In this excerpt from our book, Inside Out: Everting Ministry Models for the Postmodern Culture, we share six healthy and effective approaches for “successful” (measured by both community and Kingdom impact) Christian social entrepreneurships.  Too often churches label a new innovation as effective when it does not have any of these measurables.  The innovation might be cool and fun, but it has no community or Kingdom impact.  Here is a sampling of what we believe define healthy and effective approaches to Christian social entrepreneurships:

1. First and foremost, a congregation must have a big heart for its community.  For this to be Christian AND social entrepreneurship, it is not centered around making a profit.  Christian social entrepreneurship starts because the church sees that a big part of being the church is bearing the burden for the community, making it a better place to live for the people.  It also funds the ministry so that the impact can be compounded.

2. The faith community has made significant progress in shifting from its historical descriptors: a building, Sunday, pastor, and offering-plate-centric.  While not all four shifts need to be completed, the congregation as a whole is not stuck in all four traditional models. There is simply not enough energy for leaders to move the congregation out of these deep ruts and live into a brand-new way of being a faith community at the same time.

3. If the faith community has not yet begun to make any of the shifts to move away from being building-, Sunday-, pastor-, and offering-plate-centric, there are enough resources to handle both the traditional desires of the congregation and the innovative ministry to reach new people.  This normally means there is a significant number of mature, sold-out disciples with a key staff member or two who will lead the new Christian social entrepreneurship while the existing traditional “services” provided to the traditional congregation are not disrupted.  It can be done, but doing both well is much more difficult to accomplish.  

Unfortunately, churches normally wait until they are desperate before exploring this option.  By this time, those mature, sold-out disciples who have the desire and passion to pursue Christian social entrepreneurship have long since left.  Remember, the APEs (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists) are the ones who typically give up trying to live out their ministry within the church and leave.  They find they typically have to live out their ministry outside the church.

4. The faith communities that successfully launch Christian social entrepreneurial organizations or initiatives are the ones that are culturally and emotionally competent.  They are often diverse spiritual communities that live in the neighborhood.  They do life already with the very people they are trying to reach.  Therefore, they do not have a large cultural and emotional gap that other congregations with that gap have to first overcome before reaching their neighborhoods.  Since the members of the faith community live in the community and are involved in it, they more easily and readily identify the gaps and opportunities in the community where the church can be most helpful and have the greatest impact.

5. Faith communities that become Christian social entrepreneurs have a significant number of humble, mature disciples.  These disciples have moved well beyond church being “what’s in it for them” and now understand it is all about “giving away Jesus to others.”  These disciple-making disciples possess a strong desire to share their faith with others. In addition, they may likely have an entrepreneurial background or natural tendency and likely have a clergy leader who shares the same passion.  In our experience, this often (but not always) means the pastor is either a second-career pastor or not seminary trained.

6. Christian social entrepreneurs are generally more optimistic people.  Kenda Creasy Dean offers these insights:

They steward abundance rather than manage scarcity. Innovating for love requires a mindset of abundance and not scarcity.  Scarcity tends to dominate modern financial thinking; the shift to an abundance mindset is as much a creative challenge as a financial one.  Yet innovating for love requires an economy of abundance. God calls us to steward waterfalls, not ration drinks in a drought.

Pinching pennies and leading with a scarcity mindset is not only ineffective, but it certainly does not place our best foot forward as the church.  We are not representing Jesus well.  On Carey Nieuwhof’s 487th Leadership Podcast, Dave Ramsey made this great comment, “We’re not going to walk around telling people we’re Christians unless we are the best in the market because we’re a bad witness for Jesus when we’re substandard.” 

A church does not wake up one day and decide to pursue Christian social entrepreneurship.  The church (or leader or small group depending on context and circumstances) needs to enter into the decision to pursue Christian social entrepreneurship through prayer and discernment.  Examine your motives, your commitment, your resources, and the depth and thoroughness of the information upon which your decision is being made.

If your church is considering a new innovation, is stuck and not sure of the next step, or is already trying innovations but needing some help, pick up some copies of Inside Out: Everting Ministry Models for the Postmodern CultureGather a group to work through the resource together. You’ll find questions and evaluations at the end of each chapter to help guide your group on the journey towards effective Christian social entrepreneurship.