For the past three years, Nazarene Theological Seminary has presented a course titled Ministerial Entrepreneurship, a class dedicated to exploring the intersections between people starting new, entrepreneurial, ventures with ministry in mind. The course incorporates a partnership with the Kauffman Foundation on Entrepreneurship and their innovative FastTrac program that provides a basic introduction to Entrepreneurship practices. Recently two significant changes allow NTS to move the course from a traditional classroom to local congregations.
- Kauffman, in response to its own “Zero Barriers” initiative, elected to digitize its curriculum and move the entire educational process online. While still curated through its partnerships (like NTS) this novel approach makes the curriculum more affordable, modular, and interactive.
- In addition, NTS received a grant from the Association of Theological Schools addressing innovative models of education. The grant funds two initiatives through the NTS Center for Pastoral Leadership.
First, NTS now has the ability to curate additional theological resources and narratives around the practice of entrepreneurship. The initiative includes interviewing primarily young entrepreneurs in ministry. While Kauffman provides a number of excellent resources from the Learning Paths/Founders School, we determined that people engaging ministerial entrepreneurship needed the narratives of people they would relate with who are currently engaging new ventures in their own setting. Second, NTS will be able to train mentors who can work with regionally based entrepreneurs, combining online education and personal coaching.
Currently, we are in the process of curating a number of narratives around entrepreneurship and ministry. I have to say we have encountered a number of remarkable people whose innovation, creativity, and dedication proves both inspiring and instructive for future students. The types of entrepreneurial ventures include coffee shops (with regional reputations but also one operating in a double-decker bus); yet we have also discovered a wide array of entrepreneurial efforts in social media, fitness training, sports clubs, churches turned enterprise owners, film companies, social compassion, art galleries, and ministry training ventures. The stories told by each entrepreneur provide a narrative mosaic of passion, struggle, persistence, novel surprises, dedicated labor, and grounded wisdom. Currently, we are working to edit these narratives along the pedagogical themes in the Kauffman FastTrac curriculum. Does the curriculum work? Ministerial Entrepreneur alumnus Trey Brooks (one of our interviewees) provides the best testimony.
We will launch the revised curriculum next spring and then move toward regional training soon after. What have we learned so far? We have learned that people bring innovation and passion to their entrepreneurial ventures, but they also pay the price of learning the basics running a business and encounter the risks that go with this approach. As this educational “venture” unfolds, I suspect we will learn much more from those people deeply engaged in local, entrepreneurial, ventures.