Category CSE Magazine
Title How to Motivate Parents
Author/s Michael M. Sligh
Preview Expanding the discipleship and service opportunities in our schools serves the dual purpose of more effectively fulfilling our missions for our students while at the same time deepening the commitments of our parents to Christian schooling

"Is it really worth it? Other schools promise strong academics and a safe environment and turn out good citizens for our community. What do I see the Christian school doing that is so special in the life of my child?" Parental reflections like these are typical during times of rising tuition and limited family resources. Parents try to affirm their commitment to Christian schooling by looking for value that they cannot find elsewhere.

The Christian school is uniquely positioned to provide students with discipleship and leadership development experiences. Can we fulfill our stated goal of developing the next generation of leaders in a manner that benefits our students and strengthens parents' loyalty to our schools?

The notion of discipleship does not begin with leading. Jesus called His disciples to leave what they were doing and to follow Him. Their curriculum included presentations of propositional truth followed by real-life progress tests (get in the boat and cross the lake). Eventually Jesus gave them opportunities to go out on their own and try their hand at leadership. It was not a paper-and-pencil exercise. It was messy and full of trial and error. In the close of the Gospels and in the book of Acts, we begin to read the story of Jesus' next generation of leadership in action.

Stephen Kaufmann (1992) conducted a sabbatical study of the gap between the espoused missions of selected Christian schools and the understanding and implementation of those missions. His conclusion was that schools that made programmatic changes to increase the opportunities for service learning and real-life application of the truth taught in the classrooms were more successful in achieving their mission in the lives of their students. Kaufmann and Eames (2007) found that school leaders who had a higher tolerance for risk were more likely to implement such programs.

Expanding the discipleship and service opportunities in our schools serves the dual purpose of more effectively fulfilling our missions for our students while at the same time deepening the commitments of our parents to Christian schooling. Here are some principles to keep in mind as we embark on this process:

One size doesn't fit all. Take a look at what some other schools are doing, but don't opt for wholesale adoption of someone else's program. Develop age-appropriate opportunities that take advantage of the specific gifts of your faculty, parents, and students as well as of the opportunities unique to your community.

Just do it! Don't wait until you have all the answers. Communicate to parents what you are trying to do and that it may be messy, and enlist their support and participation. Recently, a few parents expressed concerns about the level of supervision for our students' trip to a leadership seminar. The administrator recruited them to come along, and now he has key parents in place to assist with his student leadership initiative. What if we recruited homeroom moms to collaborate not only on class parties but also on developing service or discipleship opportunities?

Heeding the call vs. meeting the requirement. Voluntary participation in discipleship and service opportunities is more powerful than participation in mandated programs.

Isn't this just glorified community service? It is different at its very foundation. Discipleship and service efforts in the Christian school flow from the biblical imperative to present the gospel in word and deed. Intentional life-on-life mentoring is infused into service. We apply the Scriptures in relationships as we love and serve our neighbor. The biblical concept of neighbor compels us to reach out to individuals and communities that may be very different from ourselves and our communities.

Tell stories. As the discipleship and service efforts grow in our schools, we will have more and more stories to tell our parents and the community about the unique opportunities available to our students. Our students will take their stories home to parents who will get an up-close-and-personal look at a life that is changing.

Our ultimate goal is the glory of God and the good of our students. By God's grace, these types of initiatives will also display the value of Christian schooling to parents both inside and outside our schools.


Kaufmann, Stephen. 1992. Sabbatical study report to schools in study. Faculty forum paper presented at Covenant College. Cited in Kaufmann and Eames 2007, 79.

Kaufmann, Stephen J., and Kevin J. Eames. 2007. The leader as risk taker: Equipping students to engage the culture. In Schools as communities: Educational leadership, relationships, and the eternal value of Christian schooling, ed. James Drexler, 61-80. Colorado Springs, CO: Purposeful Design Publications.

Michael M. Sligh, EdD, has served at Lakeland Christian School in Lakeland, Florida, for 36 years. His roles have included teacher, athletic director, coach, assistant principal, principal, and headmaster. He and his wife, Mary, have been highly involved with parents throughout their 36 years of work at Lakeland Christian. 

Download How to Motivate Parents