As Pastor Carlos Leyrer sees it, more and more parents are taking ownership of their children’s education. They’re doing that by looking at academically challenging private schools offering a safe place to learn all with the underpinning of a Christian education. In the case of Divine Savior Ministries, the organization’s continuing growth is testament to the pastor’s thinking.
Pastor came to Miami in 1998 to start a Lutheran Church. To fund the church, he knew he needed a revenue source and an engaged membership. He got both by establishing a K to elementary school in Doral, FL in 2004. The ministry served about 30 students. Today, the academy serves over 3,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade, and recently added a program for special needs students.
The school growth at each campus has come primarily from word of mouth. “Our parent testimonials are our best marketing,” Pastor says. As a parent of children at the school, he beams when he says, “My children like coming to school each day.”
School, Church Work Hand-in-Hand
Today, the Ministries that Carlos leads has five campuses – two in Florida and two in Texas, with the Ministry continuing to be housed in Doral. Construction on a church in Doral is underway. Until now, a space adjacent to the school cafeteria has been serving as a place for religious services.
Given the humble beginning, the academy facilities are impeccable, with amenities like sports facilities and a college prep space. Once the church is completed, Carlos say they’ll be landlocked in terms of expansion. The same is true at three other school/church locations. So when Carlos went looking for a construction loan for the second phase of the Austin campus, he also solicited funds to buy an additional 10 acres of adjacent land. He met with many banks, ultimately choosing to work with Gaby Cioli and INB. He says the loan process was the ministry’s “best experience.” He notes the process was “streamlined, with no curveballs.”
Divine Ministries also has its operating accounts with INB.
Gaby shares this insight: “When Pastor Carlos reached out to us in Miami, I was thrilled since I have known and visited the school in Doral-Florida and learned very quickly that they have a very unique model and a superior reputation in the market. Students are exposed to many activities and highly competitive school programs. Parents are crucial to the success of the students as they participate in their children’s education through many activities the Ministry organizes during the school year.
“The Doral campus serves as the example for all the other schools opened over the years. The Santa Rita campus in Texas was ready for an expansion to accommodate middle school and future high school students. INB facilitated the construction of new classes plus a new auditorium and gymnasium for the campus. We feel very proud that INB was chosen for this project. “
Growth Something to be Proud of
With banking services under wraps, Pastor can focus on his organization’s mission of sharing Jesus with others. Key to that goal is providing educational, spiritual and formational services to the over 3,000 students on five campuses. It takes 400 staff members to serve the kids. “I’m proud of the scale we’re at,” Carlos says. Today, the ministry supports 290,000 square feet of facilities, up from 16,000 square feet when they first opened the Doral academy.
“In Austin,” Pastor says, “we started with an empty field. Through God’s hands, we built a ministry center that will be there for a long time after I’m gone.”