Do you want to start a school of Theology? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a school of Theology with NO money and no experience.

A school of Theology offers an educational platform to persons interested in acquiring theological education. These institutions may also offer further theological training to practicing ministers, who would like to offer quality services to their local churches. When planning to start this business, you have to approach it like any other profit oriented business. First you will have to conduct a detailed market research to ascertain the level of competition and all necessary details that will help you achieve your business goals. You will have to register your school as an entity.

You can register the school as a business or a corporation; this is the first step that will ensure that you can transact your business such as paying your staff and receiving school fees. You can also meet with an attorney to advise you on the registration process. You should also get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) also referred to as a federal Tax Identification Number to identify your school as a business entity. You can apply online by visiting the International Revenue Service (IRS).

You will also need to consider the church with which you will liaise. Have it in mind that every church has its own leadership and rules on how things are done. It’s very important that you find out the church’s requirements for starting a school of theology. The denomination with which you’ll liaise will guide the curriculum that you will develop for the school. Also note that you need to get accredited in order to gain public’s faith in your institution; getting accredited shows the public that your school has met all required standards. You can do this through the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), an authority for handling accreditation for Bible colleges.

The ABHE will measure your institution’s self-analytical process against the set standards in order to accredit it. You will also need to set your school’s admission requirements and the tuition fee you will charge. You can research other school of theologies in order to understand the basic requirements and tuition fees, and use that as a basis to make your decision. Do not forget to set a curriculum according to the standard set.

Though you’ll find standard subjects, you can develop niche subjects that will make your school competitive. Do not forget to choose a suitable location for your school and fulfill all required laws of your state. Develop marketing strategies that will avail your school to your target audience.

18 Steps on How to Start a School of Theology

1. Understand the Industry

The general Educational Services Industry is made up of institutions that provide instruction and training on a wide variety of subjects. These institutions, including schools, colleges, universities and training centres, are either privately or publicly owned. Private institutions may be further classified as “for-profit” or “not-for-profit”. This industry is widely considered a counter-cyclical industry. This is because when the economy is doing poorly and unemployment is rising, more working adults, as their career prospects start to dim, decide to upgrade their education.

This without doubt leads to higher enrollment and increased profit at the schools. Note that traditional undergraduate education for young students is generally non-cyclical. Culinary arts schools, however, can be labelled as moderately cyclical. Reports also have it that certain types of educational institutions do perform largely in sync with the broader economy. There is a growth element to this industry. Education companies are reporting a trend of rising demand from working adults. More and more employers are requiring college degrees for a greater range of jobs. Statistics has shown that enrollment rates are tracking higher at most schools. To an 18-year old, thinking about the future, or a 30-year old without a college degree, looking for a career boost, diplomas are becoming the standard rather than the exception.

It’s very important to state that schools are seeing improving enrollment rates in both the traditional and online formats. Experts believe that traditional schooling caters to young students that have just graduated from high school, and online instruction is more tailored to working adults who choose to attend classes at evenings or during weekends. Web classes typically carry higher margins than the traditional classroom setting, since professors can connect to a significantly larger number of students and there are no direct brick-and-mortar costs.

The advent of technology and globalization also augurs well for the industry. Due to global outsourcing, there is increasing pressure on workers in developed countries to enhance their skills. You need to understand there are two other important trends running in the industry’s favour. With the United States swiftly transiting from a manufacturing-based economy to one heavily dependent on the service sector, for-profit educators stand to gain from offering courses in information technology, healthcare and business management. And, companies have the opportunity to tap an enormous under-educated segment of the world population.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

Demographics and Psychographics

This type of business is best for an individual who is passionate about education and loves God wholeheartedly, but a successful owner of a school of theology needs to also possess the skillset required to run a business. Also, the owner of a school of theology needs to have the desire to work with individuals from a wide range of cultural and sociological backgrounds.

Due to the nature of the business, most schools are open until late at night seven days a week, as this allows students to work or attend school during the day. Therefore, being able to keep a flexible schedule is a must. One good reason people attend school of theology is the relationships they stand to build with other students, professors, and administrators. Attending school of theology makes them part of a vast network of school of theology alumni, and so the possibilities for finding a pastoral position increase drastically.

School of theology and divinity schools will have some sort of placement service to assist them in finding a position upon graduation. Also for individuals interested in attending graduate school in any type of theological or related discipline, school of theology can be an excellent place to gain further preparation. Contrary to what many people might think, one does not need to have studied theology or a related discipline as an undergraduate to prepare for school of theology.

