Social Entrepreneurship and Ministry


The title of this article has been at the epicenter of the bulk of my activities, conversations, and even topics in the classroom of late. Obviously it's an overarching topic for Intrepid, but lately it has been even more prominent. Just this week alone I've had a number of meetings, both in person and via video call, as well as teaching on the topic in a social entrepreneurship class at Multnomah University in the Master's in Global Development and Justice program. Everywhere I turn the twin topics of social entrepreneurship and ministry are right before me.

As to why it's an increasingly growing topic I believe there are a two factors at play (among many others).

First, more and more church planters are becoming comfortable with this whole notion of bivocationalism. For the longest time it was as though that was a dirty word. Or worse yet, a word that induces guilt and insecurity because it means your ministry gig can't pay your bills. Or even more abysmal, particularly in church planting, it means that (a) you're inept at raising funds or (b) your new fledgling church plant can't pay your bills. In the end it left you scrambling to find some kind of gainful employment, usually doing something you don't enjoy. However, that narrative continues to change.

More than ever before in recent history (think the last half century) church planters are actually wanting to be bivocational. This goes beyond working some lousy job they hate all the while hoping their new church plant would hurry up and grow so they could quit that job. Instead, there's an awakening to the potency of tapping into the full potential of the entrepreneurial church planter. Meaning, church planters are by natural on the more entrepreneurial side and along with that many are seeing the benefit of simultaneously launching a new business or non-profit.

Second, much of this conversation really gets into the larger conversation of our changing economy. In our Post-Fordist and Post-Industrial economy it means that increasingly more people are deriving their livelihood from knowledge-based, creative, or even artisan economies. From tech companies to the explosion of micro-breweries reveals not only a new (but old) way of making a living, but more importantly for this conversation is what this all means in terms of lifestyle and work-life balance.

It is at this confluence that steps in the church planter. Many know they won't plant a church that sustains them within 5 years, and in particular in lower income communities that may never happen (nor should that be the expectation). With a desire to not only plant a church, but to provide for their families, as well as seek the betterment or common good of their communities more and more church planters are venturing out under the umbrella of social entrepreneurship. For some this may sound crazy and absurd, but for others this is precisely the kind of shift needed in church planting today to see a true movement take place.