If there is one thing I am known for in my work with congregations and church leaders, it would be truth telling. Truth telling is not always a popular activity, but I have found it to be quite necessary in the church world. Naming and claiming our current reality is a must if we are to move forward with clarity, purpose, and intention. Another topic that seems to be touchy for church people is to mention the word profit or entrepreneurship. While some may embrace the concept, others are offended, and yet others might believe it has no place in the church.
As a fourth generation United Methodist and serial entrepreneur, I have been fascinated to learn about our Wesleyan roots in social entrepreneurship. Here are some interesting facts to consider as we wrestle with how our faith and social entrepreneurship intersect in the postmodern world:
- “Wesley and his followers did not stand aside from that economy (18th century Britain): they engaged actively with it, in many different ways. Wesley created social enterprises to meet the needs of the poor and sick; he established a highly profitable publishing company; he found a range of ways to encourage businessmen and businesswomen to become financial supporters of Methodism; and in some ways, his whole movement can be seen as a large and successful religious enterprise, competing in a religious marketplace.”
- Moon, Cho, & Bettis “argue that Wesley should be viewed as a compassionate entrepreneur—with the compassion of a liberator and the practice of an entrepreneur, as he encouraged believers to actively participate in economic activities, and recognized entrepreneurship as a sustainable and significant way to empower the poor.”
- Methodists were once known to build and operate schools, orphanages, and hospitals because they were needed in the community, and the profits could be reinvested into the ministry. Notice that social entrepreneurship is rooted in solving a community problem, bridging a community gap, meeting a community need, or making the community a better place to live. Too often, the church has a passion for a ministry, but it is not rooted in meeting a community’s need or desire.
Wesley laid a path for us long ago for how our faith and entrepreneurship can intersect with the community in ways that are non-threatening, build up the community, solve problems or close gaps, empower citizens, lift the community as a whole, and provide revenue to reinvest in ministry. It can be a powerful and cyclical method that benefits all involved.
Rather than resist the thought that our faith and social entrepreneurship must remain exclusive to one another, let’s begin to explore them together as both a historical and a futuristic way to be the church in ways that are practical, impactful, life-giving, and transformational.
- Inside Out: Everting Ministry Models for the Postmodern Culture, Kotan and Scott, Market Square Books
If your church would like to begin the exploration of the intersection of faith and social entrepreneurship, join us for a webinar on Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 1:00 pm central. Click here to register.