People, People, People! Human Capital Flow for BAM Companies

by Peter Shaukat

Editors Note: When we asked veteran BAM leaders to identify some of the pressing issues that are facing the business as mission movement in the next decade, among the issues they identified were several areas that could broadly be categorized as ‘resource gaps for BAM companies’, including:

1. Adequate financial capital flow.

2. Adequate human capital flow – both in terms of a) recruiting the right kind of people to begin and sustain a BAM company, and b) succession planning and the successful transition of a BAM company from one generation of owners to another.

3. Adequate support for BAM practitioners, especially mentoring, accountability and care.

We will be posting articles covering each of these issues during the month of June, continuing with the challenge of human capital flow.

Human Capital Flow for BAM Companies

To some ears, the term “human capital”, especially when applied to the BAM movement, might sound strange, secular, and mercenary – even exploitative.

According to the OECD, human capital is defined as: “the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances”.

There is, therefore, nothing at all shameful in this use of the term. Indeed, if the BAM movement is predicated on the assumption that God’s pleasure is to create good things for the benefit of all, and that the marketplace is part of the divine design for how society is intended to function, then we should rejoice in being a part of that process and outcome. This doesn’t mean we are ciphers or cogs in some impersonal machine, for this would entirely negate the splendid truth that we are persons, made in the image of our Father in Heaven. 

Getting Boots on the Ground

So, what does it mean to be part of the vibrant functioning BAM enterprise in a “human capital” sense? There is no substitute for “boots on the ground” workers, in sufficient supply, strategically positioned, intentionally reproducing, serving in community, to enable BAM companies to be created, to grow into maturity, and, if God wills, to serve God and humanity with fruitful impact for decades if not centuries.

From the vantage point of having been a direct participant in BAM and having observed the human capital issue for over 4 ½ decades, the following observations may help us better understand at least some of this mission-critical issue:

Business Creators vs Business Builders – we need both!

There is a huge difference between business creators and business builders. The former refers to those uniquely gifted entrepreneur-types who spot a market opportunity, respond with the resources God has put at their disposal, embrace risk, and create a business “out of nothing”. On the other hand, by business builders we mean those who have a wide range of skills, given to them by the same living God, which are needed by the business enterprise to move “from founding to foundations”, from an idea to a strong business that can continue to be a source of blessing.

As a rough rule of thumb, for every one BAM creator, we need to see ten BAM builders serving with equal dedication, over a period of years, in order for the BAM company to gain sustained traction. This distinction has profound implications for our BAM vision casting, mobilisation, recruitment, onboarding and support. Yet the BAM movement still largely promotes entrepreneurship as the implicit and dominant need. This needs to be corrected if we are to see the right human capital placed into the right positions in God’s great enterprise.

Launching and Landing – doing it well

Launching pads and re-entry platforms have an immensely important role to play. To this day, virtually all BAM practitioners enter the arena lacking either in business skills and experience, or in theological, missiological, and especially cross-cultural acumen and praxis. How can these be acquired? It will require a supply chain of equally committed business owners, churches, academies and missional communities to prepare the BAM worker to be launched.

However, often overlooked, is the critical piece enabling a returning BAM practitioner to meaningfully re-engage with a new job, often requiring new skills, and providing supportive community if and when a re-entry into their “home culture” (or any other) is required for reasons of health, family, education, age, deportation, or any number of legitimate reasons. The better integrated and envisioned this supply chain can be, the more we’ll be able to see a steady flow of human capital around the BAM movement.

An Honest Day’s Work – demolishing the sacred/secular divide

“Work as ministry” and “work as worship” concepts are still largely embryonic in the minds of most Christians. The separation of ministry and worship from the domain of good, hard work and the fruit of honest toil is deeply embedded, and until it is overcome, the movement of human capital into BAM will always suffer. What a tragedy to hear, almost everywhere I go, the comment that Christians make the poorest workers! That they are the ones most inclined to cut corners, show up late and leave early (assuming that their Christian boss will understand, and support their heading off to, or coming from “ministry” engagements.) While the individual may have the connection between work, worship and service well-sorted, they often encounter others querying why they spend so much time “in the business” and so little time “in ministry”. The demolition – no less – of the sacred/secular divide must be one of our absolutely highest priorities.

