Just Say “No”

The sustainability of your parochial school depends on your ability to narrow its focus.

Christian schools are in the business of helping children. The reason most principals are hired is because they have big hearts and are passionate about helping children. The challenge for every school and its leadership team is to find the balance between helping lots of children or providing lots of help to a few children. It is impossible for any school to be large enough to serve everyone in need. Therefore, saying “No” is important to being successful and sustainable.

The leadership question is, “Should we serve those with a need or should we meet the needs of those we serve?” The answer is to meet the needs of those you have the capacity to serve. Implementing the decision takes courage, confidence, and focus.

For some schools, this means temporarily reducing the number of children served. Reducing the number of children served is a temporary decision that takes courage to implement. The perceived value of a school’s service determines its level of support.

When a school tries to provide a little help to lots of children, no one receives much help. As a result, the school has a very thin impact on its community and the community provides very little support because the community perceives very little value. When a few children receive all of the help they need, the breadth and depth of the help is perceived as being very important and the school receives substantial help from its community.

It takes confidence to believe that the services you can and do offer will be significant enough to attract the support needed to allow your school to expand the number of children being served.

Being focused is difficult. Being focused means saying no to just about everything. Most of the time the only thing you can say yes to is something that adds depth to your services. Anything that adds breadth to the services is a distraction until community support builds sufficiently to justify serving more children. Even then, it is a small incremental yes.

It is saying yes to too many attractive opportunities and needs in the past that has created schools with shallow services and limited community support. With the economic challenges that surround the school sector today, many schools are dealing with sustainability challenges because of too many yeses in the past.

Next Step:

Determine what your community values about your services

Use what your community values (supports with its funds, volunteers, and referrals) to determine whom you should serve

Determine how to add depth to your services in a way that adds depth to your community’s support

Reconfigure your service offering to align with your community’s support

Most mission statements are broad and can be reasonably stretched to include many things the original authors never envisioned. That is good and the way it should be if the school is going to have the opportunity to grow and evolve with the community it serves. However, many schools have grown faster than their communities’ support and now risk being unsustainable.

It takes courage to shrink so that you can grow. When you create healthy growth (strongly supported), it increases your school’s sustainability, which ensures a brighter future for your students, staff, and community.

Take It Further:

Ask your community what depth and breadth it is willing to support next year


Comments are closed.