The Vital Place of Mission Agencies in the BAM Movement

by Jo Plummer

Mission Agencies have long been a crucial player and partner in the contemporary BAM movement.

Many early pioneer BAM practitioners of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s either came from a missionary background or were members of a mission agency. These agency workers- turned-BAMers were at the forefront of the early wave of BAM companies because they were already at the front lines. Sent out with a call and vision to see people and communities transformed by the gospel, they discovered that business could be a powerful means of integral mission – meeting spiritual, social and economic needs in communities.

Looking back on 20 years and more of recent BAM history, we see that companies with missional goals embedded within their business model, business culture, company values, working relationships and so on, have often proved to be the most fruitful way for agency workers to pursue their work. But it has not always been easy.

Business failure – already a high possibility for seasoned entrepreneurs in home cultures – became a common experience for missionary-run startups with the additional hazard of being in environments often hostile to both mission and business. Many missionaries are by nature pioneering and somewhat entrepreneurial, however most early agency-related BAMers lacked the know-how and practical business experience they needed to create sustainable, scalable companies. Early BAM companies had few models to follow and lessons were learned the hard way.

Those hard-won fruitful practices are now being passed on, benefiting the current generation of BAM practitioners. They are able to stand on the shoulders of a host of early BAMers (from both business and mission backgrounds) because those pioneers heard the Lord and were willing to go, they were willing to innovate, risk and persevere. In turn, these early BAM pioneers stood on the shoulders of many generations of traditional missionaries that passed on their own hard-won lessons.

Beyond ‘Business as Visa’

Necessity is the mother of invention. In some parts of the world, starting a business has long been the only viable means to establish a settled, credible role in a community. William Carey, right back in the late 1700s, took a management position in an indigo factory when he first arrived in India because missionary visas were hard to come by in the days of the East India Company. And like William Carey*, modern day mission workers soon discovered that the power of a business model extends far beyond a means to getting a visa. (Read more on how it extends here).

Thankfully most agency workers who are getting into business now have many more resources to draw on. They understand that to have a credible, sustainable role in a community, their company has to be credible and sustainable. That means aiming towards excellence in business practice and the true integration of holistic missional goals into every aspect of a company – from business plan, to daily business life.  Read more

Discipling Marketplace Leaders: The Power of Church and BAM Partnerships

by Renita Reed-Thomson & Dr. Phil Walker

A Kenyan pastor approached us following our workshop and said, “Church begins on Monday. Sunday is ‘garage/maintenance time’ to prepare for that.” The lightbulb had gone on. It is the lightbulb that reminds pastors and church leaders that the Church gathers on Sunday for the purpose of being equipped to be scattered on Monday, shining the light of Christ everywhere they go. Unfortunately, the Global Church tends to be inward focused, defining itself as a building or by programs, rather than the people. While the majority of adult members in our churches spend the majority of their time in their workplace, we do not disciple them to the purpose of doing their work as an act of worship. Discipling Marketplace Leaders is seeking to remedy this as it brings the work of Business as Mission into the Church.

Finding Common Ground

In 2012 Dr. Phil Walker (President and co-founder of International Christian Ministries) was conducting a leadership seminar in Accra, Ghana. Renita Reed-Thomson (Regional Director for a BAM ministry) was attending the seminar with her team. At the break, she began sharing with Phil about the challenges of the BAM movement. While successful in helping Christian business owners grow in their ability to operate successful businesses, she was concerned about their spiritual journey (Deuteronomy 8:18). It was easy to see financial growth, but hard to know if they were growing in their walk with the Lord. Phil discussed his frustration with the local church and its inability to substantially impact the community by empowering members to be light and leaven in the community. Phil invited Renita to Kitale, Kenya, to teach a course on Church-based Business as Mission at ICM’s Africa Theological Seminary.

