13 Critical Issues Killing Christian Schools (Part 3)

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.
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(Photo: Robert F. Davis)Robert F. Davis previously served as vice president for Advancement at Bryan College in Tennessee and consulting vice president for Advancement and Alumni Affairs at Liberty University in Virginia.

"Folly" is a powerful word. Its meaning suggests a lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight. This sadly and characteristically communicates the costly undertaking resulting in the absurd and ruinous outcome of too many Christian schools.

Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein wrote so many years ago in The Pattern of God's Truth, "Christian education today has the one principle that can give learning a frame of reference spacious enough to comprehend all knowledge and dynamic enough to develop moral and spiritual maturity in the midst of a materialistic and violent age" (p 13).

This is true and worthy of complete acceptance!

Christian educations ties itself to "God and His Word." There is nothing to challenge here, but why then doesn't this union find "incarnation" in the leadership, and faculties too, of Christian schools? Why do these leading individuals, so intent on success in their individual business endeavors, pull up short in following through at the Christian schools they serve?

Issue #9 – "There is little investment in younger lives."

Each morning as I wake I quote Romans 12:1 & 2, a commitment of each day to Jesus Christ as a "living sacrifice," the "incarnational" aspect of our living. This, found in God and His word puts the "one principle," the "frame of reference" into action. It is the "goal" of each Christian teacher to fill students with courage and strength to "comprehend all knowledge" and to "develop moral and spiritual maturity." Yes, but something must be missing.

It is generally accepted among development professionals that the most dependable "major donors" to schools are the alumni. Examining the reasons for this reveals that their generosity grows out of a deep appreciation for that which they received at the school and their desire for this to continue for successive students. So why isn't this true at Christian schools?

It has been my experience that Christian schools ignore their alumni. Furthermore, the alumni were evidently not imbued with daily "incarnational" living, therefore not recognizing the value of their educational experience. Sad, but true.

Issue #10 – "Leadership doesn't understand competitive analysis."

One of the steps to developing a regnant strategic plan is the "competitive analysis drill." Even if you do not believe you are competing against any other school you need to so this in order to know if you possess "distinctives" or are simply doing the same thing as every other institution around you.

By their very nature "distinctives" will reveal your "niche" and drive your position in the "marketplace." This type of analysis will reveal strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, all necessary to really understanding your school.

Issue #11 – The school built around a celebrity presents problems."

Any initiative established upon the reputation of a celebrity sets itself up for a series of possible problems. While a steering committee may consider this as a "jump-start" or path to success, wise consideration often leads to a better idea. There are several schools started by a celebrity which fixes the problems in place at the beginning.

Celebrity status is more often than not established outside of education, so the school becomes attached to this outside activity, a large church, perhaps a radio or television ministry. This individual's personal life, opinions and actions become a reflection of the school he heads. And ultimately this persons death presents a momentum problem for the school. It is not common for these schools to have the foresight to develop a "transition of leadership" plan, often leading to troubling times and most certain dissolution.

Robert F. Davis has 40 years of experience providing counsel for educational and not-for-profit institutions. He previously served as vice president for Advancement at Bryan College in Tennessee and consulting vice president for Advancement and Alumni Affairs at Liberty University in Virginia.