Starting a Christian School
Without a good foundation, a structure will collapse. That's why establishing a Christian school requires adequate prayer, planning, and preparation.
BJU Press recommends laying the groundwork for a Christian school at least one year before the opening date. As the months progress, many challenges and blessings will present themselves. In addition to the handbook, Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission, the following is a suggested sequence of steps to help you build a successful Christian school.
Learn about the benefits of a DVD school.
Research thoroughly (preferably with a committee of interested parents and pastors) to find what others have done and what others recommend to start a school.
Check many references, including books, articles, organizations, and other publications, to glean information and advice for each step in the planning process.
- Make a bibliography of helpful publications, books, and articles. Check out our extensive links to key publications.
- Establish a written philosophy statement. Your philosophy of Christian education will be the anchor that will hold everything else in place. See Christian Education, Its Mandate and Mission from BJU Press. Also see other literature on the philosophy of Christian education.
Decide whether it will be a board-run school or a church-run school. Christian schools directed by individuals are much less common, but that is an alternative.
Visit several Christian schools to pick the brains of those administrators, teachers, board members, and parents who have started their own schools. Find out what is necessary to maintain and grow a Christian school.
Collect copies of established schools’ student handbooks, faculty handbooks, office procedure manuals, and board procedure manuals. Use these as references as you begin to write your tentative student, teacher, and board policy manuals and philosophy statement for your proposed school. Your policy manuals should be written early on and should be based on your philosophy statement.
Determine how many grade levels to start with. Some Christian schools start with one grade and work their way up one grade level each year, while others start with the entire elementary or complete K-12 program. To know your potential student base, talk with parents of potential students and pastors in your community. The number of expected students will affect your budget and many other areas of planning.
Choose the textbooks and supplementary materials your teachers will use in their classrooms. If your philosophy statement is clear on what kind of teaching will take place in your school, the choice of textbooks and supplementary materials should be fairly easy. Each textbook publisher has a clear educational philosophy behind their products. Your regional BJU Press field representative will be glad to help you with the textbook selection process. Call 800.845.5731 to make arrangements for your regional field representative to visit you.
Prepare a tentative budget. Your previous discussions with school administrators, teachers and board members, along with your research of the literature, should be helpful in determining the financial resources you will need to raise and maintain.
- Project the number of students and the tuition rate for each student. Your previous research should help you set realistic figures.
- Determine the number of teachers and staff members tentatively needed. Salaries and fringe benefits are usually the major part of expenditures for a Christian school, and these figures should be competitive with other Christian schools in your area.
- Budget funds for start-up costs, including radio and print advertising, brochures, printed forms, recruiting trips, rent of building (if rented), and school furniture. These expenses will need to be met even before tuition/registration money starts coming in.
Appoint someone who is experienced in school finances to prepare your actual projected budget so it will be as realistic as possible. This same person should be hired/appointed as bookkeeper so he or she can set up a bookkeeping system for revenues and expenditures ahead of time.
Plan for raising the initial funds to launch your Christian school. These funds will generally come from interested parents, individuals, churches, and perhaps some businesses that would like to see a Christian school in the community. This effort to build a sound financial base and not get into early debt is very important to the successful launch of your Christian school.
Begin searching for qualified teachers and staff.
- Contact Christian colleges that have teacher training programs to find out the process for recruiting teachers at each college. You will need to check each institution's Christian philosophy and philosophy of education to determine if teachers prepared at that institution will support your philosophy statement.
- Let people in local churches know of your need for teachers and staff.
- Decide on a hiring process before you start interviewing teacher candidates. Have a printed application form ready to hand out and a salary and benefits schedule available to show teacher candidates. If you plan to use written employment contracts, these should be available for the teacher to sign. Good Christian school teachers are hard to come by, so be fully prepared to offer a position if appropriate.
- Don't forget custodial and secretarial personnel in your search for potential employees.
Begin pre-enrolling students. A printed application form is important so you can obtain complete written information about students who wish to enroll in your school. The enrollment process should include an interview with the student and his parents so they can ask questions and can see your school facilities if your building is ready. If your building is not ready, a clear plan with illustrations of how it is going to look should be available.
Get the facility ready. The building and furniture that you intend to use should be squeaky clean and in good condition. All building inspections (electrical, plumbing, fire code, etc.) should be taken care of and passed as soon as possible. Your facilities should include a lunchroom, physical education facility, and playground equipment if possible.
Work up a tentative school year calendar to show prospective parents. This calendar should include dates of the start and end of school, vacations, holidays, exam days, parent-teacher meetings, and other important dates. Remember, most states require a certain number of in-session days-usually 180, but you will want to verify with your state Christian school organization.
Order textbooks and supplementary materials based on projected enrollment in your school. Your BJU Press representative will be glad to help with this.
Order supplies for classroom, office, and custodial use. Be sure to check OSHA regulations for what kinds of cleaning supplies can be used in schools and how to handle and store hazardous materials. You will want to purchase cleaning supplies with the least amount of toxic materials, and you will need to keep MSDS information about each of your chemicals in an accessible place.
Advertise! Your publicity effort should peak late in the summer with a special event such as a big opening ceremony or banquet to show off your facilities and get more potential parents and students interested.
Make sure that your local paper knows about your opening day. Two weeks before the event, send them a press release containing pertinent information, and follow up with a phone call.
Work on your schedule of classes based on your projected student enrollment, the grade levels you are starting with, and your projected number of teachers.
Conduct a week or two of in-service meetings for the teachers and other personnel to acquaint them with the school policies, with each other, and with the community.
Use outside sources for workshops to help teachers with their classroom teaching. BJU Press will gladly come and hold workshops in whatever areas the teachers may need. Please call 800.845.5731 to make arrangements for this.
Hold a get-acquainted night for teachers to meet parents of students they will be teaching.