Happy second week of Advent, everyone, and thanks to all who attended “The Spirit at Petra” event last Thursday night. For those who could not attend, here’s a quick overview (watch for future posts taking a “deeper dive” into the three questions and responses mentioned below).
“The Spirit at Petra” began our school-wide enrollment push by pointing out the larger calling for our school. Our primary points of focus and concern are, of course, the education, character development, and support of our students and families. Our calling is bigger than that, however: a classical Christian school serving the larger community of Christians in the Gallatin Valley who benefit from Christian institutions like Petra.
The classical approach empowers students to study, practice, and live out the diverse calling for faithful Christians in the 21st century. A classical Christian school also empowers parents and families of students to be involved in a uniquely “missional” relationship with their neighborhoods, churches, towns, and larger region. As a school that values intellectual development, excellence in academics, athletics, and arts, and building strong, virtuous character, our classical education should be a bright light that draws Christians and other people of goodwill into this challenging and rewarding performance of the Christian vision of the Good Life.
Because we consider improved enrollment a unique kind of invitation, Interim Headmaster Sam Koenen and I aimed at this goal: Parents leaving the “Spirit At Petra” meeting should be better able to energetically and effectively explain why they send their kids to Petra and invite other families to join this community.
With that in mind, we recognized the difficulty of communicating to others exactly what makes Petra wonderfully different and good for our students and families. Rather than beginning with detailed discussions of the Trivium or the benefits of Latin for young minds (however worthy and important those are!), we suggested a simple first step: begin by telling the story of your family. Tell neighbors, church friends, and co-workers:
- how and why you came to know about Petra and enroll your kids here
- what your initial struggles were and how you overcame them (and what support did you get from teachers and staff)
- what fruits you have seen from this approach to educating and forming character
As part of each of our unique stories, we want to stress that we are inviting people to participate in the humility, wonder, faith, hope, and love at the heart of our claim that Petra Academy creates strong minds, soft hearts, and rich souls. Those words and phrases can help people recognize classical Christian education as an exciting and counter-cultural adventure—one that trains leaders for every vocation and calling.
As you can read on the back of the beautiful “Invitation Tips Card” (created by new Operations Manager, Mr. Wilmoth, and available in hard copy at our front desk), I finished my remarks by addressing three questions and responses commonly heard when we discuss Petra. Some version of each question will probably sound familiar to anyone who has tried to explain what’s so great about our school:
I will focus more on each of these questions and our responses in future articles, but please take a minute now to think through the short and concentrated responses suggested on the card. If you can think of ways you might incorporate some of those ideas, words, and images, we believe we will be on the right path for improving enrollment and better matching Petra’s reputation to the reality we all see and enjoy every day.
We concluded the meeting with long-time Petra parent Jessica MacDonald and her excellent example of telling her family’s story, followed by Mr. Koenen’s presentation of recent survey data showing the ongoing effects of classical Christian education on the commitment to service and faithfulness of graduates. More to come!