Saturday, March 28, 2015

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS: Finances and Change

Pencil, Eraser, Write, School, Rubber
Previously, I posted 10 Survival Tips for Struggling Lutheran Schools. After teaching in one for almost a year, I have a few more observations. You have to begin with an honest appraisal of your financial situation and assess the school's willingness to change. Money is not your problem, parents choosing not to send their kids to your school is your problem. It will take change, maybe great change, to be able to become the kind of school that attracts parents.
  1. How many years does your school have left? Struggling schools need to be financially realistic. Do you even have time for a 5 year plan?  
  2. Your church (or association churches) cannot and should not be the major financial support for your school. Every Lutheran school needs to be financially stable and able to support itself. If that cannot happen, something needs to change. 
  3. You need more students more than you need more fundraisers. Schools will always need fundraisers for special projects, but you will not fundraise your way out of financial debt. Tuition should support the general education provided by the school. If that isn’t happening at your school, something needs to change. 
  4. Five new students who can’t pay tuition are not five new students. Of course, we would all love to provide a free Christian education to all children, but the reality is that parents who cannot afford the tuition are a financial burden. Any private school can only support so many students on scholarship. 
  5. Borrowing more and more money without great change is not good financial stewardship. I don't think I need to say anything more about this. We all know the popular definition that insanity is doing the same things and expecting change. 
  6. If your options are CHANGE OR CLOSE, you may need to sit down with parents and lay it all out. Let them know that change is coming. If you’re too afraid of change because somebody might get upset and move their child to another school, you might as well close your doors right now. 
  7. What should you change, and what should you not? Never let go of your beliefs and your Lutheran Christian heritage, but understand that that will not bring students into your school. If it did, Lutheran schools would be bursting at the seams. They are not. Keep having chapel and teaching religion (confirmation, Bible literacy, having Jesus time, morning/afternoon devotions, and prayer). Without that a Lutheran school is just a school. 
  8. Change anything else!  Anything else can be changed now, and I mean anything else, and I mean now, in order to market your school as competitive and better than other neighborhood schools. Just do it! 
  9. If you can’t change the little things, you’ll never change the big ones. There are always people who don't want to change anything, from the look of the office, to where the pop machine resides. CHANGE IS GOOD! It brings new life. How much time do you have to put it off?
  10. Get some fresh perspective on your situation. Sometimes it takes someone from outside the school to see the situation clearly. People who have been working at and supporting the school for years, often have difficulty seeing the reality of the situation and may not have the vision to effect the necessary change. If you're not taking advantage of that opportunity, you should be.

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