If you are a BAM practitioner, “Job One” for you must be to embrace the divine pleasure derived from disciplined, professional work in the job of which God has made you a steward.  If you are in any way engaged in the missional potential represented by BAM recruitment, for example, you must get this point straight, and make this a non-negotiable, clear priority in your evaluation of suitability and performance.

Human capital is the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances. – OECD [emphasis added]

The Character of a BAMer – and essential “other attributes”

Note the “other attributes” mentioned in the OECD definition of human capital! This is rich with significance, for in the BAM space it opens up a huge field for examination. Among many considerations is a person’s character – touching on motivation, expectations and cross-bearing, and charismata – serving with the gifts of the Spirit particularly in the context of the spiritual warfare which underlies all BAM endeavours.

Character is indispensable to the flow of human capital into BAM. BAM companies will be marked out as different from all others, above all, because of women and men of Christ, filled with the fruit of His character because they abide in Him, living sacrificially for Him and by His power.

Laying Down Our Lives – the sacrifices of doing BAM

There is a large “elephant in the room” in this context and it has to do with motivation and expectation. A great hindrance to the release of human capital is the expectation that one can engage in BAM and make, if not a lot of money, at least what they could make in their home country. This in turn is linked with the flawed notion that legitimate BAM (or a related notion that legitimate tentmaking) is characterised by a presumed financial return that renders participation with a sending and supporting body completely unnecessary.

The far more common fact is that there will be an “opportunity cost” in financial terms in doing BAM in many places where it is needed the most. While some BAM companies will be able to compensate generously – and legitimate, sustainable compensation is an essential hallmark and worthy objective for any credible BAM company – the far more common reality is that even while they completely pass the smell test of legitimacy in the local economic context, they may well not be able to pay all that a BAM family might need to meet its legitimate costs. This will require sacrifice and mutual interdependence of the BAM worker on others, which flies in the face particularly of the tendency to self-reliance that permeates so many cultures.

And of course, this is to say nothing of the ultimate risk of laying down our lives, a risk which might be exacerbated by choosing to work in some particularly hostile environments. But surely, these places of spiritual warfare are also the front-line for the Kingdom, and are war zones into which the Spirit of Christ wants to send and accompany us in the greatest of all initiatives, the one which brings the entire human family together under one God and Father of us all, with one Lord, united in one Spirit, in one faith.

This post is part of a series of blogs in June 2019 looking at resource gaps in the BAM ecosystem that we must address for the next decade of business as mission to be more fruitful.

The BAM 2.0 Series

In recent months we have been exploring each of the key issues highlighted in our introduction post on 10 pressing issues to address for BAM 2.0.

In March we continued with our introduction to the series, looking at how far we’ve come and some of our ‘big hairy audacious goals’ for the future.

In April we took a deep dive into our ‘Why’ – what are some of the pressing global issues that BAM can address, including poverty, unreached peoples, the refugee crisis and human trafficking.

In May we looked at some limiting issues such as the sacred-secular divide, our definition of success, our geographical depth and our connectedness; issues that we must overcome for future growth.

In June we’ll look at resource gaps to overcome, including human capital, financial capital, mentoring and support, prayer and continuity planning.

We hope you enjoy this series! Follow us by subscribing to The BAM Review email or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Peter Shaukat was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. With a professional background in chemical engineering, education, and business, he is cofounder and CEO of a global investment fund which has invested in dozens of kingdom-focused companies across the Arab world and Asia. Having served in cross- cultural mission for over forty years on six continents, Peter has given leadership to a variety of for-profit and not-for-profit entities, including a satellite television media company in the Arab world, a maternal mortality reduction program in Africa, an engineering company in South Asia, and major international mission agencies.

More from Peter Shaukat on The BAM Review:

What Makes a BAMer? Identifying and Deploying the Right People for BAM Companies

The Right Ingredients: 10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer

Am I a Business Builder or Entrepreneur? Identifying Your Place in a BAM Team

The Spirituality of Professional Skills and Business

Four Essentials of a Working Spirituality



Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash