Do you have a passion project that you’d like to pursue, but you’re feeling confused and maybe even paralyzed about what comes next? Today, I’m going to give you access to practical steps to launch your faith-based business in order to reach your community.
Specifically, I’m going to introduce you to:
Use these links below if you want to skip ahead to a particular section:
Thanks to the Internet, you have access to countless methods for starting anything — from starting a garden to building your own bicycle to launching your own business! The key is to break down the process into achievable steps you can work through so you can begin to see your passion project take on life.
Recently, an entrepreneur we worked with in Orlando, Florida, pointed out an interesting but common sentiment among the folks we collaborate with. While working through the steps to launch his startup, he said: “This is amazing. I’ve used these concepts at work. But, I never thought about using them with my faith to start a ministry.”
Sometimes we compartmentalize familiar methods when they can actually be used across multiple projects. In our experience, we’ve found that people already possess the skills needed to execute their dream; they just need the process broken down into achievable steps.
The building process begins with the right team.
One leader we worked with, Andy Ritchie, had a passion for serving a specific community. Instead of relying on the strong leaders surrounding him in his everyday church career, he gathered leaders from the target community who shared his vision and passion. Eventually, he turned over the leadership of his project to this knowledgeable and passionate group. He had the right team.
There are three things to do well when it comes to recruiting your team. It may be tempting to go it alone, but while ideation begins with you, executing and bringing your idea to life most likely will require a team.
After praying for wisdom and discernment, we recommend you ask yourself a few questions.
Remember: integrity is non-negotiable. You are inviting people to join you in a faith-based venture and serve the community as you live out your “why.” Having people alongside you that you can trust will serve you well.
With your team in place, it’s time to define and really dig into the details of your strategy.
As part of the StartNew Course, we have our students read the book 7 Steps to Start by head coach Bill Woolsey. This book identifies key topics we need to ask ourselves when building a faith-based venture.
In our work with churches, Christian entrepreneurs, and leaders, we have found that investing time to work through the “why” of your venture will give you a substantial return. In addition, you’ll gain a more precise plan for gathering your team, seeking funding, establishing community partnerships, and creating your action plan.
One component of our signature process is to lead with compassion and then explore the impact of this value on the success of your endeavor. When you start with a compassionate perspective, the view of your community will change, and out of that value, your endeavor will proceed with humility and hospitality.
In our StartNew Course, we explore Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000. In Matthew 14:13-21, we can see Jesus reach the community by meeting their real and felt needs.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (ESV)
As you explore the values that motivate you, pay attention to the walls that will need to be knocked down for your venture to be successful. Don’t let those barriers stop you from pursuing your passion; every single journey we’ve traveled with an entrepreneur has included roadblocks. When you are clear about your “why,” you’ll have the clarity and motivation to outsmart those barriers and set the vision and strategy for your organization.
In our experience with leaders, churches, and teams who aren’t afraid of getting specific with their “why” tend to hit their target. Here are some examples of customers who are benefitting from faith-based business ventures across the country:
And in urban Wyandotte, MI, Pastor Greyson Grenz’s care for the people in his community led him to launch a basketball camp and a reading program for elementary kids in the neighborhood. As a result, not only has he watched kids build relationships, improve physical activity and reading skills, but his church has also built long-haul relationships with more than 100 new families from the surrounding community.
“My eyes were opened to a different way that the church can operate in today’s society, not by providing freebies, but by providing value,” he told us.
Once you’re clear on your strategy, it’s time to focus on your customer, value proposition and begin testing.
It may sound overly simplistic to encourage you to know your customer, but this is at the core of what we need to do before moving forward. As we’ve shared with many of our students — if your product is for everyone, then it is for no one. Therefore, when starting a faith-based business, ministry, or nonprofit, we have to get to know the customer.
Start with a series of questions, like —
Assuredly, you’ve heard this phrase before. A value proposition is the value you promise to deliver to your marketplace. This is a statement of intent that tells the public who you are, what you offer, and why you deserve their attention, their business, and their loyalty.
Start with this fundamental question — what problem will your venture solve for the target community?
Test your idea before you invest too much money, time, or soul.
When it comes to testing, consider this fact: You can only spend a dollar once. By testing your plan, you can ensure the money is spent wisely.
If you need more proof of the importance of this step: in our experience working with more than 50 teams who have launched ventures all around the country, the “testing” step has triggered a change in the direction of many groups. In fact, after the testing exercise, 60% of them pivoted their plan to better fit their customer.
Revive Boca is a Bible-based recovery ministry started by Jen and her supportive team in Boca Raton, Florida. A waypoint for people hungry to know God, the group was particularly thankful for the testing process of the StartNew Course:
“We’re so glad we were pushed to test,” said Jen, “because what we found in our testing was really an affirmation that people in Boca are really interested in this kind of recovery ministry.”
For this enthusiastic team, testing was a novel but critical concept that confirmed their value proposition.
When it comes to funding your venture, three things need to happen —
Whenever possible, we encourage startups to have both an earned income stream and a donative income stream.
First, by ensuring you have an earned revenue stream as a non-profit, you become a hand-up organization rather than simply a handout one. Second, fundraising inspires donors and allows them to participate in the mission through their giving. Both have eternal value.
Don’t overlook the value of forecasting, which can reveal the levers you should pull for success. Combine your sales and service projections along with your revenue to see what levers you should pull to move the needle. Cash is king. You don’t want to run out of funds before you get to financial sustainability.
As you get closer to launching your faith-based business, it’s time to craft a pitch. Writing a pitch can be overwhelming for entrepreneurs and starters, but we’ve codified a few of the best practices for you.
Your pitch is a presentation that will help you find people to join your cause or contribute to your work. Essentially, your pitch will tell people why they should follow you. The best pitches will build trust, share information, and inspire. It will grab both the head and the heart of your audience.
Let’s be honest. Asking for and talking about money can make even the most stoic person uncomfortable. But here’s our philosophy — Don’t be afraid to ask for money; it’s all God’s anyway! Once your pitch is crafted and ready, fundraising is an opportunity to inspire donors or investors and allow them to participate in your mission through giving, which is an important and critical step to launch your faith-based business venture.
In our work with churches, we’ve seen some incredible fundraising stories come through.
With your building phase complete and funding in place, it’s time to launch your faith-based venture!
The next steps to launch your faith-based enterprise include —
As a result of our work with leaders and entrepreneurs, we’ve found that mapping out the next year of life for your venture will keep it on track. That includes curating a picture of your long-term vision, focusing your resources so you don’t overpromise, and articulating each step of your team’s action plan.
We’ve all had the experience of starting a project with enthusiasm and then losing momentum. In our experience with teams, we’ve found the solution is more straightforward than people think: a thoughtful picture of your project’s long-term vision will spark your team’s creativity and risk-taking potential.
Another way we’ve seen teams lose momentum is by saying yes to everything. As a result, your impact becomes a lazy river instead of a laser, cutting through an obstacle. Instead, revisit that vision and make sure each “yes” gets you closer to that picture.
We believe that the power of partnership is critical for your success. Your mission is bigger than you and your team. It’s important to partner with others in the community because these partnerships will multiply Kingdom impact.
When you build partnerships within your community, you will multiply your efforts and accomplish significantly more than you can do alone.
Here’s an easy way to get started — send emails to key community leaders. Introduce yourself and ask them how you can help them.
Finally, refresh and refine your vision, offering, and strategy. These questions will lead teams in the right direction to maintain an organization’s success:
Update your strategy to improve how you serve your current customers and then brace yourself as you attract new ones.
Deb Ellinger is a former team leader who founded Elli’s House, a street outreach ministry and home for women involved in sex trafficking in Detroit.
Revisiting and refocusing their strategy has led them to incredible connection opportunities: the organization is in contact monthly with more than 200 men and women on the street who are encountering the message of Jesus. And recently, a house was donated to the group that will occupy two women whom the group has been ministering to regularly.
At FiveTwo, we’re encouraged by the continued growth and leadership demonstrated by startups like Elli’s House.
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In this article, we’ve covered the 3 steps we walk our clients through as they launch their faith-based venture to serve their community. We’ve seen leaders work through our process in as little as 60 days or over the course of a year. It’s exciting to consider what kind of impact your venture could be making in the next 2 months. (And with a good vision statement, you don’t need to imagine it because you already have a clear picture!)
To get started, you can follow the steps we’ve outlined here, including the recommended articles for a more in-depth look at some of the signature components. Or, get started with the complete, self-paced StartNew Course to build, fund, and launch your venture.