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Ministry Advice

1. Promote your school as a place that encourages "values in the Christian tradition" (or something similar).

Lift the Christian tradition up as an asset and a way to differentiate your school from the many secular options. This is an asset that many public or well-funded schools cannot offer. My experience is that emphasizing your school's Christian flavor attracts many more unchurched families than it discourages. Often a child's involvement in a Christian preschool is the only place Christian faith touches an entire family. Kids coming home singing age-appropriate Christian songs, and wanting to pray before family dinner, is received as a good thing by many unchurched families. This is especially true of immigrant families.

2. Develop someone on the church side to lead outreach into the school.

If you expect the presence of the school to increase the size of
your church you will need more than a Christian director who is also a vital member of your local church. A preschool director’s job is too big for that. Ask God for someone on the church side who is gifted and has a vision to connect with these families. They must be good with kids, but even more important is their gifts and graces at reaching out to parents. At pickup time, the right person is a magnet for parents wanting to talk with a mature Christian about some issue with their child or some other family issue. Whether the position is paid or volunteer, teamwork between this church-side person and the school director and staff is essential. For the 11 years until she retired, Pastor Norma Siberts served in this role (the money came from the church though I suppose it could have come from the preschool). During her tenure, we experienced school families finding their way into the mainstream life of the local congregation. If you want to read what Pastor Norma says are the essential parts of this church-side leader, click on Church - School Liaison Person.

3. Beware government subsidies.

Before you lease space to a school that receives government subsidies of any form, including to pay tuition for needy kids, be sure to look into restrictions on religious teaching and the use of Christian decorations on the walls (especially things like pictures of Jesus, crosses, etc.). We avoided these sorts of subsidy at New Life precisely to leave our hands free to be a truly Christian school.

4. Be wise about using a school program to generate worship attendance.

If your church attendance is small compared to the size of your school (when parents and extended family are around), be cautious about promoting joint attendance at a normal worship service times. Some church parishioners will have a heart for the school on campus, but more will be intimidated by the overwhelming numbers of school families who attend on special school program Sundays. Some years we had a Spring Program where the preschool children were on the platform singing songs and doing little skits. It generated big attendance, but not attendees of worship. Instead, the aisles were jammed with the school's parents videotaping their kids. On those Sundays, attendance among normal parishioners decreased. Do not assume that all the parishioners “should” want to outreach to the families of the preschool. Think this through carefully. Contact me and we can talk further.

5. Remain in contact with the family for 2-4 years after their student graduate.

from your school. Sometimes a child is quite happy in school at the church 5 days a week but resists coming back on Sundays. Then, a year or two later this same child wants to come to Sunday School or other church kids’ programming. We presume that this is the school child just saying that 6 or 7 days a week at their school is just too much of a good thing. Or maybe preschoolers don’t want another day of being dropped off by their parents, and having to endure different teachers. So, build in ways to stay in touch with school graduates for 2-4 years.

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