Social enterprise and the Church
A follow-on from the blog 'Let's continue to build community - employment' and includes material from Ministry Incubators.
Do we have a problem with encouraging and creating sustainable businesses with social impact as part of the ministries of people in our congregations?
We seem to be very comfortable creating charities and supporting them with donations, etc., on which they become dependent. In our minds, is this route seen to be more 'noble' than business?
What if our models shifted from donations to empowering and sustainable initiatives that spark lasting change in individuals and communities?
Let’s think of it like this. Take something as simple as a bar of soap. Church ministries or missions take hygiene items like soap to the local homeless communities, or even take them abroad to developing countries. In our minds, this has been the best way to hand out goods and share the gospel in a tangible way. This method of outreach is socially focused in well-intentioned ways, encompassing our moral imagination of how we help others. But, we see in the hand-out model of passing out soap, that we only empower the needy to be reliant on us as the providers of what they need. In the long term, this creates systems of dependence and ultimately stalled economic growth in places that not only need the gospel, but need ways to support their families and making a living. (See also the book, When Helping Hurts.)
What if our money went from buying soap handouts and instead was focused on teaching local artisans to make affordable soap? What if that money was micro-loans to spur local entrepreneurs into starting community businesses? What if that money was used for job training resources that allowed the very people we want to help to start helping themselves?
Questions like this cause us to re-examine the parameters of sharing the gospel and how our attempts to share the love of Christ can extend in even more powerful ways to the hurting and hungry.
Social enterprise, the blend of social impact with the tools of business, can allow people in our congregations to do the ministry they want to do, without worrying if this year will bring the end of the funds used to support their work. Churches have incredible resources within their own congregations and they are able to launch all types of creative initiatives. Entrepreneurs need to be released and some church members in various churches across the UK are already leading the way and have done for some time. These include mentors and investors as well. Various networks exist and are known to me.
Does your church care about specific social justice issues or have a heart for urban renewal? There are dozens of innovative models in social enterprise tackling these very problems.
As we enter a reconstruction phase post-Covid-19, we need to be encouraging and creating sustainable businesses with social impact as part of the ministries of people in our congregations.
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