Birth of Self Sustaining Enterprises (SSE)
Any leader would tell you that resources never keep pace with vision. Whether running a church or a non-profit, you never seem to have enough money for all the needs that arise.
In 2002, Grace Chapel started Self Sustaining Enterprises). The original goal was to help fund orphan care in developing countries through business ventures within that country. We felt the quickest way to raise money was through grants, but we hit a roadblock when the funds for our project fell short.
Stop Your Whining!
After lamenting with my wife, I began to complain to God, “Lord, I know you gave us this vision, but I don’t know how we are going to accomplish it.” God’s answer went something like this, “Stop whining! You have some of the finest business minds in the country right in your church. I never told you to ask for grants. There are billions of dollars out there. Go and get it.”
And that’s what we did. Instead of just starting businesses (what we call biznistries) in developing countries, we started them at home as well. With the help of some dynamic business minds, we started an Angel Fund to help generate capital for our start-ups. We built a center for marketplace ministry we call the ORCA Center—where we run an accelerator, an incubator, as well as business seminars, training, and team building. We created office space for like-minded local entrepreneurs.
Our goal is to use the funds generated to help fund other ministry opportunities. We all have goals. For some it’s impacting the lives of those in need around the world, for others it’s reaching out to the un-churched in their community. As a church we have been working together for years to further the cause of Christ through marketplace initiatives.
Develop Sustainable Solutions for Ministry Needs
Christians need to ask the question, “How can we use the business skills of those within the body of Christ to address the challenges of funding our ministry goals?”
At Grace Chapel, we use our experiences to create a blueprint to train others to develop sustainable solutions for their ministry needs. We try to avoid time consuming “brick and mortar” businesses, and instead focus on technology and serviced-based opportunities. Investing in entrepreneurs and accelerating their businesses is also effective.
Starting a Marketplace Ministry
There are likely many gifted men and women suited for the role of marketplace minister within your organization. Pete West is one of those people. Pete retired early from Proctor & Gamble to become the director of SSE. He says he works harder now than before he retired!
Our churches are also filled with millennials looking for an opportunity to impact the world. Many of them have a passion to make a difference. Marketplace ministry is also a natural avenue to connect with people otherwise disengaged in the church. We have heard story after story of people coming alive that were once only marginally engaged in the body of Christ. There are former CFOs, CEOs, attorneys, marketing directors, scientists, and salespeople ready to invest their lives in a Spirit-driven cause.
What If We Dream Bigger?
Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Let’s take a moment and dream. Ask the question, “What If:”
- What if you were no longer limited by traditional funding methods?
- What if a church of 500 could have the same impact as a church of 5,000?
- What if we could build economic zones in developing countries to better serve the “least of these”?
- What if entrepreneurs and business people saw the Church as a first stop in finding solutions to the challenges they face in the marketplace?
- What if you could blend local church and nonprofit leadership with marketplace leaders to further the cause of Christ?
- What if we could revolutionize our idea of funding ministry and dream without limitations?
- Rather than giving a person a fish, or even teaching them how to fish, what if they owned the pond!
Unconventional and Biblical Worldview
Everything we’ve talked about is very unconventional, but so are most of the stories we read in the Bible. We serve an unconventional God! If you take this step of faith, you may face cultural biases, traditional barriers, and the unbiblical concept of secular vs. sacred. But there is a movement of innovative Christian leaders who are tired of Plato’s secular/sacred paradigm limiting their organization’s ability to move forward.
In a biblical worldview, things are either sacred or sinful. God created everything and Satan created nothing. God’s work is not limited to a few hours on Sunday. We have an incredible opportunity to use our business skills to further the Kingdom of God.
When you implement sacred business principles into your ministry, you’ll begin to see dynamic results.
A widow owned a successful plant business on a tiny piece of land in Nigeria. We saw her business skill and gave her 6 acres, a borehole, 250 fruit and nut trees, 1500 trees for wood and fuel, and plenty of land for her other business activities.
The results are astounding! She is building relationships with restaurants and hotels which buy her produce, putting her children through University, hiring other widows who can now provide for their children, and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.
That is what it means to give people a hand up and not a hand out. That is directly investing in the lives of orphans and widows as we are called to do in James 1:27. That is Biznistry!
Most Christian leaders are working with one hand tied behind their back and don’t even realize it. It’s time for us to take back what belongs to God and spark a revival within the non-profit community!
Jeff Greer is senior pastor of Grace Chapel in Mason, Ohio, a church he planted with his wife, Debbie, in 2000. Jeff is also the co-founder of Back2Back Ministries, a global orphan care ministry and Self-Sustaining Enterprises.