Over the initial months of teaching pastors, Renita saw a dramatic change in their perspective regarding business and work. Teaching business as a calling, supported theologically, pastors shifted from business as a “necessary evil,” to business as calling, contributing to fulfilling the Great Commitment of Genesis 1:28. Renita shared with other BAM practitioners about integrating BAM formally with the church. They said BAM and the local church could not find common ground for working together. Some stated that the church is “too difficult” to work with and therefore should be side-stepped. Renita decided on a research project to test whether the faith and work movement was possible within the local church. From 2013-2015, Renita conducted an 18-month research study, in three cities with six churches and 260 businesses.  Read more

The Academic Engine: Academic and BAM Practitioner Collaboration

by Mick Bates, D. Mgt

Jim Collins, the late Peter Drucker and Michael Porter are near household names in the business world. What do they have in common? They are academics who have impacted the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations around the world. Yes, their work also influences BAM organizations, but what if there was a cadre of academics who focused on helping BAM companies be all they can be in transforming economies, being social change agents, bringing the gospel to a world in need and helping the planet?

Academics interested in BAM are out there, but the challenge at hand is to bring them together in a way that creates critical mass. You might say this sounds good, by why does it matter?

How Academics Add Value to BAM

Academics, just as those mentioned above, are uniquely positioned to add value to the BAM movement, specifically in the areas of research, practitioner support and student engagement. Their ability to apply disciplined research techniques to BAM problems gives reliable and valid data that goes beyond the “gut-feel” of the BAM practitioners to what is really happening in the BAM space. The broad perspectives and experiences of the BAM academic can bring effective training, best practices and education to BAMers and their constituencies thereby providing an immediate boost to business productivity and evangelism effectiveness. BAM academics, by virtue of their classrooms, are also principal seed-planters for the next generation of possible BAMers. It is the academic who generally drives the engagement of students with the concept of BAM, practitioners in the field, and doors to experiences with people groups around the world. The academic with an orientation toward BAM, can be a focal point for real-time added value. An academic network with collaborative partnerships with BAM practitioners can be a driver, an “engine,” if you like, for future impact.

Barriers to Entry

You might say this sounds great, but why have we not seen more academics involved in BAM? The challenge with any start-up or movement is often overcoming the barriers to entry. For the academic with a heart toward BAM, this is particularly relevant. For instance, the faith element of BAM causes friction for the business academic who has responsibilities to publish in their area of discipline. There are very few publishing outlets for business academics that recognize the role of faith in business success. Consequently, researching and writing about BAM may create limitations in the academic’s ability to be published. If the BAM movement wants more legitimate research, it must help in creating publishing opportunities for academics.

A somewhat related barrier is that much of the BAM activity is in areas of the world where security is a concern. This inhibits communication, the willingness of people to offer specific information, and the danger of publishing stories. This is becoming a bigger issue as social media makes it easier to “out” people doing BAM work.

Finally, the individualistic nature of the academic pulls against the need to come together, share and collaborate. These barriers seem formidable, but they also create opportunities.

Opportunities at Hand

Opportunity for the BAM movement and interested academics is encapsulated with the posture that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. God inspires and empowers individuals, but it is relationship in community that brings change. Getting BAM practitioners, academics and others working together is the opportunity at hand. This can occur in joint research and other collaboration activities, for example, engaging students in cross-institutional projects or trips, or faculty working together in consulting engagements to maximize value for the BAM practitioner. For instance, how cool would it be to have students and faculty from different institutions working together on a research or consulting project? Then, the faculty members could present their results together at a BAM conference or other academic forum. The BAM practitioner, students and academics achieve wins all around.

There are pockets of these types of academic collaborations occurring in isolated instances, but how can we catalyze these into beneficial community experiences? One way is to become involved in the BAM Academics network.

Invitation to Connect

BAM Academics is a group of higher education professionals dedicated to the promotion and support of the Business as Mission movement. The group accomplishes this in their daily activities in colleges and universities around the world with special emphasis on BAM-oriented research agendas and BAM practitioner support. The goal of the group is to foster closer ties between academics, to generate momentum in areas of common interest, and ultimately, to bring value to the global BAM movement.

Additionally, the Academics Track at the annual BAM Conference USA and the upcoming BAM Global Congress 2020 are an excellent way to meet, engage and collaborate. Not only do participants receive valuable information and new ideas, the relationships formed here often lead to unexpected scholarly, student engagement and consulting opportunities.

I invite BAM practitioners and others to connect with academics to share needs, hopes and desires as they relate to productivity, employment/internships and empowering the movement. You can start the conversation via email to academics@bamglobal.org where you will be connected with potential resources.

Request for Proposals

The BAM Global Congress will be held in Jomtien, Thailand from 29 April to 3 May 2020. It is anticipated there will be over 1,000 people from all over the world in attendance.

