“Business professionals are greatly needed in missions. Sixty-five percent of the world’s population lives in places that are closed to missionaries. But they are open for business. Business people can gain access to these countries and bring disciple-making to the workplace.” Amy SEND International
You have a heart to share what God has done in your life with the many groups around the world who have not heard of him, but you also sense that you are not called to do so as your “full time” employment. Nothing new there. The apostle Paul made tents to pay the bills and preached around that employment.
And you also can be involved in what God is doing around the world without being a traditional missionary. And more and more people are doing exactly that. The names used for these roles overseas vary, but all are options to consider.
Here are some of the business options:
Business as missions – this most commonly means you are starting a business overseas as a means to share what God is doing in your life. You are choosing a business option that will give you natural business contacts with people. Out of those relationships you will have natural opportunities to get to know people and share your life and theirs. Usually funds are raised in your passport country to cover most of your living costs, as well as the start up funds that are needed. (Examples and more details)
Transformational business – this also commonly means you are starting a business overseas, but with added focus on providing jobs and services of long-term value to the society. The idea is that it becomes a means of transforming or improving society. That usually means a long-term business that is reproducible by nationals. Because of the desire for this to be reproducible by nationals, the business itself must cover all costs including the founder’s salary after the initial investment and start up. It has to be a fully functional business, not dependent on subsidies from outside. (Examples and more details)
Community Development agencies, disaster and relief agencies, medical service providers, agricultural, educational entities. These kind of entities are often referred to as NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations). They usually specialize in a particular area of service, such as medical or agricultural assistance. The goal is to provide real genuine service of a particular kind and then use the natural opportunities that occur to share what God has and is doing in your life.
The particular service you provide places you in daily contact with certain categories of people who have those needs as well as with other business people. (Examples and more details)
Microenterprise and Microfinance programs – these are essentially consultant type options and small business loan facilitators. They involve helping people start small businesses or enlarge them as well as provide training in successful business operation. This can even include 1 to 2 week trips overseas to provide training workshops on business practices in the Western World. (Examples and more details)
Tentmaking – this option involves talking a professional position with an overseas company. The name comes from the fact that Paul in the New Testament made tents to help support himself as he traveled about. Normally a person’s salary and visas are handled by the company as with most employees. In one’s free time you will build relationships. Frequently a service business that provides a great deal of contact with the public is chosen, such as a coffee shop. (Examples and more details)
As you learn more about these options, keep in mind that some of these terms will be defined somewhat differently by other practitioners or even used interchangeably.
In particular, it may be helpful to think of B4T as a subset of BAM. It seems that both B4T and BAM workers may have varying levels of reliance on funds given by outside parties. They may raise funds as start-up capital. Some do not draw a salary from their business at all, while other draw a salary at local levels and raise funds to cover additional expenses. Perspectives on these questions will vary depending on who you talk to in the BAM/B4T community, and as approaches to combining business and mission continue to evolve.
As the phrase “creative access” implies, the creation and development of the various business concepts depend on you. Some have started English language schools, others educational resource centers, others have managed one or more coffee shops for a well-known coffee chain, others have gone as journalists for their home town newspaper to write travel and cultural articles.
Others have taken jobs in advertising departments for large tourist facilities aimed at American or European tourists. Some have gone as journalists writing regular articles on the society, values and attractions of a specific country. This provides a natural reason for traveling much and visiting throughout the country.
But in all of these, the object and challenge is to form natural relationships so that you will be able to share their lives and yours. Hence a business with a lot of people contacts and interaction is best, whether they come to you or you naturally in a business format go to them.