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Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever!

I hope very few people will talk about Business as Mission (BAM) in the future. The term is like scaffolding; it is needed for a season as we build a new paradigm and praxis: businesses that glorify God and bring about holistic transformation of people and societies.

The term BAM has its merits in clarification of the concept. The term has been helpful in the affirmation of business people and the mobilization of resources. But the term is not important – the concept and the applications are.

Many Terms, Similar Concepts

In the general business world, there are also several terms for businesses that aim at multiple bottom-lines serving multiple stakeholders. Some examples are social enterprise, creative capitalism, conscious capitalism, corporate social responsibility, and inclusive business. Different terms, but very similar concept.

Some people dislike the term BAM or question its usefulness. Other phrases are used, such as business for transformation, Kingdom companies, missional business or business as integral calling.

Even this article highlights a limitation regarding terminology: it is in English. There are about 6,000 other languages in the world.  Read more

Business as Mission and the Three Mandates

We know that businesses can fail and hurt people (Enron) and harm nature (BP). But it is equally true that we all depend on businesses, and that they can do good. The woman in Proverbs 31 was an astute businesswoman whose ventures served individuals and her community.

The Quakers practiced a kind of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) long before academics developed the term. Their motto was ‘spiritual & solvent’. They served God and people in and through business.

Even Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations and sometimes called the “father of capitalism”, said that business should operate within a framework of fair play, justice and rule of law, and that businesses exist to serve the general welfare.

The computer pioneer Dave Packard said: “Many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. People get together and exist as a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society.” Read more

Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Blog, as part of a series, reposted with kind permission.

What is the Sacred-Secular Divide?

You don’t have to go very far today to hear some reference to the ‘sacred-secular divide’ or the ‘sacred-secular dichotomy.’ It’s in all the books, blogs, conferences – and occasionally in a sermon. And it’s always in a negative connotation.

So what exactly is the sacred-secular divide? In one sense, it’s impossible to define. It’s a kind of culture, a nuance, an entirely too subtle way of looking at life, vocation and ministry. It’s a shadow that covers many other aspects of our lives. It seems innocuous, but it’s not. The divide is a false dichotomy, a false worldview, an infection in the minds of Jesus’ followers that has done incalculable damage to the cause of the Church.

However, we can at least approximate the meaning of the divide in this way. It is a view of life built on a separation or distinction between those things, people and places someone believes to be sacred (holy and of God) and those believed to be secular (worldly and not of God). Certain callings are holy (missionary, pastor) and others are secular, i.e. of the world and therefore unholy (business, medicine, construction, etc). Certain places are sacred as well—church buildings, graveyards, seminaries while others are secular—my house, your house, schools, and athletic stadiums. I know you might like the sentiment, but a candle lit in a church building is no more holy or special to God than a candle on my 2 year old grandson’s birthday cake. Caution: if that statement offends you, then you are living in the divide. In short, it is all about distinctions and separations and classes and castes. Read more

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

Perhaps you are a Christian professional interested in starting a Business as Mission (BAM) company, and want some guidance on next steps in pursuing that dream. There is much to learn from those who have gone before you in the BAM space. Here is a list of questions you will want to consider as your pursue starting a BAM business:

Entrepreneurial Drive

In order to start a new company, you need at least one individual that has the vision for a new product or service that meets a true felt need for a specific target market.

  • Are you an entrepreneur, and if so, do you have a team of people to partner with?
  • If you are person who enjoys keeping a business running, do you know a BAM entrepreneur that you can come alongside?
Spiritual Objectives

BAM companies are differentiated from other social enterprises in that they also prioritize spiritual objectives. If you have goals to honor and reflect Christ in the workplace, you will need leadership that is committed to those goals and has the ability to carry them out. To start a truly spiritually strong company, consider the following:  Read more

10 Critical Human Resource Challenges in Business as Mission

We asked 25 BAM Practitioners one simple question:

What have been the most important HR issues in your BAM business experience?

Here are the Top 10 issues that they mentioned the most:

 

1. Finding the complete package

Recruiting and hiring people with the right mix of business skills, character formation and mission-motivation.

The biggest issue is finding employees who are followers of Christ and have the skillset required for the job. I usually run into people who have one or the other of these two qualifications, but seldom have both. – Joseph, India

2. Cultural differences

Dealing with different cultural norms between expat staff or business owners and national staff, that significantly impacts the business operations.

It can be tough to implement systems and policies with people who believe all standards can be moderated or ignored. Learning employees’ real opinions in a high context language group is a challenge, where it is a cultural norm to say only what is expected or desired. – Robert, Turkey

3. Disappointment over Christian staff

Finding that Christians hired into the company do not have the right work ethic, competencies or even expected moral standards.  Read more

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

Perhaps you are a Christian professional interested in starting a Business as Mission (BAM) company, and want some guidance on next steps in pursuing that dream. There is much to learn from those who have gone before you in the BAM space. Here is a list of questions you will want to consider as your pursue starting a BAM business:

Entrepreneurial Drive

In order to start a new company, you need at least one individual that has the vision for a new product or service that meets a true felt need for a specific target market.

