, thementoringalliance. com, all three words you'll find us there. You know, you'll find my podcast called following to lead out there somewhere, you know, wherever podcasts are listened to and you can find me out there just by Googling my name, you'll see it as well, but we'd love to connect with people and and hear more about how God's using you right there where you are as well.

Carey Sumner: That's awesome. Well, that's all the time we have for today. Kevin, thank you for being here. For all of our listeners, you can find show notes. You can go and like the podcast, follow it, share it with some friends. And we will see you back here next time on the podcast. Thanks everyone.