Small Business Incubator, Community Development, and the Church

The following is an introduction to the idea of churches being participating partners in small business incubators through leveraging our space, our network of relationships, and our pool of talent in order to support individuals in the community in their efforts to provide stable incomes to themselves and others through small businesses.

Small Business Incubator Ministry

We are called, as followers of Christ, to meet people at their points of need – not just spiritually, but also physically, mentally, and emotionally. One of the ways that we can do this is to support individuals and groups in their efforts to provide gainful employment for themselves and others through small businesses. Churches have several resources that can easily be brought to bear on this effort.

1)     People in our congregations have business knowledge and experience to share

2)     People in our congregations have a desire to encourage others

3)     People in our congregations have networks that could help business owners

4)     Our facilities could be available for office space, conference room space, etc.

5)     All of this could provide a community of resources and support for people starting small businesses in our area.

What would we want in exchange? Eventually, we may want people to at least cover the cost to the church of having them here – i.e. sharing the expense of increased utilities, copier costs, increased internet bandwidth, coffee and supplies, etc. This might be on a sliding scale such that in their first 3 months, people pay nothing. In Months 4-9, people pay an incremental amount, perhaps $10/month. After 9 months, if people choose to stay in our facility or another within the network, then they would pay a slightly higher fee – $35-50. This would be a self-sustaining model that would provide the resources to support even more people.

The project would rely on the training and support available from the Small Business Development Center and other similar resources.

What this is not: This is not churches or their members starting business so as to employ people – though that certainly could happen if they so choose. This is not churches or their participants taking the primary lead in offering training – we would rely on the SBDCs to take the lead on that. This is not bait and switch were we get folks on campus so as to corner them with an evangelistic message – meeting people’s needs is itself an act of evangelism.

Links to local resources:

Links to regional and national resources:

Links to existing incubator models

Links to other related articles


Entrepreneurship and the Church?

Thinking about the ministry of the church and the place of an entrepreneurial spirit. I cam across a publication entitled Entrepreneurship and the Church By Eric Bahme and Patrice Tsague. The piece describes Bahme’s role as pastor of Eastside Foursquare Church, which purchased and runs a hotel that both generates revenue for ministry and provides a direct ministry opportunity to the hotel guests, visitors, employees and neighbors. In addition, the church uses the hotel as its home base for worship and other activities. Tsague leads a ministry that trains Christians and churches to use best business practices for the benefit of the church and the kingdom. While it does not bring this out, the article reminds me of Jeremiah 29 where the Lord says to put down roots and build prosperous businesses in the community where you are, for as the city is blessed so will you will be blessed (29:4-14).

How can the business people in our congregations make better use of their work for the kingdom?
How can they teach the rest of us the skills they have so that all of us can be more effective and efficient?
In the days of reduced church income, is it legitimate for churches to engage in business, or are we compromising the gospel and sullying our hands to do so? Is it OK up to a point, and if so, how do we know when we are at risk of “crossing the line”?

However the business question gets resolved, it seems there are opportunities to learn from the work being done here.