How Churches Can Empower Startups

(Public domain image)

The faith-work movement has had great success in helping Christians connect daily work with spiritual calling, leading many to shift their approach to economic stewardship.

For some, that will translate into a more basic shift in attitude, with continued service at an existing company or a long-standing industry. For others, however, it may manifest in sheer economic disruption.

Indeed, from Appalachia to Minnesota, churches are increasing their focus not only on the glories of work in general, but of innovation, entrepreneurship and capital investment, calling on congregants not just to serve and create where they already are, but to disrupt old systems, contribute new ideas and start new enterprises.

At Crossroads, an evangelical church in Cincinnati, Ohio, such efforts have grown to tremendous scale, resulting in an annual conference, an intensive start-up competition and various off-shoot investment firms. In an extended profile at Bloomberg, Mya Frazier highlights the church’s unique history, as well as its plans for fueling new businesses.

The church began in 1990 as a Bible study among some key business leaders at Procter & Gamble Co., the massive consumer goods conglomerate (which is headquartered in downtown Cincinnati). The group soon grew to 100 people, and by 1996, the church held its first official service. Today, with roughly 30,000 congregants and an annual operating budget of $33 million, the church has managed to retained its heartbeat for entrepreneurship and calling to business.

“A business endeavor is close to the heart of God and every bit as important as anything else on God’s green earth,” says Brian Tome, Crossroads’ senior pastor. “God’s placed a seed in you,” he explains elsewhere, “and he wants to see it come to fruitfulness. … the right seed that will bring forth the right fruit at the right time in every business.”

That basic theological orientation is carried through a range of teachings, church activities and institutional enterprises. Through its annual Unpolished conference, the church aims to offer a “home base for faith and business” and to “engage, energize and inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.” In addition to hosting speakers and training sessions, the conference includes a highly funded pitch contest, in which entrepreneurs compete for investor capital, as well as a spot in the church’s business accelerator program.

The program consists of Ocean Capital, a “for-profit angel-investment wing,” and Ocean Accelerator Inc., a non-profit designed to equip entrepreneurs to “increase God’s presence in the marketplace.” Led by Scott Weiss, a retired CEO who now volunteers his time, Ocean offers entrepreneurs a training ground for ministry through innovation, weaving business mentorship with Bible-based discipleship.

“Our core approach is developing the capability and training them to raise money,” says Weiss. “If you are a Christian and you want to produce in your faith, Ocean teaches you how to raise money in a Christian way, and that there’s got to be an ethical standard to doing that. We teach them to pick your investors with care and to be very careful, because you are going to be married a very long time.”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Charisma News
Bob Eschliman