Cultivating a Thriving Christian School Series:
Addressing major components for institutional health in Christian schools
Dr. S. L. Sherrill
Someone has said, “We write a story every day by the words that we say and by the things that we do.” As believers, we have the most incredible story ever told. As educators, we tell that story through Kingdom education. The question to be answered is, “What story will our school families and community hear?” Kingdom Marketing leads others to take faithful action in building God’s Kingdom one day at a time with one voice, your vision, and one purpose, your mission. The leadership and staff must mobilize and engage all stakeholders (parents, students, alumni, grandparents, community, etc.) in the Kingdom Marketing of the school by giving, volunteering, sharing, doing, seeing, reading, and experiencing Kingdom education. Therefore, my purpose is to share Kingdom Marketing principles that reveal how telling the story well leads to a successful ministry.
First, Kingdom Marketing requires that we drive word of mouth through:
Experiences: People share experiences with others, a good word for a good experience and a bad word for a bad experience. You can be sure that prospective parents will ask current parents about their experiences.
Quality: Repeated success, producing graduates that excel in college and life, will tell your story.
Satisfaction: A satisfied parent is a positive parent. You should measure stakeholder satisfaction on an annual basis.
Trust: Parents trust their friends; so, if current parents trust the school, that will drive word of mouth with their friends.
Service: How you treat parents is critical to driving word of mouth. Solomon spoke of “the little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Sol. 2:15). How we return phone calls, answer emails, conduct personal meetings, and greet in the carline tells the story and drives word of mouth.
Loyalty: Parent loyalty equals brand loyalty, which is built upon experiences, quality, satisfaction, trust, and service that will grow over time.
Stories: The stories you tell help drive word of mouth. Jerry Twombly said, “If you’re not putting out stories, you basically don’t exist.” Most schools are not putting out their stories. “Telling the story” is strategic.
Second, this question must be answered: “Are you providing a good service at a good value?” Kingdom Marketing involves critical customer service principles such as:
Elevator Speech: Every Kingdom educator must develop an elevator speech that affirms and explains the who, what, and why of a school’s vision, mission, core values, and expected student outcomes.
The Gold: Remember that parents have the gold. The customer is not always right, but they are still the customer. You must know what your parents and students want and need. Listen to them. Thank them. Gratitude is memorable. Your goal is for every parent to walk away happy, satisfied, or heard.
Listen: Be a genuine listener. Listen to their words, tone, and body language. Do not make assumptions and do seek clarifications.
Needs: Identify and anticipate needs. Nothing impresses parents more than seeing someone go beyond the call of duty. If you meet their expectations, you have a customer for life.
Friendliness: Be friendly. It starts with a smile. Everyone loves to feel appreciated. A warm greeting is the first thing they should see or hear. Learn their names. Express an attitude of gratitude.
Expectations: Help parents understand your expectations. No surprises should be your goal. Define your expectations. It doesn’t matter if you have the best system known to man if they don’t understand it.
Apologize: Know how to apologize. Deal with problems immediately. Let them know what you have done. We should value complaints because it gives us an opportunity to improve. Be able to say, “I’m sorry.”
Feedback: Encourage and welcome suggestions for improvement. Provide ways to invite constructive criticism, comments, and suggestions. Be sure to act upon feedback.
Satisfactory: Van Eure, Angus Barn Restaurant owner, said, “An exceptional experience gets talked about by 7-10 people. An unhappy experience gets talked about by 17-20 people. A satisfactory experience gets talked about by no one. It’s just average.”
Communicate: Being able to articulate what you can do is essential. We must tell the story well and often. Concerns must be addressed.
Temperance: You must always control the situation, even negative ones. As leaders, we must be a calming presence.
Positivity: Focus on what you can do to help others by being proactive and optimistic.
Empathetic: Seek to understand and share the feelings of others. Ask yourself, “How would I feel in their position? How would I like to be treated?”
Perception: See every opportunity as a chance to change perception.
Humor: Develop a sense of humor. It makes a potentially stressful interaction more enjoyable.
Third, Kingdom Marketing will be successful if we practice these sound leadership principles:
Time: We must covet our time. Time is precious, so we must pray, plan, prioritize, and play. Cultivate an accountability group that will be honest with you. Create a bullet-proof devotional routine. Know how to say no. Read often and wide. Work on your marriage, and work to be healthy.
Prioritize: Spend five minutes a day prioritizing. Assess and choose priorities for the next day so you begin with clarity. Don’t waste your energy on unimportant issues.
Follow-up: Be a follow-up specialist. Pay attention to details and follow through.
Recognition: Bless others by recognition. Encourage others on their journey.
Objectives: Set reasonable objectives, and you will get better buy in.
Leadership: Be a servant leader. Leaders inspire others to greatness. We must help everyone connect.
Thank You: Take a daily “thank you walk” and share a word of encouragement daily with at least five people.
No Energy Vampires: Spend time with people who give you energy and charge your battery.
Purpose: Adrian Rogers said, “We don’t get burned out because of what we do; we get burned out because we forget why we do it.”
Team: Be a team player. When you help your team improve, you improve. There is no “I” in team.
Service: You don’t have to be great to serve, but you have to serve to be great. Adrian Rogers also said, “You will never be over until you learn to be under.”
No Complaining: There is no complaining in Kingdom education. If you are complaining, you are not leading.
Get To: Focus on “get to” versus “have to.” Focus on what you get to do, not what you have to do. Life is a gift, not an obligation.
Failure: Failure is refinement. The next time you fail, remember that it’s not meant to define you. It’s meant to refine you.
May these principles that drive word of mouth, encourage excellent customer service, and develop effective leadership assist you in “telling the story” to engage all stakeholders in Kingdom Marketing and lead them to take faithful action in building God’s Kingdom.
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Dr. S. L. Sherrill is the Founder and Superintendent Emeritus of North Raleigh Christian Academy. During his 23 years there, God used Doc to establish NRCA as an ACSI flagship school of 1,450 students. He brings 48 years of service to the position of Senior Executive Consultant for Renewanation. Doc has served as a Head of School, Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Senior Pastor. Currently, he is the ACSI NC Field Director overseeing over 100 schools. Doc is an annual speaker at the Kingdom School Institute and does professional development, policy governance, and strategic planning for Christian schools and boards across the country. Through Christian School 101, a program he developed, Doc has helped establish over 40 Christian schools across the southeast. He is President of the Board for SBACS and Joshua Expeditions. Doc holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Tennessee Temple University, Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology Degrees from Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, and Master of Christian Education and Doctor of Christian Education Degrees from Faith Seminary.