3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On

For anyone interested in theology or ministry, school of theology is an incredible place to learn a wide variety of subjects. During school of theology, you will take some courses which you could decide to specialize in as a niche in this business. Having a designated niche gives you the advantage of directing your marketing and business orientation to a specific target audience. It gives you the advantage of competing favourably with the big boys in the business. These niches may include;

  • biblical studies
  • biblical languages
  • systematic theology
  • historical theology
  • church history
  • philosophy
  • pastoral counselling
  • homiletics
  • practical ministry

Level of Competition in the School of Theology Business

Businesses in this industry adhere closely to the Higher Education Act. Compliance with the Act is very important to maintain accreditation; it provides the ability to operate in various states. Accreditation allows a school’s students to apply for financial aid under Title IV (low income) of the Act, the Pell Grant, and the G.I. Bill. Note that this is very crucial since a good number of students receive some sort of aid. Also note that the Act, and other regulations, has been fairly successful in shutting down and prohibiting “diploma mills”, thus ensuring a fairly high overall quality of instruction.

Have it in mind that competition among these schools for prospective students is growing rapidly. Report has it that barriers to entry in this industry are significant. Indeed it is very expensive for a potential market entrant to build a school from scratch. This is because a start-up phase can be difficult, especially without a substantial government-supported student base. You should also note that IT investment can be complex and quite costly, particularly for online operations. A lot of things, especially financial constraints can limit a school’s ability to expand. Most schools choose to tap the equity market, when their share prices are at elevated levels, rather than issue debt.

There are a lot of things to consider when investing in individual companies in the Educational Services Industry. Also note that favourable new-student stats and high conversion rates (from inquiries to enrolment) are good indicators of a company’s prospects. Note that schools that have tapped or have plans to enter emerging markets will likely have a “first-mover” advantage and solid long-term growth potential.

Institutions that have a sizeable mix of top-quality online business can better lever expanding demand at the bottom line. Report has it that the industry is susceptible to “headline” risk. This simply means that an adverse ruling or even just the hint of an investigation from the U.S. Department of Education can cause a sharp reduction in valuation. Such problems are frequently the result of inadequate compliance or misleading enrolment figures. If news breaks that a particular company is under investigation for reporting irregularities, its stock, and those of its peers, could be affected.

4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry

  • Asbury Theological seminary
  • Boston University School of technology
  • Corban University
  • Dallas Theological seminary
  • Duke divinity school
  • Fuller Theological seminary
  • Knox Theological seminary
  • Liberty Baptist Theological seminary
  • Moody Bible Institute
  • Oral Roberts University
  • Princeton Theological seminary

Economic Analysis

Most students who enroll in Schools of theology in the US are out of school and working. A School of theology makes money by charging students for classes. Some schools charge students for each lesson they attend and students at other schools pay for a set time period. Most Schools of theology have multiple pricing tiers based on the number of students in a class, the level of instruction, or the time when the students attend classes. A School of theology can start with a single owner who is also the instructor.

Do not get discouraged because a lot of small, independent schools start off this way. Then as a school builds up its student base, the owner can hire more instructors and staff members. Also note that Schools of theology which are able to enroll foreign students directly are very popular these days. Unfortunately, it takes up to two years to become qualified as one of these “I-20” schools, and a school must be certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in the US.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch         

Starting a school of theology from the scratch is no doubt a bad idea when compared to acquiring a franchise. A franchise school of theology will be able to offer credible advice on a suitable location for your business, how to market to clients and what kinds of teachers to hire. A franchise company will also help you get the certifications you need to offer specified theological studies.

You should also consider the benefit that comes with the years of marketing exposure and experience a franchise school of Theology Company brings to the table. This it is believed can also help your company to be more recognizable to potential clients. A franchise school of theology training company will help you keep your costs under control while offering you a proven name in the training industry. Other benefits or reasons to consider buying a school of theology franchise are…

  • Brand recognition and marketing support
  • Working with a proven business model
  • Building for the Future with Fulfilling Work
  • Support for Yourself While You Support Others

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

It’s very important that you understand that schools must start small and build slowly. Over expansion can easily force a school to close. Schools should not offer extremely low-cost, long-term classes as a way to attract students. Experts believe that this marketing technique can easily find schools filling their classrooms, but losing money in the end. Also note that it is not advisable to make guarantees about academic improvements or minimum test scores. Most importantly, schools need to do all they can to keep students happy. Have it in mind that one unhappy student can ruin a class and cause other students not to sign up for additional classes. Here are the few challenges of Starting a school of theology;

  • Putting up an excellent curriculum
  • Employing good teachers
  • Developing a suitable marketing strategy
  • Registering your school of theology

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Best legal entity for a School of theology in the United States

In this business, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to decide how your school and your finances will be managed. Deciding the best legal entity for your business will be one of the most important decisions you have to make as an entrepreneur. Since your business is a platform where you will be working with individual students and probably a huge client base, we strongly suggest that you incorporate your business as a legal body because it may be difficult for you to get finances if you are running the business as a private individual, not a corporate firm. Advantages incorporating your business include…

