The Religious Leader as Social Entrepreneur

  • Jack BarentsenEmail author


Social entrepreneurs are part of the so-called “third sector” as agents of social change. This sector strains under many global changes, so social entrepreneurs must offer a compelling social vision to mobilize people and resources for social change. Religious entrepreneurs are not usually considered as social entrepreneurs. Rather, religion is primarily considered as one of the motivations of social entrepreneurs for their social vision. The current interest in spirituality, business and entrepreneurship has not yet changed this conception. Yet, many religious pioneers are driven by a compelling vision that is as much religious as it is social, qualifying them as both religious and social entrepreneurs. So how do these religious entrepreneurs engage the needs of their civic community for the common good? This chapter reviews empirical research by Volland and Ziemer on religious entrepreneurs, and presents some results of a survey conducted among religious leaders about their self-perceptions of innovation and entrepreneurship. These studies document that the language and values of entrepreneurship permeate the work and identity of religious entrepreneurs, often implicitly. Moreover, their entrepreneurship has a significant social and civic component, which is documented by several case studies drawn from a burgeoning literature on the topic as well as from several qualitative sociological research projects. Although religions are often popularly perceived as polarizing, they contain many resources for bridge-building social capital and for peacebuilding, and many religious leaders use them to that effect. Therefore, at least some religious entrepreneurs function equally as social entrepreneurs. Thus, they can be appropriately studied within the field of social entrepreneurship, while courses of theological education may be expected to prepare their students for religious as well as social engagement.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evangelische Theologische FaculteitLeuvenBelgium

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