We’ve worked with hundreds of young church leaders over the years (Mark as a consultant, Kenda as a seminary professor, both of us as youth pastors and seminar leaders). There is jaw-dropping creativity out there, there is missional intuition to spare, and innovative leaders are trying new ways to be God’s witnesses in their communities. Every time we teach, we are astounded and inspired.
But we began to notice two things:
- A lot of gifted young church leaders have no idea how to translate their great ideas into action. Tools for creating financially sustainable ministries just aren’t in many of our toolboxes. When economics force churches to scale back, our ministries, our vision for mission, and sometimes our jobs are vulnerable.
- Young people who want to make a difference in the world often don’t think the church is the best place to do it. Some have told us their churches would never support their innovative ministry or business ideas. Others have planned to leave ministry altogether because, as one youth pastor sadly said, “I feel like I have to choose between my creativity and the church.”
That particular conversation was a game-changer for us.
We think every church is a ministry incubator. It’s the church’s job to find every means possible to reflect Christ’s love in the world, and to turn hare-brained ideas into sustainable forms of mission and impact. But if churches are going to make a real difference instead of just a dent, we are going to have to think bigger—and there’s a good chance that “bigger” is going to cost more than we currently have.
Nonprofit and for-profit and social enterprises like the Grameen Bank, Kiva, FashionABLE, Homeboy Industries, Teach for America, and DC Central Kitchen already know this. These social enterprises are ambitious to change as many lives as possible, and like churches, they don’t always get it right. Together, ventures like these have created a powerful social change movement, led by people whose vision is not limited by their bank accounts. By using entrepreneurial, self-renewing, and financially sustainable models, they’re addressing the world’s need in ongoing ways, not just through token gestures of goodwill or charity. Yet often the missing partner in this movement is the church.
Not only do we think impact entrepreneurship is possible through churches and those who lead them. We think this is where ministry is headed, especially where young people are involved. Still, few resources exist for people in the earliest stages of impact entrepreneurship—namely, for people still wondering whether God is calling them to play it safe or to become, as the Anglicans call it, a “mission pioneer.”
We want to encourage congregations, denominations, theological schools, and teams of entrepreneurially-minded disciples to say “yes!” to this pioneering instinct. We see ourselves as “permissionaries,” and we think prayer, faithful discernment, practical wisdom, a company of collaborators, and coaching from experienced colleagues—people with established networks who know what to do, who to ask, and where to go for help—might mean the difference between dreaming about ministry and doing it.
While some terrific social enterprise incubators exist (including Christian ones), we just haven’t met as many people championing pioneers for social enterprise through churches. Nor have we met many people trying to make ministry more financially sustainable.
That wild idea God has planted in you? We’re here to help it grow. Join us.