While we were at BSSM, my wife and I felt strongly that God wanted us to build a school around a team. So when we returned home to Australia in 2018, we prayed about when we would start our school. We felt like 2020 was our launch date, which at the time was a year and a half away. This seemed like an outrageously long time to me, especially as I’d already spent three years at Bethel planning and dreaming.
We clearly felt God on this though, and felt like He was saying that we needed to build upon a healthy team foundation. So despite my desire to take action, we determined to take our time, and to spend a year and a half getting ready. It has been hard, but so very valuable. Below are three things that have stood out to us as a benefit of taking our time.
I definitely do not think there is only one right way to plant a school, but I’ve become increasingly aware how right for us our approach has been. It has gone against nearly every fibre in my being to do it this way, and I’ve had to often remind myself of why we are doing things the way that we are.
On the DISC profile I’m a high D. I’m naturally task-focused, and I’m also very visionary in the way I lead. This means I’m constantly having ideas and I want to get them done straight away. I just want to get things going. That is not how we are launching planting our school though, and despite it being a challenge for me it has been such a rewarding process. I want to share a bit of our journey, and how doing it this way has benefited us. Below are three things that have stood out to us as a benefit of taking our time.
I fully believe that the best foundation to build anything upon is team. The strengths of different personalities, different gifts, and different voices at the table brings multiple perspectives, anointings, and insights we otherwise would not have access to. It makes what we are building bigger, and more robust.
We began praying about who to bring onto our team and approaching the people God highlighted. Some of them we had practically no relationship with, and some we had been journeying with for years. We just approached those God highlighted, trusting He would make the reasoning clearer in time. We did not start with what roles we needed to fill, but just trusted if we had the right people on board it would work out. We brought people on for their hearts rather than for anything specific they could do.
We ended up with a wonderfully diverse team, but only two of them had even visited a supernatural school. They were excited and passionate, but were being asked to help build something that they could not conceptualise. A supernatural school is unique, and when most people hear “ministry school” they think of Bible College, or Seminary, which is decidedly not what we are building. We had to help them get their head around what a supernatural school looks like without them having experienced one, and that took some doing.
We found some brilliant resources, and I just communicated my understanding of the concept a dozen or so times in as many ways as I could think of. A helpful resource we found was Bethel Atlanta’s Podcast – they have an episode where their school director talks in detail about their school and how it works. We also had our team listen to some of the talks from previous BSSM School Planting Equip Summit (previously Converge School Leaders Training) conferences. We even took as many of our team as we could to visit another supernatural ministry school to see how they run their school. The more ways I could find to paint at least a partial picture, the more they were able to see the whole image of what we are building.
The team didn’t have the benefit of spending time in a school, or experiencing the heart journey and growth that happens in such an environment. There is a leadership principle that states “You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself,” and many of our team had not had the opportunity to go to the places we want to take our students.
We began doing homework as a team and learning together. We have done several assignments together at this point, and they’ve helped us create a language for our team. When we speak of honour we have the same framework, because we’ve read and discussed Culture of Honour by Danny Silk. When we speak of being wholehearted, or being free of shame, we have the same concept in mind because we spent time looking at Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection.
The time has also enabled us to grow together as a team. To build healthy relationships as a team, and despite being a pretty diverse bunch, we have a lot of fun together. I genuinely look forward to our meetings, not just because we will be productive, but because these are people I want to spend time with. They are people I love and I’ve chosen. We’ve had hard conversations, we’ve had moments of sharing vulnerably, and we are going to continue doing these things, and growing in unity as a team.
Because we waited, we have been able to build a healthy team foundation, and while I’m sure we could have tried to do many of those things on the fly, it would have been more difficult to establish connection while also dealing with students, planning talks, and all the other fun aspects of school life. Our team are now excited, passionate, able to have difficult conversations, growing in intimacy with God, and have understanding for what we are building, and why.
There are many different approaches schools take in terms of relationship with a local church. Some launch as a ministry under a specific church, some are connected to a few churches, and some operate completely separate. I know from my time with the BSSM School Planting team that they have discovered that the most consistently successful way to set up a school is under the banner of and in relationship with a church. This was always important to my wife and I, and we are connected with a wonderful local church called Overflow Church Medowie. I wanted to not just build the school that was in my heart, but to build the school that was in the church’s heart, and that was an overflow of their values and an expression of their heart.
Of the 15 key leaders in this church, only my wife and I have been to a supernatural school. Similar to the school team, we have had to communicate what a supernatural school looks like over and over. They are all very supportive, but there have been numerous times I’ve thought we had been successful in communicating the concept only to hear someone explain it in a way that made me realise we need to try again. This is an ongoing process for us, but one that I think we are making ground on.
We want the whole church to buy into this, not just as a potential opportunity for themselves, but something they can be advocating for as an opportunity for others, and this has to start with the church leadership team. They can only really buy in if they know what the vision is.
The other real benefit of having this year and a half to prepare is we are able to have a lot of conversations with the senior leaders of the church. We have a great relationship with those leaders, but the reality is both a school environment and the process students go through is a beautiful mess, and sometimes before a mess looks beautiful it just looks like a mess.
We need our senior leaders to trust us when things look like a mess, and less beautiful, and we need to be able to trust them. Trust rarely is instant, it’s something you build, so we continue to meet regularly, and have hard conversations. We push, and get pushed back on, and our relationship grows more robust, and deeper as we grow in our understanding of their hearts, and they in ours.
A Plan for Growth
The last benefit of building slowly is that it has enabled us to plan for growth, and to plan for the long term. I do not know how many students will apply for our first year of school. We are opening our admissions in the next couple of weeks, but I honestly am not sure what kind of numbers we will end up with. I know that the following year, though, will be bigger than the first, and the third will again be bigger, and I know that because we’ve created a plan for that. We have had the time to get into the fiddly details.
When the students arrive on day one we will have some talks to plan, but other than that we are going to be able to be focused primarily on the students, and on what Holy Spirit is doing, because we have a plan. There may still be some building the plane while we are flying it, but I only want that to be in terms of us finding areas that our specific students need to grow in. I don’t want to have to figure out what our missions trip looks like, what our homework looks like, what happens if students don’t turn up to class on time as we go. That sounds stressful, and would likely split our focus.
We want to build something sustainable. I may not be here in five years time.
We want to build something that outlasts us, and something that can be passed on to the next school directors.
We are doing our best to plan with processes in mind that will support longevity. I could just do student interviews myself and wing the questions. I’m really good at one on one meetings, and would easily get to the core of the things we want to know, but me doing everything myself is not sustainable, and does not help whoever leads the environment after me. Having this time has enabled us to develop and organize things like interview questions, admissions process, and other aspects. It will be an ongoing process for us, but one that I hope will set whoever leads the environment next up to succeed.
As I said at the beginning, I don’t think there is one right way to set up a supernatural school. I just know that doing it over a period of time, while uncomfortable, has been the healthiest plan for us. We launch in January of 2020, and I’m sure we will be in for some surprises, but I’m also confident our team and church have the strength and unity to handle the things that arise because God gave us this gift of time to prepare.