BUSINESS AND YWAM
This Statement was developed by BWAM Leaders and the Founders Circle, and should be read alongside Loren Cunningham’s Introduction and Teaching Letter.
God designed the enterprise of business to enable individuals, families and human society to flourish. David Hamilton introduces the “Spheres of Society” and the “Sphere of Economics (Science, Technology & Business)” as follows:
The Scriptures clearly tell us that even as God created individual human beings (Gen 1:26-27), so also has he made the nations (Act 17:26). As surely as he designed the systems that give life to an individual, so also has he designed the systems that give life to a nation. We call these systems the “Spheres of Society” – each designed by God, but over time since Genesis 3, twisted by humans… How can they be restored to full, God-designed functionality? [We] must understand God’s original design if we are to collaborate with him in the restoration process.
God’s purpose for the sphere of economics is to release provision and model stewardship. Science is the generative motor of this sphere, for it produces the research and development that allows for the creation of wealth by unlocking new products and services. It is then propelled forward by the distributive capacity of the business enterprise which produces and sells those inventions. When stewarded well, this process of creating and distributing wealth should glorify the Creator who works with humans as co-creators in the desire to multiply life-enhancing innovations.
David Hamilton goes on to explain how God reveals himself as Creator, Provider and Healer through the Sphere of Economics.
Affirming and Supporting the Call to Business
As a mission we therefore want to affirm, equip and support those with a call to the business sphere. There are many ways YWAM can do this that readily align with our purpose, culture and values. For instance, YWAM staff might partner with those with business expertise to create training programs for Christians called to business, or to help incubate vital small businesses in poor communities. We might encourage gifted Christians to engage in the business sphere in their nation or mobilise them for “business as mission”.
YWAM can contribute to a greater understanding of God’s intentions for business and collaborate with Him to help the sphere of business be restored to full, God-designed functionality, as David Hamilton exhorts above. Our role in this endeavour will largely be in encouraging, partnering, mobilizing and training those called to the business sphere.
Most of those who are called to business but want to relate to YWAM will be operating their companies outside of YWAM teams, bases or operating locations. Networks and initiatives within YWAM will continue to develop to serve these businesspeople, many of whom are YWAM alumni and feel that they are YWAMers in the broadest sense of the name.
Caution about YWAM Staff Engaging in Business
There are circumstances where YWAM staff—i.e. those formally part of and accountable to a YWAM team, base or operating location—may directly engage in business activities. They have good reasons and intentions, but this is where great caution and wisdom is needed.
We have observed some common dangers when YWAM staff engage directly in business. These fall under two main categories:
1. MISSION DRIFT
We are concerned about individual YWAM staff, teams, bases—and even the mission as a whole—falling away from the clear missional goals which we were called to. Mission drift may occur when there is business success, as well as failure.
We need to be fully aware of the following dangers as YWAM staff engage in business:
a) Erosion of the core missionary workforce – While we celebrate those who have been called by God to the business sphere, we do not want those called to the church/mission sphere wrongly diverted into business by the seduction and temptation of money, or looking to business to provide a financial solution, with no clear missional purpose.
b) Time management tensions – Related to this, some missionaries attempt to provide their own support income by starting a business that is easy to run and will be sufficiently profitable but will not take up much time. We cannot be naive about what it takes to succeed in business; it can be time consuming and requires a distinct skillset. We must make sure that income generation initiatives really do enable capacity for ministry in the long-term, rather than distracting us from it.
c) Erosion of our Foundational Values – YWAM entities are naturally different in culture and structure from business entities. Some normal business practices are compatible with (and may even enhance) our YWAM Foundational Values, whereas others will conflict. Our Values define us as a movement, therefore where there is a clash between YWAM Values and business practices, culture, or values, then the business operations must be adapted—or we can choose to launch out and conduct our business outside of YWAM rather than within the local mission organization.
2. UNWISELY MIXING SPHERES AND AUTHORITY
Each sphere of society has a type of authority which suits its unique function as part of the whole social organism that should enable human beings to flourish. We all live in, and engage with, the different spheres and their “domains of authority.” Problems arise when we confuse the different types of authority or combine domains so that the exercise of authority becomes too much or too little.
We must carefully avoid the following pitfalls when mixing missionary calling and business:
a) Abuses of power – YWAM staff with too much authority over others because they hold decision making power in both the business and church/ministry context.
b) Conflicts of interest – This will lead to conflicts of interest, especially in financial and leadership decisions. Some conflicts are to be expected, but require appropriate systems and checks, with accountability to ensure wise handling of resources and people. Conflicts of interest arise when one person or group is in both positions: the decision maker and the beneficiary of the decision.
c) Culture clashes – Businesses have a different mode of operation or culture than we do in YWAM. This is normal but doing both will introduce tension and may unhelpfully alter the culture of a YWAM team, base or operating location.
d) Identity confusion – Where YWAM operates openly under its own name, we want to avoid it being known primarily as a for-profit business, or experience reputation damage by unwise business enterprises associating with us.
e) Illegal operations and unfair competition – A distinction between for-profit companies and those registered as charities/non-profits exists in the laws of almost every country to ensure the appropriate regulation and taxation of each. We must understand these distinctions and stay legal! Failure to comply—or to overuse free labor or donated resources in businesses (whether it is legal or not)—will lead us to unfairly compete with others in the same area or industry.
Guidance When YWAM Staff Start a Business
There are two main reasons that YWAM staff may start businesses: 1. Business for Income Generation and 2. Business as Mission. These have different goals and motivations:
Business for Income Generation
The primary motivation here is to start an enterprise to generate an income stream for a team, base or individual YWAM staff. In this case, after an initial period of set up, the business is done in one’s own time and should not take significant energy away from the ministry it was intended to support. YWAM staff should take care not to let the temptation to make ever more money distract them from their call to mission.
Business as Mission
“Business as mission” (BAM) is a strategy in contemporary missions that fully integrates mission goals with business goals to make an impact for God’s Kingdom. There will be a number of YWAMers globally who find that starting a for-profit business is the most effective—or sometimes the only—way to fulfil their ministry call.
We affirm these YWAM staff/teams involved in business as mission but ask them to:
1. Plan enterprises with clear missional goals and keep these central in all business operations
2. Aim for excellence in mission practice and business ethics and practice
3. Uphold the YWAM Foundational Values
4. Actively avoid the pitfalls and areas of vulnerability described above
5. Establish regular accountability/evaluation with YWAM leaders locally and internationally
We strongly recommend that YWAMers involved in BAM entities connect with the Business With a Mission (BWAM) Circle and read the guidelines and teaching resources developed by seasoned BWAM/BAM leaders. These include Values, Principles and Fruitful Practices for Business as Mission in YWAM (BWAM). Access further BWAM Resources in the RESOURCES section of this website.
Developed by BWAM Leaders and the Founders Circle, July 2022.
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