The first two articles in this series dealt with the two systems most frequently talked about in schools.  The first described the 5 elements that make a school “a school,” and the second detailed the 5 elements which identify your school as a business.  This article speaks to the system that makes your faith-based school a ministry.

Your faith-based school is not just a business, and not just a ministry, and not just a business AND a ministry.  It is a business, a ministry AND a school!  I started with the system that defined the school as a school since it’s been said that your school needs to be a “good school” before it can be a good “faith-based school.” Unfortunately, that statement is problematic, but not because it seems to convey the idea that academics take precedence over formation.  Faith-formation, academics and solid business practices are, as stated above, ALL important aspects, and cannot be categorized as “more important” than another.  The real problem is with the word “good,” because when you’re dealing with today’s parents and their expectations, “good” is not “good enough.”  Your school needs to be an excellent school, and that commitment to excellence is implied across all the schools’ elements.

SIGNS deals with the ministerial aspects of your school because it’s a ministry to both parents and students.  It assists the parents with their responsibility of teaching their children, and it produces students that are signs to the world.  While educators today struggle with implementation of Common Core Curriculum and still take issue with standardized testing, and today, grapple with new guidelines for masking, distancing and sanitizing while in a classroom setting, it seems that educational systems are focused on producing students that can perform at an optimally acceptable academic level and have basic compendium of significant knowledge as determined by those who develop the published competencies.  Regardless of your thoughts about local control of education, your faith-based school is expected to produce students that perform well above an “acceptable” level, since academic excellence is an expectation of parents who enroll their children in your educational environment.  The fact that it is a faith-based school means graduates are to be signs to the world.  I’m sure you’ll agree that your hope is that the students in your school will Serve, Inspire, Grow, Nurture and Succeed.

Serve – We are made for service, to minister to one another.  Fostering service means that the academic, athletic and activity achievements of students are not meant to simply educate them, build their self-esteem and increase the pride of the school and the community in which it resides.  Students have a responsibility to serve others, and that responsibility continues as they mature.  It does so for the other four elements as well, continuing past graduation and into the student’s adult life.  A great example of this comes from Father Ryan High School in Nashville, Tennessee.  A number of years ago, when flood waters ravaged the city, schools of the city closed.  When the waters receded and schools reopened, Father Ryan High School remained closed so students could visit members of the community and offer their service to assist in the continued clean-up.  These students put what they learn as part of the school community into action, to be signs to those in need.

Inspire – “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words” are words of wisdom attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  Through their works and words, students inspire members of their families, the organizations to which they belong, the classmates with whom they attend school, as well as the people with whom they’ll encounter and the communities in which they’ll live.  To “inspire” means “to breathe in,” which is what gives life.  Your school’s students will continue to be life-giving as they graduate and grow.

Grow – Education doesn’t stop when once students leave school.  In fact, some schools have a stated mission that refers to creating life-long learners.  As students become adults and horizons continue to expand before them, they cannot just serve and inspire others, but must continue to expand their knowledge to fortify their beliefs and values as they nurture others to do the same.

Nurture – Care for others in their community and around the world, for the environment and the elements, as well as for their spouse and the little ones that will eventually come along requires an understanding of the need to share, their gifts and abilities, as well as sacrifice their own wants and desires, so that others may succeed.

Succeed – If you’ve noticed, each one of these elements lead into the next, and this one is no different.  Of course we want our students to succeed.  If we’ve taught them well, then they’ll realize success means more than just being blessed financially, and that they’re also blessed with talents which they can use to benefit others.  Their stewardship means that they understand that everything is gift, and gifts are to be shared to serve one another.

Unfortunately, there’s a new trend in today’s marketplace to replaces “success” with “significance” because success is considered selfish, while significance is considered to be oriented toward others.  Because some people in successful positions are portrayed by media as selfish, greedy and power-hungry, and their efforts at altruism covertly masks profiteering, being a success is no longer a worthy goal.  This image is then applied to all “successful” individuals to the point that a new term needs to be identified.  However, “significance” can also be defined as selfish, as a desire for recognition can surpass one’s desire for wealth.  May I suggest that “sacrifice” in its definition as “giving up something for the sake of the good of another” conveys this sentiment more appropriately, and, once again, leads back to the first element of this construct, “Serve.”

Next week, the fourth system speaks to the item that makes your school truly unique.  It’s safe to say that no other school has this attribute that your school has.  It is at the core of what makes it a distinctive educational environment.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2020