As part of Academics Track for the Congress, the BAM Academics network is soliciting proposals for presenting papers, briefings on academic work in support of BAM, or relevant discussion panels. Each session of 20-30 minutes will bring valuable information to academics, practitioners and supporters of BAM. To make a proposal for consideration, please follow this link, BAM Global Congress Proposal Submission, and enter the requested information no later than 31 December 2019. Offers to present will be made no later than 30 January 2020.

As you consider about how you might contribute to the BAM Academics track, I encourage you to think in terms of Boyer’s Scholarship Model that addresses the scholarship of Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching and Learning. This model provides more flexibility and value points for academics to contribute to BAM in a variety of ways. Regardless, if you have engaged with BAM in an “academic” way, please submit a proposal. We all learn from each other.

Whether you present or not, I encourage you to consider attending this important global conference. I guarantee you will come away with some new ideas, new friends and inspired. Finally, please do not hesitate to forward this information to likeminded people in academia and do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of service in any way.

Finally, the late Peter Drucker once posited that management was a liberal art, “’liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom and leadership: ‘art’ because it is also concerned with practice and application” (Drucker, 2001, p. 13). I believe we can extrapolate these thoughts to a similar recognition of BAM and its quadruple bottom-line by academia. I hope to see you at the BAM Global Congress in 2020.

 

Drucker, P. (2001). The essential Drucker. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

 


Dr. Mick Bates
has developed a passion for imbuing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in others. He has spent the last 16 years in higher education, primarily as the Founding Program Chair and Associate Professor for Business Administration at Life Pacific College, and currently Associate Professor of Marketing at Taylor University. Prior to that, Mick spent 20 years in business in call center technology start-ups.

 

 

This month on The BAM Review blog, we are focusing on the four major constituencies within the BAM community: BusinessAcademia, Church and Agencies.

Read other post in series >>
Four Constituencies in the BAM Movement: Business and Beyond
Discipling Marketplace Leaders: The Power of Church and BAM Partnerships
The Vital Place of Mission Agencies in the BAM Movement

 

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Join us at the BAM Global Congress, the ‘one stop shop’ for the global business as mission movement. The Congress is open to everyone interested and only happens every seven years, so don’t miss this chance to connect with BAM leaders from every continent! Find out more information about the Congress here.

 

 

The BAM Global Congress in April next year will reflect the four major constituencies of BAM, including:

  • An Academic Track
  • A Church Track
  • An Agency Track

Plus, Business topics and sub-tracks of all kinds:

  • BAM stories and cases
  • BAM planning and start-up
  • BAM operations
  • BAM incubation and investment
  • Practical integration of business and missional objectives
  • Industry-specific Roundtables
  • The application of BAM to tackling human trafficking and poverty
  • The application of BAM to taking the gospel to the unreached
  • And many more.

 

 

 

Four Constituencies in the BAM Movement: Business and Beyond

It is stating the obvious to say that a major part of the international BAM community is made up of businesses and business people. This is business as mission. We see the great commission and the great commandment to love our neighbour fulfilled in the daily context of company life; lived out through business men and women faithfully sharing the love of Christ in word and deed. Businesses and business people are a core constituency of the BAM movement.

However, these companies and business people will not thrive outside of a healthy ecosystem made up of many types of individuals, skills, perspectives, and institutions. We will not reach a tipping point for macro impact through business as mission unless our business constituency is connected to and supported by a much broader network. Therefore, we see that the BAM global community is made up of four major constituencies; leaders from business, mission, church and academia.

BAM thought-leader Peter Shaukat expresses this same idea as the 4 As: 1

  • Academy: scholars and educational institutions
  • Agency: mission agencies, yes, but also other kinds of entities with specialist functions
  • Assembly: local churches and congregations
  • Actualizers: the business people who run business as mission enterprises

The Four Major Constituencies in the BAM Movement

 

At the same time, we are part of a broader movement of God’s people following Christ in many arenas. The BAM movement should also be more broadly connected to, and overlapping with, like-movements, such as ‘Justice as Mission’, ‘Education as Mission’, ‘Art as Mission’ and so on. Business as mission is not a “silver bullet” and we should see our place among those that the Lord is raising up in all spheres of society.  Read more