The vast majority of my consulting work is with PK12 Christian schools. While there are things that any private school can garner from this post, I do admit the target audience for this article is a Christian school.
Whether you are reading this during “Pastor Appreciation Month” (traditionally in October in the U.S.) or any time dduring the year, I share these ideas so that your school can improve its relationships with local pastors and ministers.
REALITY (as I have heard it expressed to me repeatedly by Christian schools around the country for the past 5 years): while Christian schools were once the education “darling” of the church, in recent years, independent Christian schools (ones that are separate from any church or denomination) have seen less support coming from pastors, minister, and youth staff. Even some have said to me that the relationships have gone “cold” or “antagonistic”.
From what I can tell, this stems from the classic categorization of the Christian school as a “bubble” – isolated from the rest of the community. For evangelical churches, isolationism is the enemy of evangelism and I believe too many Christian schools have not done enough to recharacterize their school image so that pastors see them as reinforcement institutions rather than as institutions that perpetuate a disconnect between the Christian community and the people they want to reach.
I do not have time in this article to prescribe exact solutions to specific situations that some of you are facing. However, it would serve you well to reinforce your relations with the pastoral community. I once worked with a Christian school who had not had a sit-down conversation with any local pastor in over 5 years. I am not advocating some sort of manipulation game or relationship schmoozing. Schools that are intentional at cultivating strong relationships with the pastoral community seek to do so to improve church relations, establish camaraderie between the pastoral staff and the members of said church who send their kids to your school, and see themselves within a fellowship of impact players in the community.
- USE OUR SPACE – other than liability constraints that might exist, consider opening your campus facilities to the various churches in your community. They may not have a gymasium where they can play their organized basketball league (they might even have the opportunity to create one if they had the space). Invite churches to use your performance hall for interdenominational youth gatherings. Even better, have your school host a monthly or quarterly gathering of area pastors for a time of prayer for ALL area schools and a meal. Consider inviting an inspirational speaker that will feed the minds of these ministers who need a neutral place to receive encouraged.
- SOLICIT THEIR ADVICE – I never have met a pastor or youth minister who wasn’t looking for additional audiences with which to share their wisdom and biblical counsel (I know from experience that preaching and teaching lessons leave a lot of material on the cutting room floor simply because the clock says there’s no time to share it all). Invite pastors to speak to your student assemblies or chapel programs. Bring them in to inspire your staff (when your own words seem to fall on deaf ears). Utilize youth pastors as character coaches on your football teams. Host events for parents who need wisdom on “empathaizing with teens” (believe me, this is not natural as a parent – youth staff have a special place in heaven because they know how to do this). Extend an invitation to a local minister to write on such topics on your school blog or rotate interviews with area youth pastors who could deliver some relevant content to parents via a Head of School podcast (here’s why your Head of School should have podcast in Part 1 and Part 2 of the School Marketing Podcast).
- TREAT THEM SPECIAL – especially during the month of October (again, “Pastor Appreciation Month” in the U.S.), consider hosting a luncheon for area pastors and youth ministers. If some of their congregation’s youth attend your school, invite the students to attend the luncheon and speak on “Why My Minister Is Amazing” (cheesy title, but you get the point). Take pictures with the students and their pastor(s) at the luncheon and post them on Facebook and Instagram (if your school prides itself on being multidenominational, this is a great way to demonstrate that evidence). Send customized appreciation notes from your Head of School to every pastor and/or youth minister of every church represented at your school. Have your Student Council visit area restaurants or coffee shops and ask them to donate a free meal or latte (especially the local, non-franchise spots will be eager to do this to advertise their business to new customers). Customize a T-shirt for the youth pastors that say “_________ Christian School Students Like the Free Food I Bring Them When I Speak At Their Chapel” (or something witty that compels the youth pastor to where it for fun).
Especially for Christian schools, pastors and youth ministers need to be a part of your word-of-mouth marketing network. Perhaps they are, but are they saying good things about you?
If you need help figuring out how to improve your community relationships and implement a customized enrollment marketing system, click here and I want to give you a free 45-minute phone consultation to give you some ideas.
NOTE: Here’s a tongue-in-cheek article written by a pastor himself on “What NOT to Get Your Pastor for Pastor Appreciation Month“. (smile)