Why Social Entrepreneurship Is Essential In Planting Churches in Undesirable Communities


In church planting most of us have bought into the American Dream. We've combined church planting with our love for desirable, livable, and trendy cities. As a result church planters continue to cluster in these kinds of cities. Not only that but within these desirable cities planters cluster in the same desirable and livable neighborhoods. 5-7 planters collect in the same neighborhoods while the ones with lousy schools, lower housing values, more minorities, higher crime, lower density sprawl, and the like get left-overs at best.

Should it be this way?

Last week in one of the undergrad classes I teach I had a break-through moment (for me personally). The focus of the topic of the day was looking at architecture, a city's built environment, and what it all means as far as revealing value systems. We then got on the topic of the Grotto here in Portland. The Grotto is a Catholic retreat center. It's a spectacular place that is like an oasis in the city that is open to the public. What is interesting is that it is surrounded by strip clubs, porn shops, and a homeless camp in the forest.

As we debriefed what any of this means ... the juxtaposition between the Grotto and what surrounds it, one of the students commented, "Yes, but isn't the Grotto precisely where it needs to be?" Meaning, for this student it represented not only a beacon of light or hope, but a presence of God's love extending outward. Wow, I had never thought about that. We then went on to talk about how the influence of the Grotto would actually diminish if it was placed in a well-to-do neighborhood or cool part of the city. Instead, what makes it spectacular is because it is a contrast from what surrounds it.

Isn't this what we want for church planting? Like the Grotto, to be a beacon of light, hope, and and extension of God's love to our community? And yet, when most church planters opt for the desirable, the cool, the livable, and the trendy what does it mean?

It is at this intersection where social entrepreneurship comes in as a parallel track or partner in church planting. That while we plant a church we're also starting something, whether a common good business or nonprofit, that seeks the betterment of the communities were in. There is no better place to do this than the places on the map where church planters fear to tread. It takes an intrepid soul to go ....