With the speed of change, scarcity of resources, and shifts in how people are thinking about faith, culture, and social change, Millennials and ministry leaders are sensing a shift in how faith-based work is supported and executed.
This shift is in two parts: bivocationalism and social entrepreneurship.
Thom Rainer, CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, writes on the quiet growth of marketplace pastors, church leaders who are serving in a church while purposefully engaging in a trade or vocation outside of the church long-term. In another article by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im on Christianity Today, this strategy is also framed in start-up language; a lean, flexible, and minimum-viable-product (MVP) approach to starting a social good venture (a church, ministry, or faith-based work). Leadership, strategy, and sustainability can all be created while proving the church works and meets the need of a community.
Millennials and Social Entrepreneurship
The second movement is the engagement of Millennials in the faith-based space. Their upbringing puts a distinct spin on the bivocational conversation: why does financial and organizational sustainability have to be separate from social good?
This question is gelled in the phrase social entrepreneurship- for this conversation, the use of business models and marketplace systems to advance community health, well-being, and good.
Millennials have grown up with models like TOMS Shoes, a for-profit company where for every pair of shoes purchased, a second pair will be sent to a developing community. Networks like Ashoka have been expanding across college campuses, encouraging students to think about ways that entrepreneurship can solve problems and meet challenges. Social enterprise coffee shops that donate profits-after-cost and tips to charities are other examples of similar innovation.
What could this all look like? Here are three forecasts:
- Bivocational and entrepreneurial ministry means the way we do church could be called upon to exchange “bigger and better” for “smaller, leaner and faster.” Congregational size may be intentionally smaller and scope of community service efforts more focused and specific.
- More and more people will be able to “sell” their ministry and marketplace skills and knowledge online at least on the side. The margins of the “knowledge economy” are higher, providing more time and resources to invest in a ministry or social good venture. There will soon be a space for training and showing ministry leaders how to make this work.
- Millennials will look to eschew bivocationalism altogether. More and more they will do ministry and missions in for-profit formats that are sustainable and faster, while still being wholly focused on executing spiritual transformation and social good.
Are there any adjustments that the faith-based community can make to better serve this changing landscape? Here are some thoughts.
- The line between sacred and secular, and what is considered “ministry” vs. “non-ministry” needs to be intentionally removed. Bivocational and entrepreneurial leaders already blur those lines, and have a much more holistic perspective on a multi-faceted life of service.
- The church can often fear business and marketplace principles, and push away the Creatives and Entrepreneurs. Harnessing the power of innovation and transformation in the 21st Century means especially seeking out and engaging Millennial social entrepreneurs and their ideas. Those ideas will probably look starkly different from the way things have been done, but the upside is huge.
- The church and faith-based community can examine how it invests in bivocationals and incubates social entrepreneurs. Maybe this is seed funding, designing effective mentorship networks, development of low-cost, flexible training for bivocational pastors, etc.
Are you bivocational/socially entrepreneurial in ministry? If you are a church or faith-based leader, does this match some of what you’re seeing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section, and please share this article to expand the discussion!
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