“We’re excited about mission first,” said Principal Dave Miskimen who has served at Living Word Lutheran High School (LWLHS) in Jackson, Wis. since it opened its doors in 2001. “This year we’re blessed with a really good mix of super-star new staff and dedicated existing staff. It’s a very talented group.” LWLHS’ mission is to provide quality Christian education for lifelong leadership and service in God's kingdom. Providing a quality education requires many resources. Thanks to investor support, Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) is blessed to partner with LWLHS and many Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod schools to help fund the various needs of a quality Christian education.
“We anticipate that the school should grow. We are being much more intentional about communicating with our community. For so long, we were depending solely on our feeder school programs. Then in late March 2014, we hired Admissions and Marketing director Joshua Steffen who has really been doing his homework in the community, and communicating better with our feeder schools. We’re now telling our story and sharing all the great things that our LWLHS alumni are now doing as adults,” said Miskimen. “If we are ever labeled a ‘best kept secret,’ we should be ashamed.”
The journey to improve school marketing began with looking in the mirror and listening. The principal conducted a simple survey of current stakeholders & collected data from their responses. “From that initial survey, we were able to identify specific themes. When asked, ‘Why did you choose Living Word?’ We heard loud and clear: Living Word is community, opportunity and eternity. Learn more at lwlhs.com/Future-Students/From-the-Principal
The school staff is using their new knowledge to move forward. “We broke ground in May 2014, had the state inspection in August and our 6,000 square foot student center with a remodeled kitchen and a new athletic training room/fitness center. It’s a showpiece for us,” said Miskimen. “Construction was on time and under budget. The student center was fully funded thanks to the generosity of our stakeholders. It’s our hope over time that we can utilize this new addition to reach out to our community and offer possibly seasonal youth fitness camps and more. We’re looking at opportunities to engage our community. We want to further brainstorm ways we can leverage the space and then present those opportunities to our community leaders and businesses.”
LCEF not only provides affordable loan funding but it also provides services such as demographic studies and can be a sponsor of LCMS ministries. An LCEF demographic study helps an organization understand and meet the needs of a community. Understanding and meeting the spiritual and educational needs of a community and being able to reach them directly with a defined message are critical to a ministry plan. When LWLHS leadership was seeking to learn more about their surrounding community and how to better serve needs, they consulted LCEF.
“Living Word Lutheran High School asked for a demographic study that would provide details on families in numerous communities within a range of about 15 miles from the school,” said South Wisconsin District LCEF VP Diana Raasch. “The high school was interested in understanding a variety of needs (religious belief, education, household make-up and much more) in these locations.” In many Lutheran schools, parents are willing to drive a distance in order for their children to benefit from a good Christian education.
“The initial LCEF demographic study was instrumental in our approach to calendared marketing mailings for which we targeted specific zip codes, neighborhoods, and communities,” said Miskimen. “Beyond the mailings, which have had very positive returns, the data led us to discover new sources of ministry partners in the forms of previously unrelated churches, schools, and community organizations.”[M1]
According to Miskimen, during the campus tour with Raasch in the spring, they also discussed athletic signage and LCEF sponsorship. “Our field is not only the host site for LWLHS’ events but we also rent the field to various community programs throughout the year,” said Miskimen. The additional exposure helps raise awareness that LWLHS is indeed a part of the larger Jackson community. In the end, LWLHS focuses on people and reaching souls for Christ. LCEF was blessed to also provide signage as a sponsor of the LWLHS field. The sign was installed in August of 2014[M2] .
LWLHS also has a unique international ministry that they hope to develop further in time. Initially, two or three Chinese students attend classes and graduate from LWLHS in Jackson each year. What began as a collaboration with American University H.S. in Shang Hai http://www.auhs.org/ will now be Living Word H.S. - Shang Hai. Entirely English speaking, the school in Shang Hai uses LWLHS curriculum and mirrors the education and social experience offered at the Jackson campus. Students in China and Jackson collaborate on projects such as the yearbook. “This partnership allows us to expand our mission,” said Miskimen. “We can engage international students and immerse them in our culture. Our teachers are able to integrate our faith into the curriculum. We hope someday for teachers and students to exchange for a unit or three weeks at a time. A group of 8-10 students will be joining me for a trip to LW-Shang Hai as a Winterim course in January. We are excited to visit with our partners and share experiences.” Watch this video online to learn more: http://vimeo.com/98051033.