Wanted: Leaders who can walk on water

By: Ron Hoch

I once heard a conference speaker say that after reading the job description for a school leadership position, he was shocked that it didn’t end with, “Must be able to walk on water.” So much went into the role and so much was expected of the person who filled it, that you would think no one other than Jesus could handle the job. I could see his point. I know first-hand that the role of the Christian school leader is uniquely challenging.

For starters, we deal with three of the most significant facets in a family’s life on a daily basis: their faith, their children, and their money. This combination is ripe for difficulty and requires a special sensitivity. On top of that, we school leaders are expected to understand — and often oversee — a complex array of issues: from finance to human resources, legal compliance, pedagogy, student discipline, fundraising, facilities maintenance, school culture and much more. While larger schools will have the ability to designate specific staff to focus on a single area, smaller schools must make do with a handful of people to oversee multiple domains each. Regardless of the size of a school, division heads and Heads of School need to be at least conversant in every one of these spheres in order to properly execute the responsibilities of their positions.

While I don’t think that Jesus is the only person qualified to be a school leader, it is rare (if not impossible) to find someone who can truly excel in all of these areas. That’s why we need high-functioning TEAMS of qualified leaders in Christian schools. We need our school leaders to be actively engaged in learning with and learning from their colleagues who have different strengths and weaknesses than their own. But we all know that in the midst of the demands of the day-to-day it can be hard to prioritize these sorts of relationships. So, to the one who asks, “How can you afford to take the time to do that?” I would reply with “How can you afford not to?” If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a Head of School, it’s that this kind of leadership cannot be handled alone. I’m thankful that I’ve had people like Matt Thomas, Erik Ellefsen, and Jon Eckert, and, more broadly, the Baylor Center for School Leadership to help show me the way. I’ve been blessed by how they facilitate collective leadership, offer valuable resources for folks like me, and provide numerous opportunities to connect with and learn from others in my position. 

Throughout remainder of this year, I hope you’ll make the time to build relationships with other school leaders. There’s much to be learned from how others approach the challenges they face in their respective schools. And to the extent that Baylor CSL can help with that, I encourage you to join in their meaningful work, as well. However, you go about it, the time spent investing in mutually beneficial relationships and sharing insights with each other will not be wasted. Of that I am confident. Many blessings on the 2022-23 school year!

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