Letter from the Principal: Purpose
Letter From the Principal 3.27.18 (Click to read the full letter)
I attended a course on marketing some time ago. I wanted to learn more about promoting Tri-City Christian Academy to the families in our communities. The class met one afternoon per week for several weeks. I believe it was subsidized by some government grant at no cost to the participating small business owners, managers, non-profit leaders, and entrepreneurs in our community. Attendees included a restaurant owner, a lawyer, a story teller (seriously), a caretaker for horses, a few miscellaneous contractors, and even a Christian school principal (me). We were all hoping to learn better ways of marketing and presenting our respective businesses and organizations to potential customers and clients.
One home assignment was to devise what our instructor termed our “elevator speech.” This was to be an accurate thirty to sixty-second promotional narrative summary of our business, which could be informally and quickly conveyed to someone we might meet unexpectedly during our normal day-to-day activity. We could write it out, but we had to present it before the class without notes. As a professional educator, I may have been more prepared for the possibility of homework than the others, but I still found this particular assignment daunting.
How could I express what Tri-City Christian Academy offers in less than one minute? And how could I frame this information for an audience composed of, at best, mildly curious listeners, who very likely may not be self-consciously Christian? Maybe even for an audience of non-believers? Including some of those elevated phrases from our school’s Mission Statement and from our Westminster Shorter Catechism did not seem appropriate. And certainly, there wouldn’t be sufficient time to summarize biblical covenant history from Genesis to Revelation! Try putting all you do, or all your organization does, into a one-minute elevator speech sometime, and you may experience something of my dilemma.
I began to think of the essential need our school meets in our community. Why do we exist? This had to be succinct and in language an irreligious non-bible thumper could quickly grasp. After thirty years’ experience, I certainly was aware that many of our families often come to us for reasons different from our central purpose – “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” That kind of phrasing certainly wasn’t going to pass muster in today’s highly secularized, largely illiterate, and pervasively humanistic culture. But why do we exist? What essential need do we fill? The answer had to be presented in terms our public could readily grasp. And it had to be good. And, one more thing, it had to be true. No fluff.
After some prayerful reflection, it came to me. So many young people today seem very unhappy. So many become involved with drugs and other forms of self-destructive behavior. So many even tragically end their own lives. I believe they lack a sense of purpose. Public education and our entire superficial culture fail to provide this sense of purpose to them. Brokenness so often characterizes their home lives. The prevailing bankrupt philosophies of hedonism, existentialism, and nihilism surround them while they crave true meaning and significance. The children need a sense of purpose.
That’s what Tri-City Christian Academy does. That’s the “market” need we attempt to meet. We provide our children with a sense of transcendent purpose. Purpose! We can summarize that message in sixty seconds if we must, but hopefully we’ll have many opportunities to convey it again and again over twelve or more years. Then we really can guide our students to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I think a movie line by Al Pacino applies here: “Always tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.”