By Adam Gustine
I get the chance to talk about CovEnterprises all the time and I always find myself breaking it down in different ways. My struggle is that there is so much that we want CovEnterprises to be it is hard to get it all into a single conversation.
But I’ve come to embrace the undefined nature of CovEnterprises because, to me, it is evidence that CovEnterprises is still in ‘open source’ mode. CovEnterprises is still becoming what it will be, and we are creating parameters that allow it to grow and develop over time. So you’ll often hear me describe our activity and our hopes for CovEnterprises. Over the next few blogs, I will try to unpack those with a bit more depth.
Launch Opportunity, Incubate Shalom
From nearly the first day we conceived of CovEnterprises we have operated with the tagline Launch Opportunity, Incubate Shalom. In my mind, this is a straightforward articulation of our hopes for what CovEnterprises is and will be. We hope that this social enterprise and economic development project actually nurtures God’s wholeness and peace(shalom) in the world. We could say that our aim is to create jobs, empower community business owners, develop ordinary modes of church engagement in the neighborhood etc, but all of those ends would fall short. So, we name our hope that God’s transformative work would show up in neighborhoods and communities where CovEnterprise projects are launched.
And that is why LAUNCH is the first, and our main, activity. CovEnterprises/LMDJ is committed to launching multiple (3-4) businesses per year in collaboration with Covenant ministries in communities across the country. These social enterprise ventures will be aimed at nurturing God’s shalom, particularly in places often overlooked and among populations of people who often get pushed to the margins of our larger society. These places and populations exist in every context, and so we intend to see businesses created and flourishing across the wide mosaic of the ECC. This is work we’ve been doing under the radar for over a year now and we’ve seen some incredible work happening on the ground in various Covenant contexts.
We helped to expand the operations of a barbershop and a lawn care company in Jackson, MS. We invested in the launch of a t-shirt shop in New Orleans. We funded a start up coffee cart in Minneapolis, MN. All of these projects are interesting and would make for a cool story in a magazine dedicated to entrepreneurship.
What makes them CovEnterprises is their kingdom aim. They are not merely businesses. They are businesses that function in the world as conduits of God’s shalom. They are outposts of the kingdom of God where brokenness can be restored and people can find new life and freedom.
You’ll often hear social entrepreneurs talk about the double bottom line. This is what they mean. We start social enterprises because we want to see growth, as a business, but also in the people who work there, the communities in which they operate and the churches who support and partner with them. This makes the work of social enterprise all the more complex, but the complexity is the work we are committed to.
In the coming weeks, we will continue to explore the activity of CovEnterprises; fleshing out more of what we intend to do to equip the church to incubate shalom for God’s glory and neighbor’s good.