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Showing posts from February, 2018

You Must Do this One Thing in a Business as Mission

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I was recently asked in a meeting of executives what was one thing I would recommend to a Christ-following business owner wanting to bring his or her faith more directly into the workplace.

Without hesitation, I immediately recommended what we call the “hood-check.”

This particular discussion was interesting because most of the participants came from the for-profit world and they were really struggling with how to appropriately increase the role of faith in their companies without alienating employees or running in violation of discrimination rules.

I have a slightly different perspective because our non-profit organization, Belay Enterprises, was specifically set up as an urban business as mission incubator. We actively combine faith and business as instruments in rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison. Sometime other business owners seem to think that this special perspective from our unique “DNA” makes our approach not immediately replicable in a trad…

The Golden Rule for Business as Mission

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"What’s the nicest thing someone has done for you?"
With that question, we opened a recent Bud’s Warehouse morning staff gathering. 
Someone shared about the time he was arrested but the officer arranged to have him released quickly. The policeman waited two hours for him to be processed and then drove him to get help. It was the one caring act that changed the course of his life.
Another staff member told about how a counselor in a drug treatment program went out of her way to help him get into a long-term program. “She single-handedly gave me a shot at having a life again,” he said.
Several others talked about how friends and parents selflessly helped them when they were in need. Everyone quickly realized that sacrifice and selflessness is always behind those nice actions.
But when we changed the question to what was the nicest thing you did for someone else, the room grew quiet, mostly because it’s hard to talk about such things because ex-offenders have been conditioned …

A Good Job is the Best Way to Fight Poverty

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That fact has formed the foundation of my career leading Belay Enterprise's over the last 18 years. I have seen first-hand how good jobs in faithful organizations transform lives.

Employment helps people move beyond the problems of being disadvantaged. It ends homelessness and prevents individuals from returning to prison. It allows people to support their families and engage in the creativity God intends for all to enjoy through work.

Work also provides the environment for people to learn about God in faithful businesses.

Since 1994, Belay Enterprises' mission has been to partner with the church to start businesses that employ and job train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness and prison. Over the past 24 years, Belay has incubated six projects in Colorado that have hired hundreds of individuals.

At different points over the years, Belay has set various goals of starting a certain number of businesses by a future date. But increasingly we realize that t…

The Book I Always Recommend for Urban Business as Mission

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Over the last 18 years of my time at Belay,  I've read a lot of books on leadership, social enterprise, and serving disadvantaged communities. My all time favorite one is Father Greg Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. If you're interested in experiencing the crazy world of leading a faith venture, his beautiful book is a must read. And now he has written a new book, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, which I am excited to read.

Tattoos on the Heart wonderfully captures the flavor of employing ex-gang members rebuilding lives at Los Angeles' Homeboy Industries. Instead of being a how to book or a history of Homeboy, Boyle organizes his stories around nine spiritual themes that arise out of his unique ministry. These include the importance of God, the damaging nature of dis-grace, the slow nature of God's work, the difficulty of defining success apart from God and the value of kinship.
Indeed, these themes are fundam…

The Power of Second Chances

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Early during my time at Belay Enterprises, I became a big fan of Prison Entrepreneurship Project (PEP) and it's passionate founder Catherine Hoke because of our shared affinity for creating opportunities for ex-offenders through business development. Belay even spent a year developing our own jail based commercial kitchen employment and training program inspired by the results PEP was achieving behind bars. Though we ultimately decided to focus on other program priorities, I continued to be a big fan of harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of ex-offenders to create employment opportunity and reduced recidivism rates.

But then in 2009, Catherine made a big mistake and she had to leave PEP. I felt so bad for her and was sad that her voice for ex-offenders disappeared.

Yet, her story was not over when she experienced her own second chance, starting Defy Ventures in 2010. I participated as a speaker on a panel with her a few years later in New York City where her passion and talent wa…