What’s Going ON at Gordon-Conwell?
By David Gill
For 20 years, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has put special focus on work, business, and economic issues through its Mockler Center for Faith & Ethics in the Workplace. The primary activity of the Mockler Center has been to organize monthly seminars and presentations on campus, to which campus and community are invited. This past academic year was no exception, as our seminar line-up included the Theology of Work Project, the Artist Studio as a Workplace, What the Church Can Learn from Business, and Christianity in the Chinese (PRC) Workplace. The Center is named after legendary Gillette CEO Colman Mockler, who was identified as an exemplar of “Level Five Leadership” in Jim Collins’s best-seller “Good to Great.”
In 2000, Gordon-Conwell added a focused academic track on Workplace Theology, Ethics, and Leadership open to DMin and MAR students. The fifth cohort in this major has nearly completed the program, which includes intensive study experiences in New York City (Finance & Marketing in Christian Perspective), Seattle (Technology & Entrepreneurship in Christian Perspective), and Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Globalization & Development in Christian Perspective).
Three years ago, the seminary took another major step forward with the endowment of the Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology and Business Ethics. “Workplace Theology” and “Business & Professional Ethics” courses were added to the curricular menu. In addition, Directed Study Projects have focused on technology, sports, health care, and similar topics.
This year, with our first Oikonomia Network grant, Gordon-Conwell and the Mockler Center advanced three new initiatives. We launched a series of faculty lunch discussions (each attended by five to eight participants) on “How Can We Better Prepare Our Seminary Graduates to Support Workplace and Economic Discipleship and Impact?” More than three-quarters of our faculty participated in these discussions. A series of five student luncheon meetings (each involving 20 to 30 students) were also held on the topic of “Why the Workplace is Important and How to Get Ready to Minister to Workplace Disciples After Graduation.” Additionally, we began a new seminary course on “Entrepreneurship in Church & Community.”
The new entrepreneurship course enrolled 12 students (out of 24 applicants) from eight different Boston-area churches. The weekly classes included biblical foundations and themes, as well as practical, hands-on guidance on identifying high-potential entrepreneurs, deciding on a business idea, formulating a start-up business plan, and putting together solid financial, marketing, technology, and personnel plans and policies – all aligned with a clear, inspiring business mission and a value-embedded culture. Sixteen entrepreneurs were chosen by the students and invited to attend class alongside their seminary mentor/trainers. Halfway through the 12-week course, we celebrated a “Launch Day,” presenting our 16 new business start-ups. The start-ups ranged from a Jamaican restaurant to graphic design, custom cabinetry, event planning, website development, Haitian clothing importing, exporting to Barbados, handyman services, and a voice school. The Boston Globeran an online story about the innovative course, and an MIT conference on social entrepreneurship invited us to present on our course.
Our group of instructors, mentors, and entrepreneurs will meet monthly through the summer for mutual support and then present awards for the best of our start-ups at a celebration at the new Jamaican restaurant in September. The graduates of the program have committed to starting entrepreneurship programs in their local churches. Version 2.0 of the course was just officially scheduled for spring 2014.
As we look to the upcoming academic year, all of the above programs are scheduled to continue. In addition, we are planning:
- Focused faculty work sessions and projects revolving around the ON Economic Maxims,
- A major, one-day, interfaith “Religion & Work” conference, tentatively to be held at Harvard Business School in March 2014, and,
- A major, two-day, national summit conference on Christian faith and values in the workplace (including attention to economics!) in Boston. This conference is tentatively scheduled for next April –we hope many in the Oikonomia Network will participate.