Unlikely Places

Successful Triple-Bottom-Line Enterprises From a Group of People That May Surprise You

Here at M3 Weekly, we love to feature stories and resources to inspire and equip you in your missional enterprise journey. As you probably know, the term “M3” refers to the three elements of our Triple Bottom Line – instead of only aiming for the single bottom line of making a profit, we also embrace the calling to make disciples of Jesus and make a difference in the community.

Examples of transformational enterprises can be found all over the world in many different cultural and socio-economic environments. Some of these environments may seem surprising and unlikely to those in the traditional business world.

One inspiring example of business for the glory of God in an unlikely place is the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. Featured recently on the Faith-Driven Entrepreneurship podcast, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) has been transforming the lives of inmates in Texas prisons since 2004.

A PEP participant, pitching the business plan he developed in the program to a review board. Photo from the Baylor University video: “Opening Doors: Baylor and the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.”

The results of the program in terms of entrepreneurial and employment success are obvious and stunning. A study on the results of the program conducted by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) found that 95 percent of PEP graduates were employed, with 28 percent of them running their own businesses.

While not formally a Christian program, most of the volunteer coaches are followers of Jesus, and most of the inmates participating in the program receive discipleship and Christian mentoring. Bryan Kelley, currently the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of PEP, is himself a graduate of the program and tells his story of being transformed by Jesus through a life-to-life discipling relationship:

So shortly after my transformation, my conversion, I dove into the school. I would earn a degree, a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I dove into recovery to learn . . . what were my triggers? What led me to be so dependent upon drugs and alcohol and chemical substances? I dove into church and the Bible. A man stepped up and would disciple me for ten years straight. We lived together and we worked together. And every day we would talk about the fundamentals of Christianity coming out of the Bible and how we were applying that in our lives or failing to apply that in our lives. But there was authenticity.

Bryan goes on to explain how he naturally began helping others in the same way he had been helped:

He discipled me, and as I was discipled, I started to disciple others. So I was leading groups, small groups, prayer groups, Bible study groups . . . and started pouring out everything that was being poured into me.

In terms of making a difference in the community, recidivism (the rate inmates return to prison after being released) among PEP graduates is well below 10%, compared to the national average of nearly 50%. A study conducted by researchers from Baylor University found that, even after controlling for the selection criteria for PEP candidates, participation in the program is demonstrably impactful, with recidivism among PEP graduates less than one-third that of inmates selected for the program but who do not participate.

If you don’t have time to listen to the entire Faith-Driven Entrepreneur Podcast featuring Bryan Kelley from PEP (46 minutes), you can get a great overview and receive inspiration by watching this eight-minute video overview produced by Baylor University.

Verse(s) of the Week

1 Corinthians 1:26-27: Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (NIV)

In what ways can you relate to this verse in your own life – not having influence or wisdom according to human standards? In what ways do we continue to use human standards, and possibly miss God’s work in unlikely places, especially in our missional enterprise journeys? Let’s reflect on this passage and these questions this week.

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