Although BAM companies integrating church planting strategies tend to be very diverse, there are some common fruitful practices. Read the first 7 practices in Part 1 here. Part 2, more fruitful practices for BAM and church planting:
Incorporate prayer right from the start.
Prayer is one of the cornerstones of church planting and BAM. Some of the businesses incorporate prayer in their meetings with key staff, while most pray for their business, and their business decisions on a regular basis. Most BAMers regularly pray for their staff and sometimes have opportunities to pray with their employees individually. Most people respond to and welcome prayer for themselves and family members, especially at times of distress and trouble. Often BAM practitioners develop a reputation as a man or woman of prayer and have people seek them out because of answers to prayer. In one company, a business owner prayed for healing of a sick woman, who had tried many other options, and she was healed. This gave the owner a chance to talk about spiritual ideas and a church was started as a result.
Incorporate biblical values and teaching.
Scripture is also used extensively in BAM businesses, but not always directly. In many cases, the core values and ethical principles of the business come straight from Scripture. In other cases, leadership and other types of training are based on biblical principles. Scripture can be used to explain the business owners’ decisions and basis for their actions. For example, in a case where an employee was caught stealing, the business owner was able to demonstrate forgiveness and reconciliation and shared the prodigal son story from Scripture. Having Bibles in English and the local language on site may be an option in some areas. Some employers are able to read Bible stories and verses to the staff to guide work ethics and behavior. Giving Bible passages about women from Proverbs to the women on staff during Christmas season was one business owner’s way to share scripture. Placing a different proverb on the manager’s door each week is another example of the creative use of scripture that can lead to spiritual conversations and transformation of character. Using the Bible as a tool for communicating principles for life, work and business is effective.
Work with a coach or mentor(s).
Some of the more successful BAM businesses have had mentors from the beginning. One BAMer has a board of advisors who have been helping right from the start-up stage to now expanding the business. More than one coach is ideal because it helps to have expertise in more than one area, as well as expanding the sphere of influence. Another BAMer has a team of advisors in various areas such as accounting, finance, agriculture, as well as a mentor who will ask and counsel him regarding his whole person: marriage, family, spiritual life, etc. Although a mentor who knows business and knows you personally is ideal, there are other ways to find a coach or mentor. Joining a BAM network can provide connections for coaching. Some sending agencies may have links with Christian business people who want to be involved in Kingdom work. There are other organizations that recruit volunteers for BAM enterprises such as Ventures, NexusB4T, Access Partners, and Global Disciples. Mentoring can even come from local business people. National BAMers may find the most appropriate business advisors in the local community. One BAMer had a local business advisor lend funds for the expansion of her business.
One of the best places to find a coach or mentor is in your own sending church. BAMers can recruit business people from their own church to coach them, along with building financial and prayer support. Many BAM businesses have a board of directors or an advisory board to provide expertise, accountability and spiritual input. Advisory boards may also be a requirement when borrowing money from Kingdom-minded investors.
Witness by doing business ethically and with care.
Many BAMers emphasize that doing business honestly is a real witness to employees and others they hope to reach and it is in dramatic contrast to the corruption and dishonesty of many businesses in their country. Doing business ethically can provide an opportunity to share important biblical principles with those who are observing them and question why a BAM business is doing things differently.
One employee who came to know Jesus was influenced in her decision for Christ after watching the Christian employer who became upset with a vendor over a mistake that he blamed the vendor for. Later, when the employer discovered that the vendor did not make the mistake, he called the vendor to apologize and ask forgiveness. This made a tremendous impression in a culture that values honor and saving face over honesty.
Be honest and have integrity. One BAM company witnessed to the community when it corrected a customs tax mistake that was favorable to the company and ended up paying more tax. This honest act helped build their favorable reputation in community. Many of the BAMers mentioned that refusal to pay bribes and doing business honestly was a huge witness to others and had led people to ask Jesus into their lives. Treating people with respect and fairness has also made a big impact and has opened opportunities for BAMers to share their faith.
Other companies emphasize the need to regularly explain to others the basis for integrity in business; it is important to tell them the biblical basis for actions. Giving an employee who was caught stealing a second chance because of the prodigal son story demonstrates the character of a loving and forgiving God. Dealing with tough business issues are opportunities to teach about repentance, grace, and forgiveness. BAMers can demonstrate what the Kingdom of God is like in the context of everyday life. One business owner shares that she helps others understand that if there is integrity and honesty in the business, God will bless it. To her it is important that people understand that it is God who makes her business successful, it is his business, everything is from him.
Some companies intentionally show care for their employees by helping them grow personally and develop professionally through seminars and guest speakers, and through using biblical principles to teach topics such as leadership development, interpersonal relationships, marriage and other topics. In one community the locals regard the business as a valuable place for women to work. The Muslim men would rather have their women work in the BAMer’s shop than other places because of the good reputation of that business.
Provide excellent products and services.
Another opportunity to witness and demonstrate biblical principles is by earning a reputation for giving the best effort to make quality merchandise and provide excellent services for customers. Doing so is actively modeling the principle of doing everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). One company interviewed sees their provision of quality products that are fresh and superior to imports as a witness amongst their focus people group. If someone drops a cake in the BAM bakery, the owner will give a new one. If customers do not like a cake, the owner will replace it with a different one.
Intentionally invest in relationships.
Building good personal relationships across the whole community is so important in many ways. One business that hires women has a vision to lift up women who come from difficult home lives and help them to see themselves equal as anybody else in God’s eyes. In another case, out of a trusted relationship with a Muslim neighbor, the neighbor lent a business owner much of the money to buy a larger café. In another instance the policeman who closed down a BAM business at one point attended the party at the opening of a larger café, even bringing presents. Building good relationships can also help securing extended credit from suppliers when needed.
Some examples of intentionally building relationships included:
- Showing love for staff and customers.
- Focus on training and development of staff to reach their full potential under God.
- Involving employees in life outside work.
- Training people from the beginning, instead of paying a high salary to people with education.
- When a crisis arises, praying with both Christians and non-Christians staff.
With staff who are already believers, developing purposeful relationships helps build their maturity in Christ, leading to a multiplication of spiritual fruit.
Be socially responsible in the wider community.
Look for opportunities to bless the local community beyond providing jobs. For instance, the business might provide a much needed service such as clean water or training, etc. One company started a much needed and affordable internet café and eventually a church was planted that met in the café. Some BAM businesses bless community by using some of the profits for neighborhood projects or to meet needs in the community. In one example, the community knows the business owner not just for selling a quality product but also for blessing the community by providing products in the schools.
Short-term teams and interns who come to visit and help BAM businesses can also serve the community by their friendliness and voluntary work. Participation can take the form of blessing a community materially with financial resources or with hands-on volunteerism.
Excerpt from the BAM Think Tank BAM and Church Planting report. We recommend reading this report in full.