This video of Michael Volland’s 2016 Germinate lecture on entrepreneurs in rural church leadership is well worth a look. Here’s a summary of his top 10 tips and then a quick tour through the video if you don’t have time to watch all 50 minutes.
Top 10 Tips for Rural Church Entrepreneurs
1. Think of all the positive associations with the following words – artist, explorer, minister, collaborator, entrepreneur, curator, investor – at its best that is what an entrepreneur in the church can contribute – by recognising opportunities from the Holy Spirit.
2. Clergy don’t need to be entrepreneurs and neither do all of us – but with fewer paid staff clergy do need to spot and permission/create the space for lay people with entrepreneurial gifts to flourish. “You may need to lead people through the gate not just open it”. Pray and encourage others to pray about how you help people experience and share God’s love.
3. Small congregations of 8 or so – “Hey look, unless God does something here we are stuffed aren’t we”. A good place to be is on our knees – “Lord have mercy on us – we do not know what to do but our eyes are on you”. Start where you are with what you have. Be excited about small. Small is good and precious.
Fruitful Church Entrepreneurs
4. Can help articulate the vision of a group and can communicate well.
5. Bring energy and enthusiasm – which is infectious and helps generate hope and joy.
6. Are around and present and engaged. They work with people and see things through. They are passionate, engaged and informed about the community.. All of this builds trust and relationships.
7. Are comfortable with making decisions and dealing with change – but maybe more importantly – help others transition through and navigate change well.
8. Build with others something of recognised value.
9. Are creative and innovative – spotting gaps or opportunities for connections or helping others to.
10. Learn from their mistakes and admit them – and allow others to do the same.
A summary of the clip with time references if you want to watch that bit yourself
40sec – By way of introducing himself Michael explains how he is helping Ridley and others think about pre and post ordination training. This links to the national theme of context based training which is something to do with getting more engaged and more joined up training. He then goes on to talk about:
2min 20sec – His research on parish priests who were acting entrepreneurially.
3min 5sec – All the baggage that comes with the entrepreneur word
3min 45sec – recommendations from his research – rethink our misconceptions about the entrepreneur word – and how people with entrepreneur characteristics are a gift of God to the church for this time.
4min 55sec – people with entrepreneur characteristics should be welcomed so they can do their thing – this is a culture change for our mainstream denominations.
5min 25sec – the image on the screen – of his children in the woods – is a playful image. They’re exploring and are free to see possibilities. The church needs to be playful. To explore and try out new things. To fail sometimes.
6min – When you think of the following words what associated words pop into your head? Artist, explorer, minister, collaborator, entrepreneur, curator, investor.
7min 15sec – All of the positive associations with those words are caught up in the entrepreneur word.
7min 50 sec – People are uncomfortable with the entrepreneur word because of the business baggage that comes with it yet it’s important we do use the word entrepreneur because it captures ideas other words don’t.
8min 40sec – Most entrepreneurs know they need to bring people with them and aren’t just in it for the money (so not like the 1980’s stereotype of an entrepreneur).
12min 15sec – “We don’t all need to be entrepreneurs”
14min 15sec – The church needs to welcome entrepreneurs and not just point them towards pioneer ministry.
14min 45sec – Quotes Bill Bolton – “one of the go to people on entrepreneurship” with several books on the subject – and also a lay reader in Chelmsford Diocese.
15min 57sec – Entrepreneurs in church are not just concerned about things that interest themselves. They are also good at recognising opportunities from the Holy Spirit.
17min 10sec – his definition of entrepreneur – key concepts – a person or a group, habitual in doing one thing, then another, then another. Successful/fruitful entrepreneurs work with people and see those things through. Steer away from “10 ideas before breakfast” type of entrepreneurship: this approach can hurt people or leave them hanging when the entrepreneur moves on.
18min 21sec – Fruitful entrepreneurs build something of recognised value.
18min 55sec – Creative and innovative – spotting gaps or opportunities for connections.
19min 15sec – In his research the things he saw in people behaving entrepreneurially are as follows: – they have a vision or can articulate the vision of a group; there is creativity at play; they have the ability to communicate and collaborate; they are trusted; they make decisions (of course wisdom and judgement is required) rather than procrastinate; they learn from mistakes and admit them openly,;they bring energy and enthusiasm (which is infectious); they have commitment and create value. Adds from interaction with the audience were – tenacity (not pigheaded) and the ability to bear pain.
23min 50sec – Clergy need to encourage lay entrepreneurship by creating the space and environment for lay people to do so – where they can emerge to be entrepreneurs and try things out. Its about permission giving. So ministers don’t need to be entrepreneurs, but they do need to spot and release them. And we need to be wary of a top down CEO mentality where the senior people set the vision – that approach takes away from the people of God and creates pacified lay people.
25min – So is entrepreneurship relevant to rural church leadership? Well what do we mean by rural – rural can be a diverse set of contexts (market town, remote or a dormitory village near a larger town). And when we say leadership we mean lay and clergy – but maybe we need to put lay first.
28min – The moment of opportunity that is arising for lay people – as the “do everything clergy” are becoming rarer and have mostly all gone – and as clergy cover 5 or 10 parishes. And the moment of opportunity from when you’re at rock bottom and there is nowhere else to go. So when you stand up to do your sermon to 8 people you can say “Hey look, unless God does something here, we are stuffed aren’t we”. A good place to be is on our knees – “Lord have mercy on us – we do not know what to do but our eyes are on you”
28min 40sec – the main aim has something to do with the fact that we are a sent people – mission lecture no. 1 – God is a God of sending love. Rural church ministry has something to do with that – helping people to be part of God’s mission.
38min 30sec – Using a picture of an open gate Michael explained that – on permission giving – sometimes people won’t go through the gate on their own – but they may well follow you if you go through the gate. “You may need to lead people through the gate not just open it”
39min 50sec – Things to do to help latent entrepreneurs emerge. Pray and encourage others to pray. Be around/be present as often as possible – because it builds trust and relationships. Find people who are passionate, engaged and informed about the community. Engagedness allows an informed creativity. Bring energy. Generate hope and joy. Have and share a vision – emerging from pray with others. Draw people together around shared concerns. See projects through to completion. Be comfortable with change – but maybe more importantly – help others transition through and navigate change well. Start where you are with what you have. Be excited about small. Small is good and precious.