Marketing IS Education IS Evangelization

As I travel and visit different schools, speak with different administrators, and hear from different parents, I believe it’s not only a blessing to be able to offer ways to assist them, but to share information assimilated from wherever I visit. Two items stand out as “top of mind” this week:

1) In Catholic schools, Financial Aid may not be offered to non-Catholic students, and routinely, non-Catholics pay a higher tuition than “the Catholic rate;” and
2) Marketing advice that’s given which is non-confrontational to school administration and pastors that shepherd their church or parish.

Hopefully, you’ve already read the Marketing IS Education article on this site. If not, type “Marketing is Education” (including the quotes) in the search box in the right column of this site. If so, you know that marketing is nothing more than the pedagogy of the educational process put into a business framework. One teacher I spoke with who has an MBA and a Master of Education degree said he realized the same thing. It’s not unknown; it’s just uncommon.  That teachers usually don’t continue their education to get an MBA, and those with an MBA aren’t usually going to go back to school to be a teacher.

But, bringing the same thought process into a religious context, it’s usually the ordained that are charged with preparing homilies and materials to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Newsflash – if you’re a baptized Christian, it’s OUR job to “Go and do likewise” (I have that phrase mounted on the dashboard of my car)!

Like the first Apostles, however, we may be afraid to do so.  If that’s the case, it may help to remember that “Apostle” means “one who teaches;” it is a mark of the Church (that’s you and me) to teach – to be “apostolic” (in addition to “one, holy, and catholic (meaning universal)).

Of course, the best way to evangelize is by example. A quotation attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Even the 1960’s anthem, “They’ll Know We Are Christians” speaks to this, as actions speak louder than words.

But say it is necessary to use words. What words do we use? Remember that Christ told us to not worry about what to say, for He will give us the words to say when we are in need of them.

In that light, how is not providing financial aid to non-Catholics that want their children to be educated in our schools congruent with our baptismal call? It isn’t. Remember the parable of the Wedding Feast.  It those invited do not come to the table, then it’s up to us to search the highways and byways and bring in others so that the banquet is a celebration.

You want your school to be a celebration, too, right? That brings us to point number 2…

A recent marketing presentation I saw spoke of ways to market your school for free. The main 3 points were:
1) Provide information to the sending Churches so it can be made available to parents coming to Church;
2) Pulpit talks from the pastor or from parents, and sometimes, the students themselves can provide the witness; and
3) A special section of the bulletin dedicated to what’s happening at the school that week or in the upcoming weeks.

You know, that’s great if you have an abundance of 25-39 year olds who come to Mass or Sunday Services and hang out in the Narthex. Let’s see a show of hands where that’s happening…

Hmmm….

While it may be good place to start, it certainly can’t end there. If we’re looking “To teach as Jesus did,” let’s take a look at what He did. Did He go to the Temple? Yes – and his mother and father scolded Him for leaving them. Did He go to the Synagogue? Yes – and he was run out of there because they thought He was possessed by a demon. So – where did he speak the Good News?

– On a mountain
– In a boat
– In the streets of the cities He visited
– In the homes of the people He visited
– By the lake

Do you see a pattern here? He even cured the sick on the Sabbath! Such a radical! If we’re followers of Jesus, then we are called to “Go and do likewise.”  Here are a few ideas for starters:

– Word of mouth – parents who are raving fans about your school are your most effective evangelists
– Good information in places where 25-39 year old moms “wait” and “hang out” – Gyms, Supermarkets, Hair and Nail Salons and Doctors’ Offices.
– Invitations to “Come and see” – Invite people to your school for events, for tours, for plays, for basketball games. Just get them in your building and show them around. If they don’t have children or grandchildren, they might know someone who does, or could contribute to help continue the good work you’re doing. Get their name, address, and email, and ask if you can put them on your mailing list. If you don’t have a mailing list for your monthly eNewsletter, start one – one that’s geared to the successes experienced by your students and your school.

Here’s a radical thought.  Many schools tout the fact that they are a “Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.” Unfortunately, that’s an expectation of parents who are thinking about an educational environment for their children. Such a title is really a Retention strategy, and not an “Enrollment” one, reminding parents of current students why they should continue to choose your school as a preferred and privileged educational environment.

Note that all those strategies mentioned above require actions to take place “outside” your school building. You can’t lower the nets and prepare for a large catch if you “stay home.”  You have to get out into the deep water.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2013 (Original Publication Date: 20090209)