By Laura Gossman

As a newlywed couple, Jedd and Janelle Schroy knew they were called to a different life, a different reality. Defining that exact calling took thought and planning.

It started with a stack of sticky notes around the dinner table in Washington DC. On each note, they wrote down one word that gripped their hearts that they wanted to give their lives to. Words like missions, entrepreneurship, poverty, injustice, discipleship, business and many others were posted all over the walls.

They then combined those ideas into the most important things that mattered to them: church-based, volunteer-led economic and spiritual poverty alleviation involving a holistic program consisting of business training, microfinance, mentoring and discipleship. That’s what they wanted to do, to create, to give their lives to. That hope, that dream, that sense of calling, was the beginning of creating what Paradigm Shift is today.

Xolani operates two convenience shops and manages two rental properties as part of his entrepreneurial endeavors. On average, Paradigm Shift entrepreneurs grow their incomes by 72% over 20 weeks.

Xolani operates two convenience shops and manages two rental properties as part of his entrepreneurial endeavors. On average, Paradigm Shift entrepreneurs grow their incomes by 72% over 20 weeks.

Well, almost the beginning … This was after going to college, traveling and sharing the gospel in 30 countries, running small businesses of their own, working as a youth pastor and mission’s pastor, managing international development projects through USAID, OPIC, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.

By the ages of 26, Jedd and Janelle had a tool-belt full of experiences, and big dreams for changing the world.

Being energized by the explosive growth of followers of Jesus in the Global South, Jedd and Janelle saw the church in the developing world positioned like never before to offer hope in their communities. The tipping point of urbanization across the world was quickly approaching. Jedd and Janelle’s heart for the urban poor meant looking squarely at both the opportunities and challenges stemming from dual economies in these global cities––the rich and the poor living side by side.

The Schroys have observed that there was a gap within the Church that needed to be filled fast.  They observed that churches get stuck when it comes to utilizing the gifts and skills in our congregations, especially those skilled in business. Churches lack ministry models to address those in poverty in meaningful ways.

Pastor and author Mark Batterson says, “criticize by creating”, and so the Schroys created the Paradigm Shift model, which serves as a church outreach program offered by resourced, urban churches to the impoverished communities around them. Through it, they offer hope of overcoming economic and spiritual poverty through business training, microcredit, mentoring and discipleship.

Never with his family in front of his hardware shop. On Average, Paradigm Shift entrepreneurs support five others through their small business.

Never with his family in front of his hardware shop. On Average, Paradigm Shift entrepreneurs support five others through their small business.

It took 18 months in research and development with some incredible people shaping, molding and mentoring the dream in the process. Former President of Wycliffe Bible Translators encouraged Jedd and Janelle to think big, sensing that this vision was greatly needed throughout the world.

Soon, they recruited a highly qualified team and established a pilot program to test the model in seven South African churches across South Africa.

One example project is Junction Church, a well-resourced South African church on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Confronting the stark realities of poverty, disease, strife and violence for those living in the informal settlement (slum) of Diepsloot just down the road from them, 26 resourced bankers, educators, accountants and financial advisors from Junction Church catalyzed the economic and spiritual growth of 73 entrepreneurs over the first 12 months of them running the Paradigm Shift program.

Junction Church celebrating the hard work of entrepreneurs rising above poverty. For some micro-entrepreneurs, this is the first time ever putting on a cap and gown.

Junction Church celebrating the hard work of entrepreneurs rising above poverty. For some micro-entrepreneurs, this is the first time ever putting on a cap and gown.

In just Junction’s program alone, these 73 entrepreneur’s businesses grew by 112% with 47% saving money. Junction’s program facilitated microloans of $10,000 and received 95% repayment.

And that was the story across most of the pilot program churches. The dream was becoming a reality!

In 2011-2012 Paradigm Shift founders Jedd and Janelle were chosen to be among the first fellows of Praxis, an accelerator program for Christian social enterprises.

One of the greatest benefits, they shared, of being involved in Praxis was coming into relationship with other like-minded social entrepreneurs facing similar joys and challenges as they sought to grow their dreams to change the world in various ways.

Drawing key insights from the wealth of mentor’s experiences and strategizing for the next stage of growth for Paradigm Shift came at just the right time. They were past the pilot program and ready for scaling up.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Benhilda proudly stands outside her beauty salon in Johannesburg. Over 20 different African nations have been represented in Paradigm Shift programs.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Benhilda proudly stands outside her beauty salon in Johannesburg. Over 20 different African nations have been represented in Paradigm Shift programs.

Since Praxis, Paradigm Shift has doubled it ministry locations in 2012 and doubled again in 2013. Additionally, Paradigm Shift has now piloted programs in Zimbabwe, Uganda, India and Madagascar,  creating opportunity for Paradigm Shift’s model to be modified for ministry use outside the South African context, which is the next stage of Paradigm Shift’s development.

To date, over 2,000 entrepreneurs have been a part of Paradigm Shift’s program. The near-term Paradigm Shift dream is to see over 100 Paradigm Shift program locations (African partner churches) offering this ministry as an outreach tool. Sticky notes are a favorite way for us at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership to brainstorm. May whatever mode you use to dream be just as transformative as it was for this young couple and the thousands of lives thereafter.

Laura Gossman lives in Pasadena, California. She is the Director of Operations at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and the mother of newborn Benjamin and wife of Adam Gossman.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

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