What Ministry and Business Start-ups Have in Common | Part 1

By: Ben Hsu (Resource Development Director, Encompass Partnerships)

Social enterprises have been around for a while, but in recent years they have (finally) been trending. One of the greatest benefits, in my opinion, of being part of a trend is the community of like-minded people you get to trend with. In 2014, I co-founded a social enterprise to provide meaningful employment to vulnerable individuals. I've learned so much from socially-minded business coaches, passionate venture capitalists, and fellow social entrepreneurs who are redeeming business while making our communities better.

As I reflect on my past ministry experience and support the development of our ministry partners at Encompass, I believe there's a lot we can learn and adapt from the business start-up community to help ministry start-ups be more innovative, sustainable, and scalable in their mission. 

I'll be starting this conversation over the next few weeks in this blog series, What Ministry and Business Start-ups Have in Common, and continue the conversation with you at our From Seed to Impact conference and fundraiser (the latter will be a related but separate event, so you'll be able to register for one or the other or both). We'll dive deeper into the experience of starting a ministry and how to keep it growing. More details on the conference and fundraiser to come, but for now... 


When we dream of creative ways to share the Good News in a way that would be received as good news, there’s no obstacle too big to overcome. Social entrepreneurs often believe that our altruistic mission alone will win over investors despite offering a low return on investment. In a ministry context, we believe that if this is what God calls us to do then God will make a way. Yes, we need to dream and expand our imagination for what the Great Commission looks like today. Yes, we need to take risks for the sake of the Gospel and orient our lives towards justice and reconciliation. So, YES, with our hearts in hand we respond and go.

And then we hit our first big challenge. Maybe it’s finding out that, although people really resonate with the social part of our enterprise, all the investors we met with turned us down because the enterprise part wasn't strong enough. Maybe it’s struggling to garner interest or funding from our church for a much-needed community development program. We never expected to hit these challenges, let alone before we even launched. Now what?

This is one of many lonely and confusing parts of starting up a new business or ministry venture. Without the right supports (not just friends and family, but people who are or have been on the same journey) these early challenges can feel hyper-devastating and send us spiraling into self-doubt or cynicism. We start asking if we really heard from God, or maybe we didn't pray hard enough, or maybe we're not cut out for this, or if only the church would...

These challenges can be deflating, but how we interact with them is the difference between feeling like a failure and using failure to propel you forward. We'll continue this conversation at our From Seed to Impact conference on November 2, 2018—save the date!

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