Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to host Surviving to Thriving, a small roundtable workshop at the annual meeting of the Association for Classical and Christian School (ACCS).
The goal of the workshop was to share stories of common interest with the leaders of small schools with enrollment of fewer than 100 students. We heard the testimonies of Jonathan Edwards Classical Academy (Nashville) and from Regents School of Charlottesville (VA). An energized time of questions and answers followed these interviews. We closed the evening by sharing the Critical Success Factors (future blog post) of Marketing, Board Governance, and Development.
There was so much interest from the attendees that we had eight more one-on-one meetings with the various schools to discuss their particular concerns and issues.
We met with these schools for a day and half and here is what we learned – some of this surprised us.
1. Small schools are not flat broke – True, they are not awash in cash, but that is not their greatest pain point. The schools we talked to do need help in getting out to the community and in telling their story, but there is an “angel” or two who is willing to invest seed capital for the right reason. The goal of the school leadership is to identify its unique selling proposition (USP) and to articulate it in a way that connects with people who want to change their community through vibrant Christian education.
2. A Strong School Board is Critical – Almost every school leader told us that they loved their board, but that it needed serious training in how non-profit Christian leadership works. They also need to see how to govern with a biblical approach – Christ is the head of each of our schools and we must govern in a way that honors Him. For small schools, the board plays the role of “all hands on deck” and they are very operational in their approach. Later, after the school is up and running, the board must transition to a more strategic role. This transition can be very difficult and it is doubly hard for the head of school to tell the board how to function best.
3. Community Outreach and Connections are Important for Longevity – We often hear “We’re the best-kept secret in the county”. This is probably true for larger schools as well, but the smaller schools can benefit so much more by broadening their “friendship footprint” when key people in the community become enthusiastic supporters. This enthusiasm gives rise to good public relations, connections to future families, and can even provide introductions to other support sources like companies and foundations.
All three of these findings can be addressed through strategic planning that mobilizes parents and others. When there is a plan we can find our place in it and we can begin to contribute to the big picture that the Lord has for us.
The wise leaders know what they do not know and they seek outside help to supplement and grow their understanding.
Christian schools with fewer than one hundred students will gather...
Wes Wilmer in his book God and Your Stuff: The...