  • Are you an entrepreneur, and if so, do you have a team of people to partner with?
  • If you are person who enjoys keeping a business running, do you know a BAM entrepreneur that you can come alongside?
Spiritual Objectives

BAM companies are differentiated from other social enterprises in that they also prioritize spiritual objectives. If you have goals to honor and reflect Christ in the workplace, you will need leadership that is committed to those goals and has the ability to carry them out. To start a truly spiritually strong company, consider the following:  Read more

What’s My Role in BAM? Discovering Where You Fit in the BAM Movement

The Business as Mission (BAM) Movement is rapidly gaining momentum. More and more believers are realizing that business is a key avenue God is using to further his Kingdom purposes. Where do you think you fit into the greater picture of BAM? Without a doubt, it takes a whole “ecosystem” of individuals to make a BAM company become reality.

Support Team Members Needed!

Every BAM business will need a support team around them to implement the business strategy and spiritual strategy. Some BAM businesses start only with the entrepreneur but it is advisable to grow your support system from the beginning.

Here are just some of the types of people, skills and support that an BAM startup will need:

A Spiritual Support System

A BAM business uniquely prioritizes spirituality and bringing people closer to knowing Jesus Christ. Therefore, the following are roles needed:  Read more

5 Ways to Increase Spiritual Impact In and Through Your Business

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates business with missional purposes. Yet, sometimes it can be challenging to figure out how to do so practically. Here are 5 areas that business owners and leaders can increase spiritual impact in the companies they oversee:

1. Keep God First

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24).

  • Establish spiritual principles and values and integrate them into the mission, vision, and objectives of the company. Review how well you are abiding by these principles during all stages of the company’s development.
  • Create a Spiritual Impact Plan that has specific goals for how you run your company with spiritual objectives in mind.
  • Invite accountability to maintain the purpose of your company. Appoint a person or group (often called an advisory board) with the responsibility to assess and evaluate how well various departments and projects are aligned with the stated mission, vision, and values within the company.

Read more

Identifying and Maximizing BAM Success Factors Part 2

By Paul Harrington

In this new series on ‘BAM Success Factors’ we invite guest authors to share what they consider the key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. To open up the series, Paul Harrington gives us an overview of the most important BAM success factors he has identified through research. Read Part 1 here.

BAM Success Factors Part 2: Interpersonal and Relational Considerations

In the first part of the two-part series on the factors that determine success for BAM practitioners, we looked at the professional and technical characteristics that research shows help determine the likelihood that a BAM practitioner will meet the goals which were established for the enterprise. Many of the factors that indicate future professional success for BAM practitioners are similar to those for small business owners and include:

  • Training and/or experience in operating small or medium-sized businesses,
  • Technical and professional capabilities
  • Cross-cultural norms and skills in the context where the BAM enterprise will operate,
  • Spiritual skills both in and outside of the cultural context of the BAM enterprise, and,
  • Mentoring, support resources and capital.

There are a separate set of interpersonal/relational factors which also affect the likelihood of success for BAM practitioners. Most of these factors are shared with expatriate workers as well as missionaries and other non-profit or religious workers. Multinational companies generally spend much more on sending and supporting their workers than religious or non-profit organizations, although many of the same risk and success factors have been identified with both groups of organizations.  Read more

Identifying and Maximizing BAM Success Factors Part 1

By Paul Harrington

In this new series on ‘BAM Success Factors’ we invite guest authors to share what they consider the key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. To open up the series, Paul Harrington gives us an overview of the most important BAM success factors he has identified through research. 

BAM Success Factors Part 1: Professional and Technical Considerations

Starting a new career in a part of the world that is not your cultural home is a big undertaking for anyone. For those who wish to use their businesses as a means through which God can reach the world, the challenge can be even greater. Everyone involved in the Business as Mission movement wants to make sure that every practitioner that takes the bold step of setting up a business with Kingdom values in a new context succeeds. Thankfully, many of the keys to success for BAM practitioners are known and have been validated by scholarly research.

BAM practitioners aren’t the only group of people who live and work outside of their home countries. Many companies and governments, including the military, as well as mission agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) send their employees to work around the world. While government and military techniques do not necessarily provide insight into how BAM practitioners can succeed, research done by and for private employers, NGOs, and mission agencies provides insight into the factors that lead to successful deployment of their personnel and have relevance for BAM practitioners.

Success means different things for different people. Since business as mission is a unique discipline with defined goals that might include the fourfold bottom line – achieving the financial goals of the owners of the company, social impact goals of the community in which the business works, goals to protect and enhance the environment, and spiritual impact goals – success in a business as mission enterprise can be measured.  Read more

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