Throughout Christian history, individuals have discovered unmet needs and stepped forward to create new strategies to meet those needs. Such efforts have given birth to monastic orders, mission boards, parachurch ministries, and benevolence ministries that often stand alongside the church to reach and minister to human need.
In his blog, Lou Dubois notes that the same is true today of individuals who may not identify themselves as religious but who see need and find innovative ways to respond. He refers to Rupert Scofield’s comment that “whether your mission is as ambitious as pulling millions of people out of poverty or as modest as feeding people in your neighborhood, now is the perfect time to get started. Social entrepreneurship has never been more needed, more valued and more achievable than it is today."
This is certainly true in the faith community. A number of individuals, especially young adults see the needs of the neighborhood, country, or world and are finding ways to address those needs. They are unwilling to wait for slow bureaucratic processes that often kill creativity and are launching out on their own.
In order to be successful, Dubois suggests that the social entrepreneur must do three things. These steps would be useful for the ministry entrepreneur to consider as well.
First, know your issue. This will require not only doing the demographic study but immersing yourself in the context as well. Talk to the people “on the ground”—both those in need and those who are already seeking to meet the need. In so doing, you will discover the resources that are already being invested here, those that are absent, and some that you might be able to tap in order to pursue the mission you have identified.
Second, build your brand. Clearly understand the need you are seeking to meet and be able to articulate it clearly and concisely, and then take advantage of all the means at your disposal to communicate what you are doing. This requires personal contacts, networking, and the use of social media. If you are not adept in using digital resources, enlist someone who is.
Third, think of it as a business. "The modern non-profit must adopt many of the same strategies, policies and best practices employed by successful enterprises in the for-profit world, but not at the cost of its soul," writes Scofield. A successful entrepreneur, even one in ministry, must consider the “bottom line.” Can you find or create the resources—financial and otherwise—to make this ministry work? Does it have the potential to become self-supporting?
Changing times call for creative approaches and the Spirit continues to call out those who are willing to accept the challenge.