There is considerable interest these days in measuring the impact of Business as Mission (BAM) companies. Is the theory of BAM something that will contribute to the intended results? How are individual BAM companies doing when compared to the quadruple bottom line? What makes for success?Researcher and economist, Steve Rundle reported at the BAM Conference in September 2017 on research which addresses these questions in part.1 He started with two hypotheses:
Hypothesis # 1: Those BAM workers who draw a salary entirely from the business will have a greater economic impact than BAM workers who are donor supported.
Hypothesis # 2: BAM workers who are donor supported will be more effective in producing spiritual fruit than their business supported peers.
The study included appropriate numbers of subjects; and controls for location, firm size and business type, etc. Interestingly, the results demonstrated that hypothesis #1 was strongly supported, however hypothesis #2 was not supported at all.
Donor supported or business supported?
One would expect that spiritual impact would be highest for donor supported BAM practitioners; after all these are primarily missionaries who are paid to produce spiritual results. So, why such evidence? What then is correlated with effectiveness, or in other words, what are the predictors of spiritual results for these BAM practitioners? The evidence suggests:
- Accountability to a board of directors
- A measurable intentionality for what one is trying to achieve
- A balanced holistic theology of mission to explain why they are there
- Being open about one’s faith and identity
- A perspective of ‘blessing’ the people, rather than ‘converting’
Professor Rundle points out the negative correlations; meaning factors which did not produce the intended results. They were: narrow missional orientation, secretive identity, conversion focus, being wholly donor supported.
Blessers or Converters?He also pointed to a similar study by Mark Russell2 which produced parallel findings. Russell’s categories were called “Blessers” and “Converters”. The “Blessers” typically responded that they were there to be a blessing. Bringing others to follow Jesus was important but only one aspect of a larger purpose and vision.The “Converters” typically tried to “keep the main thing the main thing” and viewed the business as an avenue for missionaries to proclaim the gospel and produce conversions, rather than a place to integrate faith with the work.In a similar manner to Rundle, Russell demonstrated that the “Converters” who focused on a converting orientation, were secretive about their missionary identity, and worked independently, reported far fewer incidences of evangelism (converts) than those with a blessing mentality.
Probably similar studies are necessary before concrete propositions can be made, but such evidence as this certainly is food for thought – and ACTION!
2 Russell, Mark. The Missional Entrepreneur. New Hope Publishers, 2010, chapter 11.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures