Feed Truck

Why Missional Entrepreneurship?

The “good” economy is everywhere these days, and “change the world” businesses like Tom’s Shoes and Old Skool Cafe are as close to a secular mission movement as we’re likely to find.

Meanwhile, the church is under enormous pressure to change financial models. Members and pledge drives no longer can support mission and ministry in many congregations. More ministers are part-time, more people (lay and ordained) are serving new churches without drawing a salary, and fewer seminarians imagine themselves working in churches full-time. New church plants, redeveloping congregations, camps, conference centers and established churches alike want to develop ministries that are not donor-dependent. Churches are redefining mission; instead of investing primarily in mission trips, more churches are looking for ways to help struggling communities develop their own spiritual and economic capacities, and for ways that churches can directly invest in their neighborhoods.

We actually believe this is great news for Christ’s church.

If you’re doing ministry today, you’re doing ministry in an era of tremendous innovation, and we want to encourage you to get your most far-reaching dreams for mission and ministry on the road, even if they’re not in the budget. We’ll do everything possible to help you to translate your wildest, most inspired ideas into action.

What Counts as a Hare-Brained Idea for Ministry?

If God has planted an idea in you–or in your congregation–for serving Christ in some entrepreneurial way, it’s hare-brained enough for a Ministry Incubators conversation. Ministry Incubators has helped people “hatch” an online journal in ecology and theology, a campus ministry food truck, a company exploring theological elements of design, a farm-based form of theological education, a leadership development ministry for people with disabilities, and more.

Of course, not every idea gets implemented, or should. We agree with Mullens and Komisar (Getting to Plan B, Harvard Business Review Press, 2009) that your first entrepreneurial idea is rarely your best, but that trying to implement it is probably the shortest route to Plan B, C, or D…which is where your best ministry takes root.

Can’t I Do This Without Ministry Incubators?

Absolutely! If God calling you to start a new ministry, and you’re good to go, we would be absolutely thrilled if you would do exactly that. But if you’re vision needs help getting its legs or if you’ve been stalled for longer than you’d like to be, we can help.

What Do You Mean By Sustainable?

“Sustain” comes from a Latin word that means “hold up.” Sustainable ministries last–they hold up. What’s more, when you do ministry with sustainability in mind, you hold up too. The World Bank defines sustainability as managing your resource pool in such a way that the next generation can enjoy your standard of living. We would add that it also means tapping into renewable sources of spiritual growth, funding, volunteers, and leadership.

Our goal is to help you hold up in ministry, and create a ministry that does not leave you spiritually, emotionally, or financially exhausted.

I Heard That You Limit the Number of People You Work With – Why?

Because we invest heavily in each ministry partner, we do limit the number of partners we take on. In general, we sign about 4 Ministry Incubators Partners a year. If you’re interested in becoming one of them, just contact us, and we’ll start the conversation.

Of course, anybody can come to an introductory event (we do try to keep them small, but in addition to the regular annual events, we plan others based on interest.

What is the Difference Between an “Incubator” and an “Accelerator”?

On farms and in hospitals, incubators are controlled environments that protect the yet-to-be-born and the newly born until they are strong enough to thrive in the “real world.” Incubator events do the same thing for new ministry ventures. For us, an incubator is for someone at the earliest stages of launching an idea. An incubator creates a learning community to help you discern whether missional entrepreneurship is for you, and what it would take to translate your ministry idea into action. Incubators help you clarify your missional idea, give you feedback on your ministry and financial models, and steady your legs as you take your first steps toward implementing your enterprise. For this reason, people generally attend incubator events as individuals.

Accelerators make things go faster. So an accelerator is a learning community that helps your missional enterprise get up to speed as you refine an idea that you have already started to implement. Accelerators are for people who have already thought through the basic decisions of starting their venture and have begun to gain some support (you may have even launched your idea). Accelerator events are designed for teams, and help you fill in the gaps, refine your vision, stabilize your ministry and financial modles, and/or prepare to scale your venture.

What is a Ministry Incubators Partner?

A “partner” is anyone who formally invites us to help you launch a new ministry venture. Partners can be individuals, congregations or other organizations, or teams of people working together. We are in this for the long-haul (we assume 10-year partnerships). You can dissolve the relationship sooner if your venture goes belly-up (unlikely if Ministry Incubators is involved), or you can end the relationship early with a buy-out fee. Partners receive training in basic strategies of missional entrepreneurship, have access to discounted expert counsel, and receive on-going coaching from Ministry Incubators staff for the first 10 years of the ministry.

How Do I Become a Ministry Incubators Partner?

Normally, you take part in an “incubator event” or arrange an initial consultation, and then send us an email requesting a partnership with Ministry Incubators (we’ll send you the paperwork you need to make it official). Register for an event here!

How Do You Get Paid?

Participants in incubator and accelerator events pay a nominal fee for room, board, and tuition (often discounted when the event is co-sponsored by a host institution). Fees for initial consultations and targeted consulting relationships vary and are arranged on a case-by-case basis.

If you’re a Ministry Incubators Partner, we don’t get paid until you do–that’s how confident we are that your ministry will succeed. Unlike traditional investors, we don’t own a stake in your venture (it’s all yours). Instead, you return 5% of your venture’s gross annual income (or annual budget, if your venture is grant-supported) to Ministry Incubators during your first 10 years of operation. After 10 years, partners may end the relationship, or extend it at a discounted rate.

Anything Else?

We’ve learned (the hard way!) to warn people:  Ministry Incubators events do not function well as “retreats.” They are fun, hands on, and energizing, and we think you’ll have a blast. But the days are also long, the conversations intense, and the collegial work is spiritually and practically demanding.
We say this so you won’t be disappointed. If you need to kick back for a few days (and who doesn’t?). . .we recommend the beach!