Nazarene Theological Seminary will soon begin its second class in Ministerial Entrepreneurship. The course was created in partnership with the Kern Family Foundation Oikonomia Network, MidAmerica Nazarene University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Kauffman Foundation Fasttrac program on Entrepreneurship. Basically, the class serves as one expression of NTS’s acknowledgment of the changing face of ministry in USA and Canada.
The Ministerial Entrepreneurship project serves as an incubator to develop both coursework, and general seminary awareness, around the role of economic entrepreneurship in service to ministry. The project allows NTS to raise the potential of entrepreneurship both in traditional and non-traditional ministry settings. Reverend Chet Decker and myself hosted the first class and Reverend Decker continues this second semester with students both in residence and also joining by video conference so they can address entrepreneurial challenges in their context.
The course revolves around an established curriculum developed by the Kauffman Foundation, a major leader in founding and fostering entrepreneurship in the USA and now around the world. Kauffman’s curriculum originally addresses people interested in creating new, for-profit, ventures by teaching the essentials of navigating the business world from vision, to market analysis, to developing the organization, to securing funding and establishing a market. MidAmerica Nazarene University teaches the traditional curriculum as part of its Center for Entrepreneurship.
NTS adapted the curriculum primarily with ministers in mind. To be sure, the class addressed more than congregational or compassionate settings. NTS, like other clergy education institutions, has discovered a new cohort of young people who desire to make a difference through “ministry,” but not in normal clerical roles. The people envision changing society through engaging people in the marketplace, a viable setting much like the home, community leadership, or the church. Assisting young people sort out the challenges of moving into entrepreneurial roles, providing both the space to nurture vision but also the wisdom to ground those visions in a workable plan, remains a part of the NTS mission.
Reverend Decker and myself went through a two-day training event at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center in Kansas City. Our group included academic participants from other schools but also several non-profit or governmental agencies dedicated to economic development through small business ventures. We were oriented to the curriculum & Kauffman’s vision for entrepreneurship and were given opportunities to participate in facilitating the material.
The training team also introduced us to the complementary program known as 1 Million Cups. Once a week several hundred entrepreneurs gather at the Kauffman Conference Center to hear two presentations by aspiring entrepreneurs. Following each presentation a team of established leaders, as well as members of the audience, question the presenters about key ideas or issues that exposes both strengths and limits to the project. Participants, as well as presenters, learn from this type of “spark tank” endeavor. The 1 Million Cups program in a number of cities in the United States.
While the Fasttrac curriculum provides a large range of content, the creators designed the overall presentation for the general community. People, regardless of their academic background or walk in life, may find themselves prepared to engage in new ventures. The curriculum, however, also includes a range of supplemental resources to strengthen anyone’s understanding of entrepreneurship even at the graduate level. We did augment the graduate course additional readings in entrepreneurship, leadership, and theology to give the program a greater sense of depth. A particular strength of the Kauffman strategy rests with the blend of practical presentations, guided instructions to build a compelling plan, and hearing from entrepreneurs and experts from the community.
The Term ‘Entrepreneur’ derives from the French words entre meaning ‘between’ and prendre, which is the verb ‘to take.’ The French verb entreprendre means ‘to undertake’ or ‘to do something,” or to serve as a “go-between.” The concept was introduced in economics through the work French economist Jean-Baptiste and later popularized by economist Joseph A. Schumpter as the necessary force for economic advance. The term can describe people who work in business, government, engineering and traditional enterprise sectors, and the social, non-profit world. At times, major entrepreneurs, like Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, create new patterns in industries that fundamentally change society. However, most entrepreneurial efforts reflect self-motivated (restless) people who seek to change their world through their own efforts and ingenuity. When associated with economics, many people, unfortunately, see entrepreneurs as manipulators for the sake of greed. In a larger view of economics as the household (oikonomia) of human flourishing, entrepreneurs can be seen as creative architects or stewards, who blend vision and grounded wisdom, to fashion unheard of strategies for the good of others as well as themselves. Entrepreneurship then serves a broader understanding of practice than even traditional forms of ministry since the good of others can exist in and beyond the local church context (though those contexts can be included in the vision).
Overall we hope that the classes encourage discussion concerning entrepreneurship as a viable form of ministry. This initial endeavor serves both as a course project and as a networking tool, to raise new partnerships and advance the role of economic thinking in shaping future ministers within and beyond the seminary. The first round of the class included presentations around launching a Children’s ministry educational and leadership organization, developing a fund-raising agency for water wells in South America, launching a coffee shop, creating a bakery that doubles as a college ministry, and actually engaging the entrepreneurship community in Kansas City with a new social media development company. Overall the initial class provided valuable information for Reverend Decker and myself as we envision new projects at Nazarene Theological Seminary. Hopefully, this semester’s course will afford a number of new ventures that will empower participants to realize how innovation and ministry can go together.