The Triple Bottom Line in Education

Part Two of an M3 Journey

A few weeks ago, we featured the first part of an interview with Susie Brooks, Ed. D., founder and President of Veritas Academy in Chisago City, Minnesota. This week, we pick up where we left off in our conversation, as Susie shares how God’s miraculous provision has enabled them to see the triple bottom line increasingly accomplished in their enterprise. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

M3 Weekly: We talk about the triple bottom line of Making Disciples, Making a Profit, and Making a Difference. You’ve described how you wanted the children in your school to be discipled, you wanted to make a difference by having rigorous academics, and you also wanted it to be a good business. What kind of challenges have you faced in aiming for the triple bottom line in the school?

Susie Brooks, Ed. D.: It looks so good on paper – to pursue the triple bottom line – but to actually execute it is always challenging. I’ll touch on each of them very briefly.

Making Disciples

Regarding making disciples, it’s been easy and it’s been difficult.

It’s been easy because I had a good understanding of what it meant to become a disciple of Christ. The challenge is that you can’t make a disciple without someone being interested in being a disciple.

One thing we learned was to remain faithful even when you don’t see things happening. We started our school in very difficult circumstances. But we started by praying – praying for people, praying for the land – and building relationships.

And what we discovered was that the discipleship piece of our work was more than students. God started bringing us people in the community, parents, and supporters . . . and more of the fruit has been in the community. We began to realize that the school may just be a vehicle for a bigger vision of transforming a community one family at a time.

Making a Difference

Making a Difference is also something that began to happen even though we didn’t see it. We weren’t thinking about that aspect – we hadn’t heard about the triple bottom line. But people [in the community] heard about us, and we started to have opportunities to be involved in decision-making to help transform the community.

At first, the township wanted to get rid of us. But we prayed that we would even eventually become friends with those who opposed us. Eventually, the township actually invited me to be part of the very zoning commission that had opposed us. God was positioning us to make a difference, and God put the whole thing together in his own way.

Making a Profit

This has been the greatest challenge. But we feel that we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are far from where we want to be, but God has been faithful and every year we are shocked by how God has provided. We are recognizing that it takes a long time to establish a business.

In our situation, we had zero startup funds. Not a little. Zero.

We had to raise every penny, including funds for postage stamps to send a donor letter. That’s been exhausting, that’s been difficult, that’s been hard. We’ve been discouraged many times and we’ve wanted to give up. But God has kept us going.

Recently, God has brought somebody to us who has a strong business background. Having somebody come and walk alongside us and help us, and actually believe in what we are doing, has been such a morale booster because we’re not feeling so alone anymore. He has brought other people and opened our eyes to other ways, so we’re beginning to feel like maybe we can actually reach that goal. We’re looking forward to good things, but that’s been the hardest area for us.

M3W: It’s so helpful for you to share the reality of that. In a missional enterprise, “financial stability” is not a confidence in our bank account. We may be blessed with some resources, but our stability always has to be the knowledge that God is with us and is leading us, and everything is in his hands.

SB: That’s so true. And we’ve seen God do miraculous things. Most schools don’t start up with their own building. Most start out renting and their facilities costs are very high. God has blessed us with two properties. Most people don’t loan money to non-profits but we were blessed and God provided a loan for the first building. And the second building, which was an $8.5M building when we got it, we received mortgage-free!

M3W: Finally, what advice do you have for someone aspiring to build, or just beginning to build, a missional enterprise?

SB: That’s really tough because my story is not one that I’d recommend!

I don’t recommend starting with zero dollars!

That’s not how I intended to start – I had other plans, but God had his own plans.

What helped me was knowing that God had really called me to do this. It’s important to do everything you can to be sure that you are doing what God is calling you to do. Because when the going gets tough you are going to need that assurance that it’s not just you wanting to do something. I’ve been tested many times, and I’ve had to go back to the Lord many times and tell him that if I’m not where you want me to be, I will stop right now because I don’t want to be just doing my own thing.

M3W: Everyone’s experience will look different, but for you, what did it look like to have that confidence in your calling?

SB: God used several things. First of all, he gave me a restlessness. I prayed a lot about it and consulted several people. God provided several people to help guide me in my thinking. I spent quite a bit of time – it was a two-year journey of allowing him to speak in his word and not rushing into it. I invested time in praying and fasting. I cried out to God and it eventually became clear. You are right that everyone’s experience will look different, but for me, it’s always been important to invest a significant period of time praying and seeking the Lord, and talking to people as well  – people I trust who are also going to be praying and seeking the Lord.

Even with that, I know that I could still be wrong, so I keep seeking the Lord to be sure that this is still the right path. Sometimes I want to say I’m 100% sure, but I feel like there is also a healthy doubt. It’s a process of continually seeking and asking.

Verse(s) of the Week:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV)

Let’s allow these words of Jesus and the testimony of Susie to encourage us to keep seeking and asking the Father this week in every area of life, including our enterprises.

Share your thoughts