Covenant is growing, and with growth come decisions! The church is working to meet demands in two very different ways. The Growth Task Force reported to the congregation last week on its progress in figuring ways to better use the space on campus. Learn more here.
The focus of this post is the church’s second goal – how to be a love letter to Austin. That is, to find new and better ways to serve those struggling right here in our city.
Last fall, members of Covenant’s staff and Session spent a weekend discussing, researching and working on different ideas to effectively manage Covenant growth that would positively affect our church, our neighborhoods and all of Austin. Through these discussions, the group determined that Covenant should do something radically different. One idea the group proposed was that the church serve as an incubator, providing funding and guidance for new non-profit businesses that would elevate our neighbors in need.
This idea veers from traditional church projects. To ensure it viability, Covenant Pastor Thomas Daniel asked five members, who are also local leaders successful in different aspects of new business development, to be part of an “incubator task force.” The team is now starting the hard work of creating strict criteria to determine how to rate projects that will have the best potential for success. After a thorough evaluation process, the group will then give the go-ahead to fund projects and guide, coach and provide oversight. A key part of the team’s agenda is to figure out how to capitalize on the elements of faith in the projects Covenant pursues.
“The initiative will challenge Covenant members to adopt a different way of thinking about what it means to be a church,” Thomas said.
The Incubator Task Force is led by Ethan Burris, Professor of Management at the University of Texas at Austin. Additional Covenant members who make up the group include Tony Schell, Managing Director at Escalate Capital; Missy Strittmatter, Director of Development and Engagement at Leadership Austin; Katie May, Chief Executive Officer at ShippingEasy; and Steve Goldsmith, Head of Product Integrations at Atlassian.
After a December meeting, Ethan summarized the team’s mission:
“We are embarking on a series of programs that will realize our vision of following Jesus wherever we live, work and play. In one initiative, we will create, incubate and support non-profits and social ventures that meet the missional needs of Covenant and positively influence our community and the City of Austin. We will leverage the resources (wisdom, expertise, financials and values) of Covenant to provide mentorship and support for social entrepreneurs and nonprofits who are building products and services that will materially benefit disadvantaged people in Austin and more broadly. We have two programs to provide a test case and expect to curate more in the coming year.
This is a group that will definitely push us to sharpen our ideas,” Thomas said. “These are all people who have experience in this area. It’s definitely not a pastor-driven thing.”