Head of School Retreat
Leading a Christian school is one of the most rewarding and the most challenging vocations in Christ’s kingdom. It can also be one of the loneliest. Like a university president, the headmaster engages every day with lots of constituents – students, parents, board members, donors, faculty, staff, community members and pastors – but it is difficult to find a colleague or two who understands the role, who can truly offer a listening ear, and who can offer a helpful, unbiased response. Finding a peer group that can offer support and suggestions in a safe environment is essential to thriving in the role.
I am a product of Christian education. I attend Wheaton Christian High School and then Wheaton College for my undergraduate education. I went to Harvard Law School for a J.D., Oxford University for a master’s degree and the University of Virginia for a PhD in English literature. When I was finished with my education, I wanted to return to be a part of Christian education because it had given me such a strong academic and spiritual foundation. I taught at Calvin College for seven years and also served as the board president and lead a capital campaign for Ada Christian School in Grand Rapids during that time. I am now in my tenth year as president of John Brown University.
As JBU president, it took me sometime to recognize my need for a peer group. At the Christian university level, we have the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities that provides a forum to gather presidents from around the country to discuss our common challenges and interests. It has proven to be a wonderful venue for professional development and peer networking; indeed, I became so involved that I currently serve as the CCCU board chair. As I reflected on my CCCU experience, I wondered whether JBU might be able to provide a similar professional development and peer networking opportunity to Christian school headmasters in our region.
JBU has long been committed to partner with Christian schools to educate students to honor God and serve others. For instance, we have hosted professional development workshops for Christian school guidance counselors for many years. In addition, we have recently launched a concurrent program with 15 Christian schools in our region.
JBU have also been blessed by God with wonderful growth in our resources, facilities and student body over the last ten years, receiving over $150 million in gifts, constructing or renovating 11 buildings, and experiencing 30% growth in our student body. Yet, we still face many of the same challenges facing all Christian schools, challenges of affordability and financial sustainability, of improving academic excellence, of larger cultural changes in values, and of making the case for Christian education to prospective families. At JBU, we have learned lessons in those successes and challenges, and we believe some of those lessons might be helpful to Christian school headmasters and we know that Christian school headmasters have experiences that would be helpful to their peers.
To attempt to meet this need, JBU has decided to host a two-day retreat for headmasters of Christian schools, and we are inviting you to participate. We are so committed to this idea that we will pay for all of your expenses (hotel, food, materials) except for your travel to campus. We have included a brochure outlining our tentative schedule for those two days.
Would you like to spend a couple of days talking with peers about best practices in fundraising, marketing, budgeting, or board relations? Would you look forward to trying out a few ideas with people that understand your job? Would you welcome the chance to fellowship and learn from others who are engaged in the same mission?
You may wonder what is in it for JBU. Certainly we would welcome the chance to introduce you to our campus and our people, and we would hope that some of your students might consider us as an option in the future. However, more importantly, we know that whatever we can do to strengthen Christian schools will strengthen Christian higher education. We are in this together, and we want to share with you the burdens and the joys of this work. I do hope you consider joining us in June.
All God’s blessings,