Putting the Social in Entrepreneurship


Interspersed in our new 10-part series called Urban Hinterlands, we'll still be addressing other topics, thoughts, and ideas related to Intrepid and our push to combine church planting with community development and social entrepreneurship. Maybe this is all an odd combination. I mean, shouldn't church planting strictly be about launching new churches and starting businesses about making money? Oh, and then there's community development. Why link these all together? They actually fit quite well together and hopefully by the end of this article you'll see one way that it does.

We need continual reminders to stay on task. That's why language is key. I've been involved in church planting long enough now to have lived through a number of these revolving terms or buzzwords ... seeker / attractional, emerging / emergent, missional, and then adding Gospel in the front of everything from preaching to coaching to small groups to whatever else we want to give it a little boost. In the beginning these words were refreshing and fresh. They can be a jolt. Unfortunately, over time they all lose their meaning. For example, I have no idea what missional is any longer and can I do anything worthy unless I attach Gospel to the front end of it?

Then there's entrepreneurship. More than that, when "social" is added on the front end what does it mean? Is it the same as adding missional or Gospel on the front end of churchy things? Great question. The difference though is when social and entrepreneurship are combined it's more than an add-on. It changes the meaning, activities, and even outcomes of a business focus. Rather than focusing on the bottom line of making money, there's an added double bottom line of now also making a positive social impact. If you're curious, there's even a triple bottom line with an additional focus on our environment. Therefore, yes, we want to see businesses grow and make money as well as making a positive social impact and at the same time ensure our business practices are stewarding our planet well. Whew, the was a mouthful.

Whether you're thinking about the double or triple bottom line the point is to be mindful of something beyond the single bottom line of simply earning money. Again, there's nothing wrong with that at all. Businesses won't survive without earning more than it spends. However, within the core of your business, what impact or influence do you seek to have? We can certainly point to well-known brands that are defined by this (like TOMS). While that is a great model you don't even have to be public about it ... which probably sounds counterintuitive. As I'm growing my own business on the side I have some clear activities and development work that I am and want to continue to be involved in. It's not on our website and no one on the outside even knows. It's not that I'm hiding it, I'm simply not ready to share as some of our initiatives continue to develop and take root. Someday, yes, for sure I'll share, but not now.

This is where the whole collision of church planting and social entrepreneurship makes sense and is a seamless fit. To me this becomes a tangible way to live out the gospel. In your work of planting a church you're also launching your start-up which has a double or triple bottom line. What that demonstrates is that you actually care and are showing it in practical ways.