  • Excellent Business’ Credibility
  • Perpetual Existence
  • boost anonymity
  • Protecting your personal assets
  • Have Easier Access to Capital

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below

  • Bible legends
  • Precision Academy
  • Spiritual World
  • School of Teachings
  • Tertiary Education
  • Sound minds
  • Spiritual Point
  • Solomon Learning
  • Premium centre
  • The Study Shack
  • Pastors’ crib
  • Ministry Approach
  • ACE centre
  • Lively school of theology

9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

It’s advisable that you first create a solid business plan from a detailed research of the industry, that states your risks as a business owner and how you plan to cover those risks.  It’s very important that you understand that not all of your risks as a business owner can be covered simply by purchasing a basic insurance policy. This is why it’s very necessary that you note what your business risks are before looking for ways to mitigate them. You should consider speaking with an attorney or even an insurance professional. The risks for a school of theology business can be very huge because of the exposures involved with your business activities. But then there are a number of risk management controls you can put in place:

Standard Agreements for Vendors

  • Recall Plan
  • Vendor Certification Process
  • Quality Control Program
  • Obtaining Customer signatures on each phase of the project
  • Privacy Statement
  • Information Security Policy (you can find some great templates for Information Security policies on SANS website)
  • Customer Contract Revision Provisions
  • Standard Customer Contracts

Insurance you will need may include;

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Commercial Auto Liability Insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

In this age of technological advancement and intense competition in every walk of life, filing for intellectual property protection for your school of theology is not just about protecting your school’s logo and other documents, but also protecting your investments, patents and of course the name of your school. If you want to file for intellectual property protection and also register your trademark in the United States, then you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO.

11. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

You will need to register your business with the IRS. Have it in mind that all businesses are advised apply for an EIN (employee identification number) on the IRS website. This process is free and the application can be submitted online. Your EIN is needed for filing for a business license. Don’t forget that the exact process and requirements for applying for business license vary from state to state, which is why we suggest you contact your local business authority for details on how to register your school of theology business with your state.

Also note that some states may need you to have special certifications or permits; however, other states, such as South Carolina, do not. These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own school of theology business in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License and Certification
  • Business Plan
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document

12. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Adequate funding is a must in this business if you plan to succeed in this endeavour. As the owner of a business it falls on you to make sure that your business doesn’t die slowly due to financial constraints. The more reason you should consider raising funds from investors or by getting a loan from a commercial lender. Have it in mind when working with a lender that the money must be paid back at some point. If you bring on investors, your future profits must be shared. Don’t forget that both investors and lenders will ask for a copy of your business plan before they will think about giving you money. Ways to finance your school of theology may include…

  • Applying for loan from your bank
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
  • Debt Financing
  • Personal savings
  • Raising money from investors and business partners

13. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

The issue of location is one that cannot be overlooked especially in a business that involves the transfer of knowledge. The best location for your school should be a place where the size, layout, location and appearance would go a long way to boost your school’s operations while respecting zoning and environmental regulations. Have it in mind that business locations and facilities come in variety of shapes, locations and prices, which is why you need to know what your needs are and how much you can afford to pay. If you’ve worked on a business plan, you should be able to specify the amount you can spend on rent or a mortgage, utilities and taxes. A cash-flow analysis should be able to help you know if you can afford to buy a commercial property or if renting is your only option. Things to consider when choosing a suitable location for your school of theology include;

  • If it’s the right location
  • Does it need modification?
  • Tax and infrastructure
  • Allowing for future expansion
  • Separate your needs from your wants

14. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

In this type of business, employing qualified teachers can be a significant challenge for you, but have it in mind that good qualified staff is key to any schools success. To be able to help learners succeed and take responsibility for their learning, school of theology staff should be able to encourage students, and to offer reasonable and ethical support that is mindful of students’ privacy. It’s very important to state that the ideal staff for this business must be intrinsically motivated to help and lead others through their learning process patiently. Agreeably it can be very hard to find individuals with the necessary people and technical skills to teach in a school of theology, yet preference should be given to selecting staff who display above-average people skills; technical skills such as handling software and hardware may often be taught more easily.

It’s advisable that you build your team depending upon your needs. Ideally, your teachers should be able to focus one hundred percent on preparing and delivering classes, while other staff members handle advertising the school and registering new students. In addition, it is often necessary to hire staff members who are able to speak the native languages of your students.

Teaching to a very large extent is a talent, not a skill that is learned at school. Teachers can be said to be excellent if they can get their points across to their audience, and if the students learn enough to acquire a new skill. In a school of theology, the knowledge level of your students range from the ignorant to those with background but wish to learn more, the more reason you have to employ good teachers that have the skill to deal with different kinds of students.

