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

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


Do you know your blood type? Most people don’t. Luckily, we are not defined by our blood type. We don’t lead with it in our personal introductions, and it is typically not what we use to create meaningful relationships with people. We rarely think about the blood flowing through our veins that delivers life-sustaining resources to our cells and carries waste away from them. But for as little as we think about the blood in our veins, there’s no way we can live without it. We only start noticing it more when there’s something preventing our blood from doing its thing, or when there’s trauma that causes us to lose our blood quicker than we can reproduce it. It immediately affects the rest of our body and limits the things we’re able to do.

Profit is the blood in the veins of a business. Businesses (especially start-ups) are defined by their ability to create meaningful relationships with clients based on their culture and brand, not their profit margins. A profitable business is able to reinvest in its staff and in the communities that support them. Without profit, businesses struggle to grow. Decisions to stem the bleeding often affect multiple stakeholders, for example: investors lose on their return, prices rise for the clients, layoffs put people out of jobs, orders with suppliers are cut, and sometimes quality and ethics take a dip from switching to cheaper sourcing. Without profit, it is hard for businesses to innovate and provide the level of products or services that they believe is missing.

In business, profit is the bottom line from which companies can grow and realize its potential to positively impact communities. Profit is not the source of evil in this world; it’s what drives it that defines its impact. When driven by greed and selfishness, profit can exploit people and create economic, social, and political disparity. When driven by compassion, however, profit can empower people and create parity that builds stronger, more resilient communities and economies.

Most ministry start-ups are not based on a profit model; however, like profit, funding is the blood in their veins. A ministry’s mission and vision are not defined by funding. But without it, they struggle to get off the ground let alone grow and create the impact they hope for. The traditional funding sources (donors, fundraisers, church budgets, etc.) are becoming harder to sustain as they are dependent on too many variables that are out of their control and less predicable than before (i.e. economic downturns, declining church attendance, board/committee turnovers, the continued shift to a more digital world, etc.). In order to find a more sustainable funding model, ministries (especially start-ups) need to think outside the box, even if it means re-thinking their own ministry model.

There’s a growing trend of ministries taking a more entrepreneurial approach to funding. For some, it means innovation and taking more risks in how they approach funders. Others are adopting a social enterprise model as a way of generating revenue that’s sustainable and on-mission. Whether by necessity or design, thinking outside the box does more than just create new opportunities for funding; it also creates new opportunities for the Gospel to be expressed meaningfully in an increasingly complex world.

If you are on the journey of starting a ministry, check out our From Seed to Impact Conference on November 2 where we’re inviting leaders in the ministry, business, and funding communities to help radical followers of Jesus grow a ministry start-up from seed to impact.

Or, if you are looking to fund emerging and growing ministries and want to learn how our innovative ministry hub|incubator|accelerator model can multiply the impact of your investment, check out our From Seed to Impact Fundraiser following the conference on November 2.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation. Feel free to comment on this blog or reach out to us and we’ll buy you a coffee or tea!

Ben Hsu