By Adam Gustine
I’m not sure its possible to feel a sense of calling, or passion and drive, for social enterprise and not be just a little bit crazy. Or at least not feel a little bit crazy. The relative dearth of social enterprise practitioners in the world, particularly the church world, can leave the social entrepreneur feeling like they are on an island, the only one around them who thinks about their community the way they do. If you were to couple that with the fact that so many of us within the CovEnterprises movement are, or were, primarily ministry practitioners (coming to this work through the work of pastoral or community based ministry) it only adds to that feeling because so many of us became social entrepreneurs because we sensed its necessity in our community rather than come to it after years of learning and training to get properly equipped.
All that to say, the work of social enterprise can be lonely. It is hard work, it can be work that stretches us because it requires mastery of new skill sets, it takes long hours that don’t always fit well within the typical work schedule (pastors are used to this but it can be hard to wear two hats that are so fluid), and the results can be uneven early on.
In conversations with some of the CovEnterprises leadership team (made up of pastors and practitioners from across the ECC) this sentiment was articulated by even the most seasoned among us. I NEED a space where I don’t feel like I’m crazy, where I can get help for the most pressing issues, where I can be in community with others like me.
This is what CovEnterprises aims to do… CONNECT. In all the ways that social enterprise in a local community can isolate, our goal is to bring those people back together; creating a network of support, community, insight and wisdom that allows all of us to feel connected and part of a larger group as we seek to do what God has called us to do in the places we’ve been called to do it.
Every year at Midwinter, we host Business in the Neighborhood. A two day social enterprise intensive that has two major goals. First, we hope that Business in the Neighborhood becomes fertile ground for training, learning and exploring the world of social enterprise through the local church. After two years of BITN, we are confident this intensive is a valuable space for such learning. Second, we hope that BITN can, increasingly, become a space where we carve out intentional time for practitioners to connect with one another, learn from one another, and offer support and encouragement to another in the journey. Holding these two ideas in tension is important to us and we are working out ways we can create both of these spaces for all of us as we gather each year for Midwinter.
Beyond this, we know that some of the most critical work of connection happens in the midst of the everyday grind. We don’t want any social enterprise practitioner, pastor or team to wallow in isolation. So we want to connect people to trusted advisors and friends, less for ‘how-to’—more for ‘how are you’.
The ‘in it together’ ethos of the ECC is a critical value for us as we step into the work of CovEnterprises. Providing real and tangible ways of connection is one of the ways we will do that.