A new year always brings bright new hopes, but it also brings new challenges. Even now, parents of students at your Christian school are likely making decisions based on finances, as many families in the country are faced with tightening budgets. Sending children to Christian school might not be a financial option for some parents like it once was. Unfortunately, Christian schools have seen more students leaving classrooms and hallways. Your Christian school can make an action plan to help retain students already enrolled at your school, which will help lead to healthy growth and a bright future!

Statistics show that it takes seven to ten times more money to get a new customer than to retain a current customer. Armed with this knowledge, your Christian school can be proactive now rather than reactive later. Here are a few marketing tips to help you save money by retaining the students you already have at your school!

Tip 1 - Build solid relationships.

Help students and parents feel like the faculty and administration at your school care about their individual needs. Establish firm relationships with families enrolled at your school by emailing, calling, offering support for their child. Genuine and heart-felt bonds will provide a solid foundation for success of students, both academically and emotionally.

Tip 2 - Create an interactive school community.

Get students and parents involved in neighborhood activities. Reach out to those in need within your school and within your surrounding community. Schools are the center of knowledge and growth, and they are also the pulse of the community. Encourage volunteerism, healthy living, student groups, and parenting tips through a free newsletter. Social responsibility and good stewardship show your city or town that your Christian school has tools and benefits for everyone.

Tip 3 - Offer scholarships to returning students.

Promote re-enrollment before it even becomes a question of affordability. Offer scholarships to returning students who have shown high performance in academics and character. Be clear on the rules and guidelines for those able to qualify. Allow students to apply and receive scholarships before the new school year begins. This will help students and parents plan for the future, months in advance.

Tip 4 - Have a loyalty discount.

For those students who do not qualify for a scholarship, offer a loyalty discount off tuition fees, waive re-enrollment costs, or even offer a percentage off based on the years the student has been attending your school. Allow faculty and administration's families to enroll at a discounted rate, or have a contest for one student to win a class of his or her choice free of tuition costs. An extra idea? You can give current families an incentive to enroll other fellow friends or local family members with a referral bonus program.

Tip 5 - Be flexible and go online.

Discuss the option of having classes during the day and in the evenings. Give students the ability to earn credits, retake classes, or prepare for testing with summer school or night school. Provide at-risk students with tutoring choices that work around their and their parents' busy schedules. Offer after-school activities that challenge and grow students' abilities.

Be innovative and up-to-date by going beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar limits. Offering online curriculum like Ignitia gives students the ability to study no matter when or where they are, allowing them to stay enrolled. You could also try Dual Enrollment through Alpha Omega Academy®  and enroll your students in AOA and your Christian school at the same time! This simple solution allows you to offer accredited distance learning courses for your students without adding extra teachers or staff.

Tip 6 - Get feedback and data.

Listening may be the most powerful tool at your disposal. Consider opinions offered, give end of the year surveys, hold question and answer sessions, give exit questionnaires; get to the bottom of the reason parents are considering or have to withdraw students from your school. It could be a specific teacher, another local Christian school has cheaper tuition, the parent just lost his or her job, or it could be as simple as the family decided to move to a different location. Before you make snap judgments, get to the real root why students and parents like or dislike your Christian school. You need to know the issue before you can solve the problem.

Tip 7 - Expand courses and grade levels.

Are you a K-8 Christian school? Consider offering high school grades. Need more electives so students can meet graduation testing requirements? Add Spanish or speech as an elective. Can't afford more staff to meet these needs? Take a look at School in a Box from Alpha Omega Publications®. With three options, your school can pick the level of courses and academic services you want to add, and we'll do all the rest. Call your local AOP Schools Sales Representative to find out more! To keep your Christian school operating strong, remember to have an open mind and consider trying many different options.

What are you waiting for? Retaining students is a great way to keep a solid enrollment base at your Christian school. Being willing to take up challenges and face the future with an open mind will help you succeed. Flexibility and a willingness to change and adapt will allow your Christian school to grow even in uncertain times. Rely on the Lord to guide you and your school's direction. As the Bible says, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" Proverbs 3:5-6.

Remember, not only is your Christian school sharing the good news of Christ's salvation to new students; its mission is to also nurture and grow current students. Your school has the opportunity to change lives for the Lord every day. To help strengthen your Christian school in the coming year, focus on sharing the Lord's light to each and every student, new or returning, within your classroom walls and beyond.