Another thing you have to consider extensively is the issue of rent. The amount you must pay depends on your market. In the case of a School of theology, most schools are located in large metro areas because that is where the potential students live. These are the same places where rent can be higher than normal. Labour is also a huge cost you should take your time to plan for. Instructors are usually paid based on the number of hours they teach each week. This allows schools to more easily control the cost for instructors. Instructors are usually paid within $25 to $50 per hour. Office staff typically receive a lower wage than teachers, but they still earn above minimum wage. A lot of the office staff involved with sales earn the bulk of their salary through commissions. Another large expense is purchasing the curriculum and extracurricular activities like teaching materials. Note that supplies cost will differ according to the number of students you have enrolled at each course level.

Service process

You need to understand that it takes the core knowledge of how people learn to create a suitable learning design for your school, and it deserves a lot of time and care. Agreeably finding a suitable process of learning for your school of theology might be a very daunting task but it’s not impossible.

Have a definite goal

You need to understand the solution in terms of optimizing learning, the users’ expectations, the client’s business requirements, and your own constraints. This includes the following:

  • Time and money constraints on design, development, testing, and dissemination
  • Life expectancy of the document and maintenance requirements
  • Distribution channel(s)
  • Level of multimedia
  • Level of interactivity
  • Business goals and learning objectives
  • The minimal school of theology goals for target users
  • Available authoring tools and multimedia learning tools

Set the users’ experience

You should envisage the old-fashioned model of the user as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. Determine the following:

  • Appropriate mood to support the purpose and appeal to the users (mood can be reflected in tone, graphics, colours, and fonts)
  • Prerequisite knowledge you can expect from your users
  • Big-picture learning goals of the project
  • Specific and observable learning objectives the users must reach
  • Measurements your client will use to consider whether the training is successful
  • Size of the average learning module
  • Whether users should go through the modules in a predetermined sequence or access individual modules as needed
  • How users will navigate from one module to the next

Design and test

Never assume you know your users’ preferences. Most schools of theology learning processes are complex, cognitive and psychological. This can be slightly different for everyone. A sampling of users will help to guide your decisions. Have it in mind that the purpose of a good design is to prevent frustrating and wasteful rewrites.

  • Create a storyboard for one module, proposing a “look-and-feel” for the CBT.
  • Get feedback from target users and buy-in from all stakeholders.
  • Make a paper or school of theology-generated prototype of each section, representing the navigation elements.
  • Test the prototype with target users and get feedback from them as well as buy-in from stakeholders.
  • Make a prototype of each section.
  • Once again, get feedback from users and buy-in from stakeholders.

15. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies

Marketing strategies for a School of theology

It is a good idea to market a School of theology to potential students in their native languages. It’s always advisable that you create brochures advertising your school in the languages of a few of the most popular groups of immigrants in your area. Then make contact with organizations which serve these communities, such as churches, social clubs, and associations. It’s also very important that you create an effective online presence for your school of theology. Go for some social media campaign. Other things that might help you achieve marketing success include…

  • Determine conditions for success
  • Know the amount people who are willing to pay
  • Create partnerships
  • Find managers
  • Differentiate service

16. Develop an Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

A school of theology can be advertised via more traditional means, such as a professional website, advertisements in local newspapers and on television, etc. Have it in mind that your ideal clients or students will likely favour online browsing and interaction, and you are likely to make just as much of an impact by creating a social media presence online and allowing word of mouth to help you advertise. Also note that word of mouth is very important in this business especially if you’re trying to reach private clients or students: creating a lively relationship with churches in your area can also be a huge plus to your business.

  • Conduct Free Value-Driven Webinars
  • Create branded pdf reports
  • Refer Service to Get Services In Return
  • Give 100% Commission on a Front End service

17. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

Offering potential students free trial lessons to give them a taste of your school is pretty standard. It is also important to keep the quality of education high enough to prevent students from feeling like they are wasting their time and money. Ensure your teachers focus their classes on presenting useful skills and knowledge in a fun and interesting way.

  • Let students know what you’re doing for them
  • Focus on becoming a dependency
  • Listen to them
  • Keep your eyes open for external environment changes
  • Know your weakness
  • Set and meet students’ expectations
  • Nail the first impression
  • Always be adding value
  • Improve competitive advantage
  • Build ‘sticky’ customer loyalty

18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

Have it in mind that your business’ key to success is solely dependent on how happy your students are, and the only way in gaining more students is more advertising. In addition to the previously-mentioned advertising via print, television, social media, and networking with local churches and community centres, you might consider offering free workshops or seminars at local schools and colleges. Note that this will go a long way in helping you advertise your school and demonstrate your value to potential customers. You should also consider guest publishing on educational blogs or blogs related to your field, it will indeed help you become more of an established name when someone is looking for more specialized instruction. Other things to bear in mind may include;

  • Motivate your students
  • Employ two-stage implementation process
  • Develop entrepreneurial skills
  • Use open educational resources
Ajaero Tony Martins