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In The Loop What’s Happening at SPU

Program Helps Christians Plant Sustainable Social Change

SeedlingOne social entrepreneurship program currently in the works will teach adjudicated youth how to garden. (iStock Photo)

When you hear the term “Christian social entrepreneurship,” Celeste Cranston, director of the Center for Biblical and Theological Education, hopes you’ll think of SPU.

The center is launching a program in Christian Social Entrepreneurship, now taking applications (until March 1) for an inaugural cohort; grant funding will subsidize participant costs. A “social entrepreneur” is an organization or person whose main goal is to improve society, not bring in business profit. The program aims to equip church and parachurch leaders with business and theological principles to pursue social good in an economically sustainable way.

“We’re hoping to meet a need for those in the Church who realize that the way we do church needs to change, and to give them a comprehensive vision for what a holistic approach to ‘business as mission’ might look like,” program director Matt Sigler says.

The classic Christian social entrepreneurial venture is a coffee shop that might sell coffee on a pay-as-you-can basis and train homeless or troubled youth as baristas, but Sigler and Cranston hopes SPU’s program can encourage the Church to think outside the coffeeshop box. Churches could run food trucks for the homeless, or as businesses and give proceeds to a social cause; another example is a business teaching adjudicated youth how to garden.

Students in SPU’s program will spend two weeks on campus next summer learning business and theological principles. After the new entrepreneurs return to their home communities, SPU-affiliated mentors will support them through their first year of business, with the goal of spreading faith-based social change.

“There’s a need for the church to go outside its walls — if we only bring people in to a bubble, it’s not good ecclesiology,” Cranston says. “We’re hoping to think through what the church can do in this area.”