“Entrepreneurship was a means to align faith and their work, reducing the tension between the two that existed in other work environments.”
For the last five years Mitchell Neubert and colleagues at Baylor University in the US, have been investigating the relationship between faith and entrepreneurialism.
The results have been surprising.
An initial study, utilising the Baylor Religion Survey, discovered that entrepreneurs tend to pray more frequently, are more likely to attend a place of worship that encourages business activity, and are more likely to see God as engaged and personal.
Entrepreneurs pray more often and see God as personal
As Neubert suggests, “It seems reasonable to think that those who put their money, and possibly their livelihood, at risk to engage in the uncertain work of starting a new business would be more prone to seek guidance or ask for help from a God they believe is engaged in their lives. “
This initial study was followed up by a series of in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs reflecting on how their faith impacted on the way they do business.
It was discovered that, “Entrepreneurs [start] businesses and [run] them in ways that express values central to their faith. Starting a business allowed more flexibility to accommodate work and family conflicts or it allowed entrepreneurs to create organizational cultures that treated others with respect or focused on helping others. In other words, entrepreneurship was a means to align faith and their work, reducing the tension between the two that existed in other work environments.”
Entrepreneurs want to express their good character
Something fundamental to the integration of their faith and work was importance of expressing good character. In the study “Faith and Work:An Exploratory Study of Religious Entrepreneurs” (Religions, August 2014), two of the entrepreneurs were quoted:
A person can’t just be religious, and a good person on Sunday, they need to do this all the time, and not secretly be doing this, but constantly lead with this type of character. (Mike, lawyer)
I strive to be an honest, hardworking, trustworthy person, a person of strong, good character; therefore all of my business dealings are honest, hardworking and trustworthy. Every decision I make, every labor task I do is grounded in these. At my old job I had these traits, but my work wasn’t based on them, now it is. (Marvin, pool company owner)
Entrepreneurs want to do good
Another significant motivation for their business activity was the opportunity to help people:
People come in here everyday, and they feel bad about themselves, they need someone to help them physically, but more than that they need someone to see them, someone to love them, and that is what the company and I are all about. We help them. (John, exercise company owner)
We will do almost anything to keep it so that people feel loved, almost to the detriment of the business sometimes. We want to help our staff, not only make a profit. (Margaret and Karl, restaurant owners)
These findings are consistent with what Seed is experiencing through our entrepreneurial incubators and coaching nights, that there is a great hunger among Christians for opportunities to express their God-given purpose and character, and create positive social change.