Growing up as a preacher's kid, I saw all of the behind the scenes of ministry that let me know I never wanted to be a minister.
Then I got in real relationship with God and realized that we are all ministers, just not all from the pulpit. Some of us are even fortunate enough to have our ministry and our business lives overlap. Others long to combine their love of God with their professional pursuits. While a few larger corporations have drawn a line in the sand on their beliefs and values, companies like Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A, staying closed on Sundays to offer employees time with their families, it can be hard for a small business owner to make those tough decisions.
How can a small business owner balance the need for profit and maintain a commitment to their faith?
I interviewed Meredith Parrish, the founder of Covenant Gear, a faith based casual clothing line, whose mission is "to saturate every society, culture, neighborhood and individual with the covenants or promises of God". She has used her story and testimony to build a business, with her faith front and center.
Like most veteran professionals, she's learned some typical start-up lessons that she shared. Things like, don't expect every investment, even the big ones to have immediate results and the awareness that working with family is even harder than you can imagine. But the deeper lessons, the ones that came through her commitment to her mission to use her business to share her faith, I also picked up 5 lessons from her that I think will help anyone build a business that honors their faith.
1. God has given you a unique gift, use it. Meredith's story included, by her own account, traumatic events, strained relationships and more, it would be easy to believe that there was no reason to go on. She, however, has remained steadfast on the fact that if God didn't want her to use her gift, he never would have given it to her. Knowing that your business is an expression of God's love for you and his people is a powerful motivator even on dark days.
2. Being faith based doesn't exempt you from business struggles. Stolen ideas, poor investments, family adjustments, all of these happen in business on a regular basis. While Meredith is constantly reminded that God will provide, there have definitely been hard times, including having another faith based business use her designs. While going through rough times has the potential to shake your faith, Meredith says for her, it was just the opposite. Leaning into God during the worst moments has sustained her and the company.
3. Entrepreneurship is as much personal development as it is professional development. This is a concept that I firmly believe. During a particularly stressful time, in business and in life, Meredith said she wondered how God could have allowed her to experience such chaos, then she realized it wasn't God's doing at all, it was her own. Driven by a desire to grow her business, she got to place where the work was taking over her life. So what did she do? Something most business professionals would call crazy, that's what. "For two months, I closed the online shop to re-center and refocus on my first and perhaps most important calling - a Christ-following, Jesus-touting mommy of four." Wow. Can you imagine? The decision was about being true to herself. The outcome might not have been profitable, but her faith and her family remain strong.
4. Relationship. Relationship. Relationship. Whether between fellow professionals, consumers or the ultimate relationship between us and our heavenly Father, the goal of business may be profit, but for a faith based business, the key is relationship. Products and services are simply a method of building relationships which is what we are all called to do. Viewing each transaction in that way keeps the focus clear.
5. Not everyone will love you, and that's just fine. This may be the hardest part of any start up. Self-doubt can often kill great ideas before they start. Meredith describes it as knowing that everyone's idea of inspiration is not the same, so some of her favorite design ideas, while beautiful to her can be seen as hideous to others. True confidence must come from connection to the Master and not in fleeting adoration, which we know can change from moment to moment. Ultimately, seeing your business as an extension of the ministry that God has given you doesn't necessarily make it feel better about being rejected, but wasn't Christ rejected too?
Over time, Meredith discovered that a simple piece of advice she received has made all the difference in the wold. "A wise Christian mentor and self-starter once told me, you have to protect your vision - not for theft purposes but to avoid deflation, deterrence and destruction. The Bible says to write the vision and make it plain. Some visions, especially early on, were meant to be authored and nurtured between none other than you and God.
I don't know about you, but that seems like a perfect plan to me.