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A Unified Vision: Why Your Church Should Consider Starting a School

A Unified Vision: Why Your Church Should Consider Starting a School

Just as churches are impactful cornerstones in our communities, so are schools. As church leaders, we have an opportunity to build a vital structure needed in our world to raise up the next generation of Christian leaders. Christian education is not a retreating from culture or the world, but a way to effectively influence a necessary institution in our communities in a very specific and meaningful way.

Many churches already have the means to provide an academy or school but are missing out on education as a ministry opportunity. As a church leader, you have an incredible opportunity to impact the culture at large for Christ by offering Christian education that aligns with the mission and values of your church. Through a school, you can reach and connect with families you may not ever have the chance to interact with through your church, expanding your ministry impact. We can’t afford to miss out on this opportunity!

Of course, starting a school comes with its challenges. But, with a unified vision aligned with your church, you can succeed and influence the next generation in impactful ways.

Have you considered starting a school? Here are a few things to keep in mind…

Consider your school as an extension of your church

Perhaps the most important cultural impact of a school is its impact on the church and surrounding community. For this reason, it's crucial to have cultural alignment from the very beginning. When you begin to view the school as a ministry of your church, rather than an addition to your church, you'll start to see unity across the board - from families to students, to staff, to churchgoers without children, to parents who don't attend your church. It may be tempting to keep the two institutions separate, but cultural buy-in across the board will set you up for success down the road in case of any culture drift.

Both members of the church and the school community must share a unified vision for the success of the school, and vice versa. This can manifest itself in two ways: shared cultural values and doctrinal alignment.

  1. Shared cultural values

When you view your school as an extension of your church ministry, the same cultural values will apply to both the church and the school. This is not only convenient, as you likely already have cultural values established for your church, but is also meaningful. When cultural values are the same for everyone - pastoral staff, teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, executive assistants, and even volunteers - the lead pastor can invite church staff and school staff together for unified meetings about culture. When the same standards apply to everyone, you can reduce any kind of “us vs them” mentalities. This helps communicate that we’re all on the same team working together to accomplish the same goals.

  1. Doctrinal alignment

In a similar sense, doctrinal alignment between the church and school is also essential to help create a unified vision. For example, it’s important that your Statement of Faith and other “what we believe” language are clearly communicated to your congregation and your school community. In order to avoid any misalignment, it should be very clear from an outside perspective that the vision and mission of the church and school are the same. Similarly, it may be beneficial to have the same or a similar employee handbook for both church and school staff. This helps set a standard for conduct that is universal for everyone, and emphasizes how we handle things in the classroom is the same way we handle them in the church, and vice versa.

Choose a head of school with a heart for the church and its senior leaders

In addition to cultural alignment, hiring alignment is also especially important when considering a school. The head of the school/director needs to be in close ties with the pastor and that person needs to have a heart for the church first and its senior leaders. This is a difficult hire, but a worthwhile investment to find the right person. Remember, a unified vision comes from the top. The synergy between both the church and school will become very difficult if there is any disunity between the leaders of the church and the school.

A school serves as an avenue for evangelism, and so to a degree, your head of school serves in a pastoral role. In addition to promoting an effective Christian education and fostering the hearts and minds of young learners, their job is to help create a bridge between the school and the church, and institute creative strategies to help connect families with the church that aren’t necessarily Sunday morning related. Organizing community events like "Trunk or Treat" and Harvest Festivals, Summer Community BBQs, and more, provides accessible opportunities to engage school families who may not regularly experience the church's ministry.

In addition to community events, catering to parents is also a unique way to minister to families. If you have a preschool program, for example, you may consider inviting parents to a discipleship group that meets during preschool hours. Look for ways to invite families in where they already are and invite them in to be a part of the church and school community.

Something to keep in mind is that parents are the true educators of their children, and more times than not they will be more loyal to the director of the school than the pastor of the church. This is primarily because they have a relationship with the director, which is why it is even more important for there to be missional and leadership alignment. The goal is for families in your school to trust the church leadership and the school staff. When your director is a part of the senior leadership culture of the church, regularly interacting with church leaders and church families, this is a much more natural relationship to build.

Keep the mission in mind at all times

Culture drift occurs when there is a misalignment between what we hope will happen and what ultimately happens. We can lead by example from the top and set clear expectations, but the decisions we make are also just as important as our actions. Decisions regarding curriculum selection, hiring practices, student enrollment, and activity offerings all shape the overall culture of your school. You want these things to be in alignment with your overall ministry goals.

Let’s look at choosing a curriculum as an example. It’s important to think about your curriculum with a truly Christian worldview and through the lens of your mission. This means being intentional, not just choosing something designed for the secular school system and adding “Christian” elements like chapel and prayer. Instead, be mindful of the end goal - are you looking to simply prepare students for the public school system or prepare them to be Christian thinkers in the world? What character qualities do you want to install in learners? Your curriculum choice sets the foundation for all of this.

You already have a mission as a church; a school can become a natural extension when done in alignment. Missional alignment brings a mission to life and you can minimize culture drift when you are intentional and strategic about decision-making. If you’ve considered starting a school, I’d strongly encourage you to consider it further. We’d love to help support you as you make this important decision to invest in the next generation of Christian minds. Contact us to start a conversation today!


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