Marketing is an often misunderstood and maligned concept when it comes to Christian schools. We often think that because we believe in our faith-based mission and the need for Christian education, parents will hear about the good work we're doing and students will miraculously appear at our door.

Although miracles happen every day through the grace of God, there are steps to can take to make your school a success that don't require divine intervention.

It all begins with creating a well-thought out and realistic marketing plan, and there is no better time than the beginning of a year to get started.

Marketing is all about getting and keeping customers. In your case, it's about increasing enrollment and keeping students in your classrooms. To be most effective, you should address the following key ideas:

Vision – How will your Christian school make a difference?
In order to effectively market your school, you must define your vision. How will your school make a difference to your students, your community, and to the world? At AOP, our vision statement is “Changing education for the glory of God.” This is how we seek to make a difference, and we keep this in mind as we change and grow.

For many Christian organizations, a vision is aligned with a relevant passage from Scripture. If you have a clearly defined vision, it is much easier to share this information as you market your school.

Mission – What do you want to accomplish?
As important as a vision statement is your school’s mission. Some schools have a unique student population that might include struggling students. Online schools may seek to reach homebound students or those who have difficulty in traditional classrooms. Mainstream or alternative, you must determine why your school exists, what need it can address and what opportunities it can offer.

Core Values – What principles will guide your Christian school?
Every organization stands for something. What is it you stand for? What matters most within your organization? What attitudes and behaviors do you advocate, and which do you reject?

With this in mind, create a list of values for students, teachers, parents, and your staff that will guide you as you move toward reaching your goals.

Objectives – What specific goals are you going to accomplish?
This is where marketing really begins to take shape. Once you have determined who you are, you must set practical and realistic goals that can be measured. Only with objectives in place can you evaluate your marketing effort.

Goals should be concrete and include a verb, a noun, and a date. They may address enrollment, web presence, community outreach, and fundraising efforts. For example, one objective may be to increase enrollment by 15% by September 1, the beginning of a new school year.

Strategies – How will you reach your objectives?
Defining your objectives without determining the strategy for reaching them is pointless. Look at each of the objectives you have set and create a roadmap that clearly defines your route. You may need to hire a designer for your website or name someone to lead fundraising efforts. Your strategy may include offering more online courses to appeal to students at schools with limited course availability.

No matter what your objectives, there is a clear path to reaching them. It’s your job to find it and write it down.

Action Plans – What’s on your to-do list?
Lists are a great marketing tool, but unless tasks are created and assigned, you may never reach your destination. It’s important to identify the specific actions you must take to achieve your marketing goals.

Some examples:
• Create and mail a series of postcards to promote direct-mail recruitment.
• Schedule quarterly fundraising events.
• Get involved or organize community projects to allow the community to get to know what you stand for.

These six ideas are a great beginning for marketing your school. The important next step is to put your plan into action. It’s much easier to manage the business of marketing your school if you break it down into simple, doable steps, evaluate and revise throughout the process, and keep moving forward, with your eyes focused on your vision.