Yesterday, a missions pastor friend wrote asking how to effectively engage young and inexperienced Christian visionaries who are setting out to change the world, but are bypassing his local church on the way. My friend wrote:

“My struggle is how to connect with these guys, come along side of them, encourage them to look at the big picture, consider what kind of support system they might need, encourage them to take the time to prepare and allow them to see how the church can and should play a role in what they’re doing. AND, doing all of this without quenching their passion.”

I responded in part:

First, all entrepreneurs go through a natural vetting process. They must slog their way through all kinds of hurdles to start their endeavors. It is in this “slogging” that one gains experience that refines and confirms vision. The startup time of most endeavors serves to humble the enthusiastic visionaries leaving them either disillusioned or resilient. Passion is a great place to start, but it is not enough to build a sustainable solution to real problems. Entrepreneurs need wisdom, resources, and other assistance that is often readily available in local churches. So, pragmatically speaking, I don’t think you should worry about the problem you see. For the young adults you are observing to succeed, they must either receive the kind of help you would like to give them from you or someone else, or they will fail. Stated differently, if you wait a little, the smart ones will come to you.

Second, on the other hand, when we were starting Caleb Project, even though we placed a high value on the importance of the local church, almost no one took us seriously. First, most “missions” people in churches did not understand what we were talking about and did not care enough to even listen. Second, we did not fit into traditional “missions” categories, so even when people did give us some time, they couldn’t give us practical help. During the three Caleb Project decades, we never really overcame that hurdle. So, I would encourage you to not passively “wait” for them to come to you, but to nurture an “open to new ideas” culture within the church. Is your church really open to young visionaries who want to change the world with new approaches?

Most churches are more interested in filtering new initiatives than releasing them. Ironically, even if individuals in the church enthusiastically support a new idea, the structure of the church usually prohibits meaningful collaboration.

Bottom line, “If you build it, they will come.” If your church’s people and structure are really open and inviting of innovation, the entrepreneurs will find you. That would be exciting!