Heads of faith-based schools are often called on to provide spiritual support to their communities. Knowing that others look to Christian school leaders for spiritual guidance, especially in times of crisis or tragedy, the Van Lunen Fellows program emphasizes soul care practices during its year-long program. Each of the residential sessions begins with daily worship, and throughout the year, strengthening the soul of leadership is at the heart of all programming and small group gatherings.
Creating a healthy school culture that reflects a school’s beliefs, values, mission, and vision is a major responsibility of Christian school leaders. Heads of school have significant influence over the environment in which the members of their communities relate to each other. Believing that a flourishing culture is created when relationships are trusting, generous, helpful, and cooperative, Van Lunen faculty implement these principles in every phase of the Fellows program.
A school leader’s relationship with his or her board, and especially the board chair, is a vital partnership in every school setting. This important relationship is examined during Van Lunen sessions while identifying how healthy boards function, establish roles, set boundaries, and make wise decisions. Fellows learn practical skills and strategies to work effectively and strategically with their board chair, school board, committees, and task forces.
Clearly articulated vision, mission, and core values provide the framework for a school’s strategic plan. Aware that heads of school typically guide their boards in the process and implementation of strategic planning, thinking, and decision-making, the Fellows program introduces the various components of this important document and presents ways to conduct effective decision-making strategy.
Many Christian schools are heavily tuition-dependent and as a result, enrollment is a large financial lever. Carefully examining this area, Van Lunen Fellows are introduced to marketing best practices by addressing the following questions: What role do websites play in marketing? What about open houses and school tours? How can school leaders effectively use social media? What should the role of the school leaders be in the admission process? Specific marketing advice is given to school leaders on this topic that they can immediately implement for their schools.
Early in the Van Lunen program, Fellows are presented with current trends, challenges, and best practices on how to sustain the financial stability of their schools. They learn about “value proposition” and discover ways to increase the value of tuition dollars without adding significant cost. Faculty compensation, benefits, and alternative income are creatively examined, and Fellows learn how to design a dashboard to monitor organizational health and progress on strategic plans.
Advancement, development, and fund raising are key responsibilities for heads of Christian schools, although many feel unqualified to assume this unfamiliar role in their leadership positions. Van Lunen faculty and professional consultants provide expert advice and helpful support for this important work that begins with an understanding of the basic elements of donor-driven development and fund raising. The counsel they offer increases Fellows’ confidence and knowledge and equips them with resources, strategies, and techniques to successfully advance their Christian schools.
Leadership change within an organization is inevitable and challenging. Knowing the attention all personnel change requires for heads of Christian schools, this topic is regularly included in the Van Lunen Fellows program curriculum. Fellows are given case studies on leadership change and with faculty, review the advice of leaders in the field. They share leadership challenges they must address within their own school community and gratefully receive wise counsel and helpful support from faculty and other Fellows.
One requirement of the Van Lunen Fellows program is the completion of an applied project with a tangible outcome that benefits each Fellow’s school. Drawn from new skills and information received in their Van Lunen sessions, and guided by the support of faculty, the applied project is the culmination of each Fellow’s year-long executive management training. A decade of video-taped, applied projects is archived on the Van Lunen Center website and is accessible to all Christian school leaders.