Putting the church into the heart of spiritual and economic renewal

Jedd Schroy (right) and Xolani Sigududu standing in front of his tuck shop, which provides income for himself and another he employs to manage it.

South Africa is teeming with bright, industrious entrepreneurs working themselves out of unemployment and poverty.

Paradigm Shift puts the local church at the heart of this action of transforming the entrepreneurial poor in their communities with a model that incorporates business training, discipleship, micro-finance and mentoring, which creates sustainable economic empowerment and builds entrepreneurs with Godly character, according to Jedd Schroy, Executive Director at the not-for-profit, Christian organisation.

“The poor are not the problem. They are the solution.”

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“We believe that a more sustainable approach to poverty alleviation is to create empowerment rather than dependency, so we help churches and faith-based organisations to move beyond giving handouts to creating lasting change in the lives of the poor,” says Jedd.

“The poor are not the problem. They are the solution. With one in three people unemployed in South Africa, many people try to start a small business to escape poverty, but don’t know how to make it succeed.

“Our partners across South Africa use the One-Day Business Experience Course to show them how. This one-day course is the foundation for transforming impoverished communities and opens doors for discipleship. Any church, business forum or small group can provide this simple, effective outreach. And with just six volunteers, a team can get started.

Poor don’t need charity
“The poor don’t need charity. They need someone to help them use the gifts God has given them. Paradigm Shift trains volunteer teams to provide a holistic economic development outreach targeting micro-entrepreneurs working themselves out of poverty.”

Jedd says the Church is God’s avenue to bring surrounding communities back into right relationship with him and with one another.

“Within the church is an untapped army of successful, Christian businessmen and women eager to make a difference.

“There are incredible skills and talents within the church that otherwise lie dormant and unused unless they are offered an opportunity to use their skills for ministry. Paradigm Shift offers that opportunity,” says Jedd.

Judith Thobakgale has grown her industrial sewing business, The Soweto Sewing Company, to a growing enterprise of nine through being hands on and leading by example.

Grant Walton, Senior Pastor, at New Creation Family Church in Johannesburg, explains that as a South African church surrounded by a community in need of social and economic, as well as spiritual renewal, the congregation had a dream to empower entrepreneurs to earn a living while being discipled at the same time.

“The Paradigm Shift programme has helped us realise that dream,” says Walton.

Rigby Wallace, Founding Pastor at Common Ground in Cape Town says nearby the church are multiple communities in need of economic renewal.

“We knew we as the church could change poverty if we coupled good development practices with Biblical discipleship. The Paradigm Shift programme has equipped us to make a meaningful impact in our city and for the kingdom of heaven.”

While Paradigm Shift entrepreneurs currently live in South Africa, 50 percent of them come from all over Africa, representing 20 different countries. Most of them run their own small businesses ranging from: tailors, food vendors, artisans, hairdressers, seamstresses and many others.

Entrepreneurship creates empowerment
“Entrepreneurship creates empowerment and places an individual in the driver’s seat of changing his or her own circumstances. In South Africa, the unemployment rate is so high that, often, even the most industrious cannot find work to put food on the table. So out of sheer necessity many people create their own small businesses as a path toward financial sustainability,” says Jedd.

“However, these micro-entrepreneurs often lack the basic business skills and capital required for their businesses to grow. As a result, these businesses remain stunted and operate at a subsistence level, making it difficult for micro-entrepreneurs to meet their basic needs.

“The Paradigm Shift programme was designed to give micro-entrepreneurs business training and microloans to grow their businesses and create financial sustainability for their families.

“The programme also meets micro-entrepreneurs’ spiritual and personal development needs by providing discipleship and mentorship. When combined, these four components provide a holistic approach that tackles poverty at the root and eliminates it for good,” says Jedd.

Paradigm Shift partner churches train entrepreneurs through interactive business training, which takes them from intuition to the practice of basic business principles.

An entrepreneur first participates in the One-Day Business Experience Course then for 18 weeks, entrepreneurs participate in weekly meetings where part of the time is spent on further business training, which takes the learning deeper by focusing on business topics such as: understanding costs; finding business opportunities; planning, advertising and promotions; understanding profits; the art of selling; and making a savings plan.

Happy serving in her growing enterprise, Benhilda Tichiwangani beautifies customers in the Everlasting Beauty Salon.

However, Paradigm Shift believes that true life transformation happens only from the inside out.

“Addressing spiritual poverty is as important as addressing physical poverty. That is why Paradigm Shift’s model incorporates Biblical teachings into every structured interaction with entrepreneurs. During the 18 weekly meetings, entrepreneurs learn Biblical principles through the Emmaus Road Course,” says Jedd.

