Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Apostolic Entrepreneurs

Faith-based social entrepreneurship is gaining traction.  Visionary leaders, many of them young adults, are seeking to meet needs outside of ecclesiastical structures.  Their motivation for doing this might be addressed in another blog, but the trend is growing.  In a recent article published by the Association of Theological Schools, writer Linda Kay Klein identified the top five qualities of a successful faith-based entrepreneur.

Purpose-driven. Faith-based social entrepreneurs are driven by internal rather than external motivation.  Rather than seeking recognition, money, or freedom from guilt, these trailblazers have a clearly identified positive goal in mind. They see a need and want to meet it.  When they encounter barriers, they are driven to overcome these difficulties because they have a clear focus on what they want to accomplish.

Resilient.  Successful social entrepreneurs have often overcome personal challenges in their past.  Therefore, they are ready to meet the challenges of a start-up--limited funding, lack of support in the community, changes in leadership.  They realize that flexibility is a virtue if you still can accomplish your goal.

Two-channel thinking. Klein writes, “It’s as though they are simultaneously on two channels--at once seeing the muck and mess of today, and the beauty that could be tomorrow.”  They can own the vision and communicate it to others while developing pathways to achieve the vision and inviting others on the journey.  They are the chief advocates for the vision.

People-centered.  They are not simply serving people and fulfilling their needs but inviting others to co-create the best solution.  They learn from those affected by the problem or possibility.  They also seek to network with those in various fields--business, government, social services--who share a common interest in achieving the goal.

Outcomes-oriented.  Successful social entrepreneurs realize that they must address the root causes that create the need and not just the symptoms.  The only path to permanent, life-giving change involves changing the system.  

Churches, judicatories and theological schools are beginning to recognize the impact these faith-based social entrepreneurs can make, but these entities usually lack the flexibility and creativity to support their work.  If the 21stcentury church is to be truly missional, we must find ways to empower, encourage, and resource those who can be our contemporary apostles to the world.  They will make a difference, but will we help or hinder their work?

(The post originally appeared on this blog on December 13, 2017.)

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