Let me begin by saying that BOTH perspectives are important in a Catholic, Christian, or any-faith based school. However, since this is a “Marketing Matter,” and its intent is to bring your school more students, dare I suggest “Leadership” would be the correct answer.
If we consider Faith, Hope and Love as more important, as in:
•Faith in our parents that they will pay tuition (even if they can’t afford it);
•Hope that more children will enroll in our school in the coming year (without really having a tool to make that hope a concrete reality); and
•Love of our school as a great place because of the great people that are involved,
we may be disappointed when more parents don’t drop their kids off at our schools’ doors on the first day of classes, or, what’s worse, those who are expected to return don’t.
A school’s faith identity is EXPECTED to be an important part of a its tradition and culture. But parental expectations have changed over the years. Members of the Great Generation and Baby Boomers looked up to religious men and women as the most learned members of the community. In today’s atmosphere of Generation X parents, parents may have more degrees after their name than their pastor or principal. Therefore, while their knowledge about God, the faith, and other religious matters may not even come close to that of a priest or religious, their business acumen, knowledge of law, relationship marketing and institutional advancement may far surpass that of Catholic or Christian school leader and parish and church leadership.
Moreover, parents today have great expectations for their children, and are not pleased when those expectations cannot be achieved. Because Generation X is characterized by their knowledge that their standard of living and station in life may not surpass that of their parents, they don’t want their children to suffer the same fate. Today’s parents are not satisfied if their children’s educational experience is “simply” academically excellent, focused on the Faith, and offered in a safe and caring atmosphere. While those are all noble and desirable qualities, today’s parents want to know what makes your educational environment unique, how their children’s individual talents will be fostered, and how they (the parents) will ALSO have an outstanding experience – since they’re paying four-figures or more a year for the educational experience your school is offering. A vibrant and visionary leader is necessary to spark their enthusiasm about the school – one who goes beyond what is “traditionally expected” of a faith-based school.
If you’d like to see an example of a “Vision Narrative,” a document which tells the principal’s vision for the school, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be good to compare this to your school’s mission statement, and, if you have one, your school’s vision statement. The vision narrative is more concrete rather than concise; it paints a precise picture, rather than articulating an abstraction.
How important is it? It could be the difference between increasing your school’s enrollment or preparing an exit strategy for the school in which you have faith, the school where you hope parents will enroll their children, and the school you love.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original Publication Date: 20080519)