“Entrepreneurs discover what the Bible says about community, family and business. Training sessions include topics like: pursuing truth and wisdom; money matters; made for relationship; the father heart of God; discovering Jesus; exploring the Holy Spirit; designed for worship; and experiencing God.”

Through a dynamic one-on-one relationship, mentors play a key role in the Paradigm Shift programme. Helping businesses succeed is one aspect while coaching entrepreneurs in their faith journey is another. An entrepreneur and a mentor experience the richness of friendship across socio-economic barriers, race and culture––an encounter that is transformative for both of them!

Building authentic relationships
“The transformation incorporates the building of authentic relationships that develop in a way that extends far beyond the Paradigm Shift programme and contribute to overcoming the poverty of both the rich and poor,” says Jedd.

Sabin Llunga is a successful example of the Paradigm Shift programme.

When civil war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sabin lost everything in a fleeting moment. His father was killed by the rebel army, his entire village was burnt and he found himself and his surviving family targets for assassination.

Sabin and his family safely escaped to a refugee camp in Malawi where conditions were tough and the future uncertain. Determined to bring purpose to his life, Sabin made his way to Cape Town where he was able to find work. But life there was not free from obstacles. Facing language barriers and xenophobia, Sabin worked hard and saved enough money for his wife and two daughters to join him.

Through hard work, savings and a loan, Sabin and his wife purchased a small hair salon. They quickly prospered and conditions greatly improved. However, without financial planning or control over their spending, their business fell apart.

Sabin explains: “I didn’t realise that I was eating my profit. We never saved our money, we would only spend it.”

As the threat of losing his business altogether loomed, a friend told Sabin about the Paradigm Shift programme at Common Ground Church in Cape Town. Knowing that he desperately needed help to save his business, Sabin quickly signed up.

While attending the Paradigm Shift business training, Sabin learnt how to create a savings plan for the first time. He learnt how to calculate his business costs and plan his spending. “Now,” he says, “I understand the real meaning of business.”

Applying the principles he learnt during the business training, Sabin began to focus on customer service to gain loyalty among his frequent clients. He also used a microloan to stock hair dye in his salon to provide an added service for his customers. Now, slowly, things are beginning to improve.

Furthermore, the example of the love he experienced during the business training has deepened Sabin’s relationship with God. He now incorporates his faith in the way he runs his business and has become a member of Common Ground Church.

“I couldn’t believe the love that the volunteers showed us and I appreciated how they gave their time to us each week for free. I realise now that only a love for God can cause someone to make that sacrifice,” says Sabin who relies on his faith in God to bring him through each obstacle.

Affordable fashion products
Another successful example of the Paradigm Shift programme is Sipiwe Sigauke, who, needing a way to increase her income to help support her family, decided to start her own business. Sipiwe’s community had no place for women to buy fashion products at an affordable price; so she began selling handbags, earrings and cosmetics at a busy street corner.

While Sipiwe possessed the courage and determination to start her business, she needed to learn how to operate it more effectively. When she heard about the Paradigm Shift programme at New Creation Family Church, Sipiwe seized the opportunity to attend the Business Experience Course.

There she learnt about promoting her products distinctively, how to price her products and how to negotiate with customers. Excited and eager to learn, Sipiwe attended the weekly meetings where she explored further business skills and studied what the Bible says about her life, family and business.

Sipiwe immediately applied the business training she received. She re-priced some products and discontinued selling those that weren’t profitable. She began asking her customers what else they would like to buy and, using her microloans, expanded her inventory to include hats, gloves, slippers and sunglasses.

Sipiwe has repaid both microloans in full.

However, business growth is not the only change that Sipiwe has experienced: when her husband was hospitaliSed with a serious illness, Sipiwe remembered studying the discipleship session “Making Sense of Pain”.

Instead of blaming God for the hurt she was experiencing, she reached out to Him for comfort and trusted in His promise to work everything together for her good.

“Paradigm Shift has changed my life spiritually and physically,” Sipiwe says. “I now live a life with meaning.”

Jedd says a key concept of the programme is the idea of saving for both the future and to help mitigate uneven cash flow.

“We have found that 34 per cent of the entrepreneurs that complete the Paradigm Shift programme are saving money for the first time and over 80 per cent are saving as a regular practice.”

He emphasises that it is not only the entrepreneurs that learn through the training and mentoring process.

“I remember an entrepreneur explaining to me how her children had asked for food at suppertime. However, there was no food in the house and she said they should pray.

When the children asked whether they should pray for food, she said no, because God knew what was needed and they should rather pray to God for His Holy Spirit to make them more like Him, in His likeness and image.

“Listening to her, I thought: ‘when was the last time I used suffering or hunger as a means to draw closer to Christ,” concludes Jedd.

More information about Paradigm Shift is available on their website: http://shiftingparadigms.org