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'It Is No Secret': The Problem of Institutional Pain!

Robert F. Davis
Robert F. Davis

It is No Secret by Stuart Hamblen, popular singer, songwriter, actor, poet, and radio personality of the 1930s through the 1950s, is believed to have composed the first ever "crossover" song to have reached #1 on the gospel, country, and pop charts. Hamblen came to fame appearing in films with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and John Wayne.

In 1949 the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham went to Los Angeles, California for what became an historic evangelistic crusade. As part of the publicity campaign for this crusade Dr. Graham appeared for an interview on Stuart Hamblen's radio broadcast. During this interview, as became Graham's custom, he invite Hamblen to attend the crusade, an invitation which Hamblen accepted.

Sometime later Hamblen contacted Dr. Graham requesting a conversation. The result of this conversation was that Hamblen "surrendered his life to Christ." Hamblen, it has been said, became the first publicized conversion from the 1949 crusade and put Dr. Graham on the map.

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As the story goes, on a street in Hollywood, Hamblen ran into John Wayne who asked him about his transformed life. Hamblen's response is said to have been, "It is no secret what God has done for me," and that he could do it for Wayne as well. Wayne is believed to retort, "That sounds like a song why don't you write one." Hamblen did!

It is no secret indeed what God can do for an individual or for that matter no secret what he can do for an institution as well! This transformation of either life or institution requires: recognition of failing and the need for change, a desire to make changes, and the determination to take action toward transformation.

The idea that in either case the steps to be taken are a "secret" isn't quite right. There are many examples of radical change, but the actual "secret" is how long the recognition was present and how long it actually took to act on that recognition. "An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge." (Proverbs 18:15 ESV)

The wisdom of King Solomon further suggests, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV) Our intelligence at heart should become aware of the times around us and should motivate us to seek the knowledge which allows us to correct our situation. Saint Peter confirms, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 ESV) Prayerfully seeking solutions to our failures means repentance of the mismanagement of our lives and the institutions over which we have administrative responsibility.

So many conversations of late with administrators have centered on flagging enrollment, missing the objectives required for filling the seats necessary to meeting the budget. This is where Stuart Hamblen and It Is No Secret comes in. Considering our Christian schools are dedicated to God and that our desire is to shape the worldview of our students in preparation for a fulfilling and successful life, then Christian education should take on an urgency reflective of that mission.

Assuming your school is not located in an unpopulated area, a simple survey of institutional practice will almost immediately reveal the problem. One or two problems will quickly surface: either those officials responsible aren't fulfilling their job requirements and/or the one responsible for holding those individuals responsible for their actions isn't doing the job. Simple eh, it is no secret!

Two or three times over my professional life I have taken a hiatus from education and sought to learn new skills or gather an additional corpus of knowledge. A couple of those times it has been in sales. One most interesting observation was that selling success was almost always related to the number of contacts made. Make 100 cold calls and you are likely to get one to five appointments. Handle those appointments intelligently and you are likely to make one sale. This proved the same when working in institutional advancement or development. A one percent response was common a five percent response was fantastic.

As vice president for advancement I found myself always in and around the admissions process. I also discovered that most of my worked centered on "advocacy" for the institution, a responsibility also of the "head of school" and the "admissions director." What this literally means is that these individuals could be found in their office on Monday morning until noon and also after noon on Friday. Any other time they were "in the field" advocating for the school.

This is why a "simple survey" of institutional practice will immediately reveal the problem with enrollment. Find these people in their office most of the week and you can expect nothing more than a "problem." Furthermore, it is the head of school's responsibility to see that the other two individuals are out and about and the board's responsibility to hold the head's feet to the fire! In most cases all of the above, not doing their job, are the reason for the problem.

To be certain there could also be deeper problems relating to the quality of the education being offered or the tuition not reflecting the true cost of a quality education. And of course a past scandal or ill-advised public decision could be responsible, but generally it is one or both of the things mentioned above. The cost of an hour and a half or two with a wise consultant could identify and solve the problem of flagging enrollment saving you bundles in lost tuition income.

Now, if you are saying to yourself, "Naw that's too simple" or "That may be somewhere else, but not at our school," then your problem is deep indeed! Strangely enough these are among the most common responses I hear. Wisdom is a must!

Concerning "wisdom" scripture suggests, "Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you." (Proverbs 4:6 ESV) "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." (Proverbs 21:5 ESV) "The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving." (Proverbs 14:8 ESV) And of course, "In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly." (Proverbs 13:16 ESV)

What will you do?

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.

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