How I Increased Church School Enrollment

The children will want to be in what they consider "the pastor's school." They will be enthusiastic over that which enthuses the pastor.

John Loor is Min isterial Association secretary of the Michigan Conference.

YEARS ago the Duke of Wellington stated: "If you divorce religion from education, you will produce a race of clever devils." The tenor of our times is proving the veracity of this statement. It is the work of the gospel to restore in man the image of God. The work of Christian education is an absolute must in this context. The successful pastor will recognize the truth that "Our schools are the Lord's special instrumentality to fit the children and youth for missionary work." —Child Guidance, p. 311. Without Christian education we would not have much of a working force in this denomination.

Let us take a careful look at the pas tor's relationship to his church's educational program. There are at least nine aspects of this responsibility that we need to keep in mind.

1. Pastor's own psyche. He must be convinced of the necessity. Basically, we have no choice in this matter. "In planning for the education of their children outside the home, parents should realize that it is no longer safe to send them to the public school, and should endeavor to send them to schools where they will obtain an education based on a scriptural foundation." —Counsels to Teachers, p. 205.

2. Practice of pastoral family. The minister will be sure that his own children are enrolled in church school. He will also be careful that all of his school payments are kept up to date.

3. Church service communication. A yearly sermon is a must. Often this can be preached about a month before school opens. There are some who may want to do so in the late spring before school closes, so the members can look a little farther ahead in planning for the fall. Equally effective will be positive, encouraging references to the importance of "the Lord's instrumentality" in the pastor's sermons regularly. The human mind is prone to respond to what it hears most often, providing it is well done.

It is also a good idea periodically to feature personnel from the school in the worship service. Have the principal and teachers on the platform for prayer, announcements, and brief reports in the King's-business portion of the service. Let the whole church actually see these important people with frequency. Utilize school choirs and general student help.

4. Home visitation. Here is an item of critical importance. The ideal (and it is attainable) would be to have every home where school children reside visited a few weeks before school opens. The school principal and teachers should participate. Help of local elders can also be incorporated. Assuming the pastor has a good relationship with his people, it would usually be best for him to visit the families that are "shakiest" as far as church-school attendance is concerned.

5. Finances. In this key area are two vital statements from the testimony of Jesus that must always be kept in mind. Counsels to Teachers, page 44, states: "There should be a general education of all of its [the church's] members, and all our youth should be permitted to have the blessing and privileges of an education at our schools." Volume 6 of the Testimonies, pages 216, 217 adds this thought: "The same principles which, if followed, will bring success and blessing to our training schools and colleges, should govern our plans and work for the church schools. Let all share the expense. Let the church see that those who ought to receive its benefits are attending the school. Poor families should be assisted. We cannot call ourselves true missionaries if we neglect those at our very doors." It is crystal clear that the servant of the Lord is referring to church schools. Everyone is involved. Our boys and girls and youth constitute the most valuable possession of the church. The entire church family must be constantly, lovingly impressed with this truth and its attendant responsibilities and privileges. Many churches and pastors have handled this matter in different ways most success fully. May I sketch the procedure I have followed as a pastor as one suggestion?

Parental encouragement. In church announcements and in home visitation, parents are encouraged to do their maximum. In most cases, this is total. Some j are unable to care for the entire expense. These are encouraged to do their best. All can do something.

Registration day. It was my practice always to be at the school on registration day. Parents who needed financial help knew this and would be sent to me in a discreet manner by the school registration personnel at a given point in the procedure. We would privately discuss the finances with the actual facts and figures before us. Their maximum commitment would be secured, and the guarantee that the church would care for the balance could be given to them.

Securing of church financial commit ments. Following registration day, when we knew what our actual needs were, I would then go to the church family with an appeal for financial help for these worthy students. The total need for all the students would be presented. This would perhaps be for $200 a month. I would then split this into forty $5 monthly pledges. The appeal for pledges was made to all who could help whether they had children in school or not. Under the blessing of God this plan never failed. Methods of securing these pledges can vary with the situation and church, so the mechanics will not be discussed here.

Follow-up. Periodically it will be necessary to remind the church members of their various financial responsibilities. Also have an understanding with the school treasurer that the pastor will be notified if any student account becomes more than two months in arrears.

Other financial factors. It will be most beneficial to remind the congregation in a positive manner of two other key financial factors. The first involves recognition that the adversary of our souls in his most adroit manner has done some "relabeling" in the last few years. What used to be labeled "luxury" is now relabeled, in many cases, "necessity." The implications are obvious.

The second, which is closely related, involves the necessity of rechecking our value system or order of priorities. Most of us usually find enough money for what we want if we are really eager to have it. We have also discovered that many of the valuable things in life often do require real effort and expense to obtain. We, of course, will not be able to take our houses, cars, boats, and other possessions to the kingdom, but we can take our children with us if they are led to make such a choice. Some values are beyond the scope of a price tag.

6. Church-school "two-way street." The enthusiasm, cooperation, and sup port of the church family for the school will be greatly enhanced if they can see a "two-way street" existing here. In other words, encourage the teachers and students in the school really to contribute to the church program by active participation in church outreach, missionary activities, Community Services, and Ingathering. Encourage the teacher to take most seriously the magnificent suggestion found on page 395 in the book The Ministry of Healing: "True education is missionary training." If the church at large can see that the school is giving, as well as receiving, the relation ship will be blessed indeed.

7. Physical condition of the school. Be sure that the school plant is an honor to the cause of God, always kept in good repair. Of course the pastor should not attempt to do all or even the major portion of this himself, but he should be sure that the appearance is representative. This will inspire the people and generate confidence and appreciation. Everyone likes to support a winner.

8. Pastor's relationship to the youth. It surely is true that some pastors are more effective with boys and girls and youth than others. However, every one wants to be loved, and if the pastor will consistently and sincerely manifest this affection for and interest in the younger set, they will respond. If such a relationship is established and maintained the dividends are tremendous. The children will want to be in what they consider to be "the pastor's school." They will be enthusiastic over that which enthuses the pastor. It would be very difficult for the parents not to share these enthusiasms with their children.

9. Everyday supportive behavior. The sermon on Christian education in the church service is vital. Constant sermonic support is also helpful. Home visitation is primary. But moment-by-moment demeanor always speaks with great power. Constantly support and uphold the principal and teachers. It is true that occasions may arise where problems might develop and special attention needs to be given at the appropriate place and time. However, always publicly and privately sound a helpful, encouraging theme. Pray continually for the success of this "instrumentality of the Lord."

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John Loor is Min isterial Association secretary of the Michigan Conference.

August 1976

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