Pastor's Pastor

Making your school successful

Tips to help with your school

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Your church school's success depends on your personal sup port. Pastors have both the privilege and the responsibility to pro mote Christian education. As this school year concludes, now is the time to help make next term even better. To give less than your best effort to Christian education is to fail one of our greatest mission opportunities: our own children.

Beyond advocating that parents should place their children in Christian schools, you can take the following positive actions to assure that the schools under your watchcare will thrive.

Plan for growth. Never be satisfied with the status quo if there is one child who could be enrolled. With only about half of Adventist children attending Adventist schools, opportunities abound. Challenge your church and school boards to develop school-growth eyes. Vision for growth expands only to the extent that leaders set the pace. So think growth your self and encourage others to see the mission potential of a growing school.

Affirm Christian education both by word and by action. Preach the value of Christian schools versus public education and maintain the emphasis of reaching and holding our own young people. You may wish to invite the conference education director to speak to your congregation. Also, your actions must match your rhetoric. If you have children, enroll them in church school. If personal circumstances prevent you from en rolling your children in your church's school, request assignment to a district that does not have a school. Your example, as well as your words, must signal clear support for Christian education.

Affirm the ministry of teaching. Honor your teachers in front of the whole congregation for the sacrificial ministry they provide. Seek ways to express appreciation for your teachers and to acknowledge their successes. Support school activities by your attendance at functions they plan. Acknowledge the contribution of your school in public ways such as a dedication service at the start of each school year in which you offer special prayer for teachers and students, or a special Sabbath service in which the school plans and leads the worship service. Try a Teacher Recognition Sabbath in which you present a small gift to each of the teachers and tell of their personal ministry to the church. Also, credit your teachers' influence on the spiritual decisions that children make.

Encourage parents to prioritize. Help them understand that Adventist schools are not only different from public education, but also distinctly different from other Christian schools. Adventist atmosphere, lifestyle, and doctrine pervade all curriculum subjects. If parents want their children to grow up in the church, they should enroll them in the church school.

Help teachers. Assist in planning programs that will exhibit the value of your school such as open houses or school visitation days. Conduct chapel services and special Weeks of Spiritual Emphasis for the students. Offer to teach a class once or twice per year or to serve occasionally as a substitute teacher. Drive for a field trip, or just stop by the school to chat with students and teachers during recess or lunch breaks. Welcome the students on the first day of the term.

Make recruiting visits to the homes of all potential students. Nothing makes a greater impact than the pastor and teacher together visiting the home of each family with school-age children. These visits should include an invitation to place the children in your school, along with helpful information about registration processes, a school calendar, financial plans that are available, and prefer ably some memento of your visit for each potential student. By the way, don't take returning students for granted. They also deserve a visit. Furthermore, the families who already recognize the benefit of church school can be one of your best sources for locating other potential students. Ask each family you visit if they know of someone else who could be invited to enroll in your school.

Encourage experimentation. For families who wonder if Adventist schools are really best, offer a money-back guarantee. In my own pastorate, we encouraged parents to enroll their children experimentally, with the guarantee of fees and tuition refunded if they were dissatisfied and enrolled their children elsewhere. The school rarely had anyone ask for a refund. The parents' experiment demonstrated the worth of our school.

Raise assistance funds. Not every family can pay full tuition and fees. Their children also need to be in your school. I enjoy helping my members realize that we operate a "church" school and not just a "parent" school, and I enjoy raising money to assist worthy students who otherwise would be unable to attend. Every parent should contribute something, but never rule anyone out of attending because of lack of funds.

Develop a work-study program. Older students can make a helpful contribution to the school or church by performing tasks that otherwise would be hired out. The funds you would have spent to have someone empty the trash, answer the telephone, wash windows, sweep sidewalks, fold and insert letters and bulletins, or vacuum floors might easily be accomplished by a student in a few hours after school.

Remember the mission. Adventist schools are evangelistic. I have seen families baptized whose first contact with the church was enrolling their children in the school. If you have available space, recruit nonmember students whose families will be a great source of potential new members. After all, Adventist education is mission!

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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