By Jeff Keaton - Founder & CEO of Renewanation
Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of being around and benefiting from many Christian schools. As a child going into the third grade, I attended my first Christian school in New Albany, Indiana. My father started Clearfork Christian Academy as a response to his conviction that his nine children should receive a Christian worldview education. I am deeply grateful for my father’s insight at a time when very few children were receiving weekday Christian education. I went on to attend several other Christian schools as my dad moved from one ministry assignment to another. In 2002, I was privileged to lead the charge to start Parkway Christian Academy in Roanoke, Virginia. Watching PCA grow to nearly 400 students in seven years was both exhilarating and exhausting as we tried to meet the ever increasing demands of a growing student body. In 2007, God gave me the vision of Renewanation. Over the last few years, I have become much better acquainted with the Christian school movement in the United States. I have met with numbers of school boards and administrative teams and have spoken to many groups of parents.
As I have traveled the country connecting with schools, I’ve formed some opinions concerning what a healthy or vibrant Christian school looks like. All of the schools I have visited are passionate about giving children a Christian worldview and have great people sacrificing immensely in order to accomplish their noble mission. However, from my perspective, the Christian school movement is facing serious challenges in part because there are not enough vibrant Christian schools. Too many Christian schools are just barely existing, and too many are closing their doors every year.
At Renewanation, we believe God has called us to be a part of creating a new Christian education movement. This movement includes Christian schools, homeschools, and ministries reaching students in non-Christian schools. We plan to help start many new schools as well as see many existing schools revitalized.
In Part One of Characteristics of a Vibrant Christian School, I detailed four characteristics. Vibrant Christian schools: know why they exist, have strong leadership, are serious about biblical integration, and have a passion for evangelism and discipleship. In Part Two, I talked about the importance of high spiritual morale in Christian schools. In Part Three, we discussed looking at parents and students from a customer perspective, being student-centered, and inspiring our students to be great. In Part Four, we talked about addressing problem areas and the importance of having a clear and correct vision of whom students should be when they graduate. In this part, we’ll learn the most effective way to recruit new students, the value of having a vision for the future, and the need for a strategic plan to make that vision a reality.
Vibrant Christian Schools receive most of their students by word of mouth recommendations.
Paid advertising is often a necessary part of marketing a school to the community. However, when a school is vibrant and alive, parents are the number one agents for recruiting new students. The best radio, internet or TV ad can’t come close to the power of one parent sharing their passion about your school with other parents. I would go so far as to say that one of the greatest indicators of vibrancy in a school is the level of parental excitement and energy for the school.
If your parents are going to share the same passion for your Christian school that you have, three things must happen. First, their child must have a very positive experience. This does not mean their child never struggles or even faces discipline. It means that everything is put into a perspective of the constructive development of the child. If a parent truly believes you are a member of their team, helping their child reach their fullest potential, they will be grateful and supportive. If they ever begin to believe you think their child is a lost cause, they will work against you and spread negativity about their experience.
The second thing that must happen is you must be very intentional about selling your parents on Christian education. Every school should have a goal that their parents are as passionate about the importance of giving their child a biblical worldview education as the school leaders are. This happens as you provide quality speakers, books, magazines, videos, etc., to enhance your parents understanding of the worldview battle that is raging in education. Once my dad understood the worldview battle that was raging in education, he pulled all of his children out of public school and sacrificed deeply till all nine of us kids completed our Christian education. In order for parents to be passionate about their Christian school, they must believe in the cause with all their heart.
Third, if parents are going to be passionate about your school, they must be personally involved and invested in the school. The more parents have a vested interest in the success of the school, the more they will work to bring more students, donors, and energy.
Vibrant Christian Schools have a vision for the future and a strategic plan to make that vision a reality.
Great people and great money follow great vision! If all your school ever sells is, “we need more money to cover payroll,” you will never attract significant people or resources. However, when God births His vision in your heart for your school to become a center of eternal transformation, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the people and resources that will come to your work.
God called me to start the work of Renewanation at the height of the greatest recession since the great depression. Numerous people asked me why I started this new ministry in such a difficult time. I gave them three reasons. One, God told me to. Two, God is never in a recession. And three, there has never been a greater need for Christian education than there is today. In the midst of that recession, we were blessed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, and over the last few years, great men and women have provided several million dollars to advance our work.
This is what people are consistently telling me: “Jeff, I want to do something significant and lasting with the wealth God has given me.” Today, even though I am privileged to spend a lot of time sharing the vision of Renewanation with people who have the capacity to give in significant ways, I do not see myself as “asking people for money.” I am simply inviting people to join a cause that is literally transforming children and our culture. As God expands your vision in the local Christian school, and as you develop a plan to accomplish the vision God has given you, great people and great money will follow.
God loves your school, and He wants you to thrive. I encourage you to take whatever steps necessary to see your school become a center of vibrancy and transformation.
At Renewanation, we have developed a phenomenal new program to revitalize Christian schools. This program is built around three phases. First, we complete a thorough assessment of the status of a school. Second, we build out a new strategic plan to address weaknesses and increase strengths. Third, we provide the necessary coaching to implement the strategic plan consistently into the future. If you have an interest in revitalizing your Christian school, please contact us today at 1-855-TO-RENEW or email Ron Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 8 Issue 2 - The Renewanation Review