By Jeff Keaton - Founder, CEO & President 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 Part Five, we learned 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. In this final part, we’ll see the need for vibrant Christian schools to have a plan for developing long-term donor relationships, follow God’s leadership no matter the cost, and believe their work is making a difference in this life and for eternity.
Vibrant Christian schools have a passion and plan for developing long-term donor relationships and possibilities.
Until a few years ago, I had little appreciation for the necessity of building long-term relationships with people whom God has enabled to advance His work with finances. As a pastor for almost 20 years, I was blessed to see our income rise every year, and I didn’t even know who gave until the very end of my pastoral ministry. Perhaps that is what God wanted from me in those years, but I had to change my thinking as the leader of a non-profit. With great coaching from godly men, I now understand that God has gifted certain people to give. These people are anxiously looking for opportunities to leave a legacy and make a great impact. When we share our ministry with them, God speaks to their hearts, and either leads them to support us or not support us.
If we are leading a legitimate, God-ordained ministry, He will provide the resources, but He asks us to share the story. Christian schools are filled with phenomenal stories. Every time a potential donor looks in the face of a child, they know their gift will make a great impact. If every Christian school leader reading this article would take donor development serious, you could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next five years. Too often, we think short-term. Short-term thinking will always keep us desperate. Long-term donor development will get us to a place where we have money to operate and money to expand.
If you’re wondering how serious your school is about donor development, look at your budget and priorities. Do you have a full-time donor development officer? Do you have a donor development strategy? Do you have someone reporting to and thanking your donors on a monthly basis? If your answer is no to one or more of these questions, then you do not fully see the value in donor development. There are funds in your community just waiting for the right cause. If you would like some direction on the steps to take first, please contact Ron Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be honored to point you in the right direction.
Vibrant Christian schools live by faith and are willing to follow God’s leadership no matter the cost.
Christian schools are blessed and ordained by God. He is pleased to see children being led into a loving relationship with Him and into the knowledge of who He is. God wants to bless and help our schools. He wants us to reach more and more children for him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” This is true in the Christian school. To build the school God wants us to build, we must know Him intimately so we can know what His plan is for our school. Once we know His plan, we must trust Him enough to follow His plan. Since God’s plan always involves us trusting Him for more than we can do on our own, it always involves stepping out on faith into the unknown.
A pastor once told me that in the seven years he pastored a church, he didn’t think they ever did anything that actually took God’s help. Let me ask you, when was the last time your school attempted something so big that if God didn’t show up, you were going to fail miserably? We were constantly stepping into the unknown when we built the school I helped start in Roanoke, VA. Here are three things I learned about living by faith as we built Parkway Christian Academy:
We had to be quick to see and seize opportunities. I’ll never forget the day a seasoned educator with two doctorates walked into my office and asked for a job. As I looked at her resume, I asked her if she was seeking to be the senior leader of our school. She said, “No, God just told me to come teach here.” I asked her if she knew what we paid and she said, “No, that doesn’t matter, the Lord told me to join your work.” After a little more research to make sure she was legitimate, we hired her. She taught for us for the next 8-9 years and was a phenomenal addition to our team. In many instances like that, I hired people even if I had to create a new position. We were quick to see opportunities and seize them by faith often not knowing if we would have the students to cover the additional cost to the budget.
We were willing to take risks when God spoke clearly. You cannot live by faith and not take risks. We cannot do God-sized work with man-sized vision and faith. When God speaks, move!
If you’re going to stay in step with God, you must live as a team on your knees. Ask, seek, and knock, and the door will be opened (Matt 7:7). No organization will live by faith and experience the thrilling work of God without praying leaders.
People can build strong organizations without faith and the help of the Holy Spirit, but only men and women who fully know and trust God can build schools that have the wind of the Holy Spirit at their back. If you want to take a breathtaking ride and see supernatural work accomplished, commit yourself and your school to fully following the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Vibrant Christian schools have employees who believe the work they are doing is making a huge difference in this life and for eternity.
When we, through Christian education, pass on our Christian heritage to the next generation, we are changing the course of history and eternity. In Western Europe, the average adult has almost no serious understanding of the Judeo-Christian worldview. I remember sitting next to a man and woman from London on a plane ride. I felt led toward the end of the flight to offer him my Bible. Even though he eventually accepted my gift, he assured me he did not have a Bible, and he would most likely never read a Bible.
Christian educators, and in particular Christian schools and homeschools, have passed down the Judeo-Christian heritage to millions of students over the last 40 years. Just think of how much worse America would be today if it weren’t for all the Christian educators who have sacrificed so much over the last four decades.
If God has called you to lead or work in a Christian school or homeschool, you are making an impact that will go way beyond your lifetime. I can’t possibly overstate your impact. Only in eternity will you be able to fully grasp how much your work changed the course of history.
I know that not every day in the Christian school or homeschool classroom is filled with excitement. There are far more mundane moments than there are exhilarating ones. However, it is the continuous, methodical daily impartation of a biblical worldview that develops students into lifelong biblical thinkers.
All administrators and teachers matter! Some of the teachers who left the greatest impact on me were teachers I didn’t particularly care for. Others weren’t the greatest teachers, but their love for me left a huge impression. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am the Christian man and leader I am today in large part because of the teachers and administrators who led me as a student. The next time you walk into your classroom or your office or your children’s learning room at home, just remember that you are making a huge and eternal difference.
Volume 9 Issue 1 - The Renewanation Review