Whose Problem Is It?

When your parochial school recognizes there is a problem, whose problem is it?

Obviously, if you noticed the problem, you have responsibility for ensuring the problem is solved. However, does that make it is your problem or even your Christian school’s problem?

Schools exist to meet one or more of society’s needs. Therefore, any problem that affects your school impairs your school’s ability to serve your community. By extension, anything that adversely affects the performance of your school is a problem for your community. In short, your problems are your community’s problems.

That logical process suggests that every issue any school faces is something the community should care about and engage with. Since the community will benefit from having the problem solved, it should help solve the problem.

Every problem can be solved with the right application of resources. For many people that sentence translates into “All it takes to solve a problem is money.” However, money is only one of the ways we acquire the resources we need. Volunteers are an underutilized source of resources.

There are many ways, besides asking for money, to use your community to help solve a problem. You can ask other organizations in your community (for-profits, other schools, government agencies, and especially competitors) how they have handled a similar problem (crowdsource your problem). You can reach out to experts in your community. You can ask the community for money and volunteers.

You can also collaborate more closely with those who provide leading, complementary, and trailing services. Since those organizations also serve your students, they may have suggestions, share expertise, and be willing to add or adjust their services.

If it that easy, why are so few schools doing it?

Support – Schools see their communities as servicing only three purposes (source of funds, students, and volunteers).

Microscope – The leadership team looks at the problem through a microscope rather than a telescope. The focus is on how the problem affects the school and its students rather than how the problem affects the community.

Model – When no one else is doing something, it is hard work to create the process.

Pride – It is hard for the leadership team (professional leaders and volunteer leaders) to ask for help. Their thinking is often: We must demonstrate that we are experts and solve the problem.

Risk – When there is a problem, it is risky to trying something new and unproven. Look around and you will find proof that others (but not schools) use this process.

Value – The school is unable to or unsure that it can demonstrate its value to the community, or it is concerned that the value of its services are insufficient to justify additional support from the community.

Next Step:

Look at every problem your school faces as a problem the community faces

Assume the best solution can be achieved by engaging people rather than collecting money

Determine how your community can most effectively engage with you (collaboration, expertise, other types of volunteers, etc.)

Develop a fresh appeal for community engagement each time a problem arises

Use the level of response to gauge your community’s perceived value of your services

If your community’s response to your appeal is less than you expected or needed, there are two possibilities. The first is that the appeal needs to be polished. The second is that the value of your services needs to be enhanced.

When this process works, it changes the depth and breadth of your support system in a meaningful, measurable, and durable way. That of course increases the sustainability of your mission.

The best parts of this process are that it costs nothing, improves with use, and can be used on any problem, large or small. While it is strengthening your school, it is also unifying and strengthening your community.

Take It Further:

How will you encourage your board to think about using every topic as a way to engage the community rather than limiting the community engagement to fundraising?


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