One of the things that I keep learning as I do this ministry as social entrepreneurship thing is that it often seems like feast or famine. Some days it seems to me like forever since new business has come through the door and other days it gets really stressful simply because there is too much business and not enough time. 1 step forward two steps back. In my case, I work a 60 hour a week job and then have to figure out how to coordinate a separate social entrepreneurship (a landscaping company) on the side. The difficulty is that until we either get enough business or a large enough grant I can't provide enough hours to sustain the employee that I would want. It's a constant tension. Yesterday was a case in point.
This past weekend we had done our first training for the non-profit wing of what we do. We do 5 trainings a year that focus on work and life. Students attend these trainings and are assigned a personal mentor after the 2nd training. Our aim was to have 12 students in the room. We got to 8 with another two waiting in the wings. I was frustrated a bit because I had sent out multiple communications to the local school districts in the area, but hadn't really gotten any solid bites. People forwarded the information to other people, who forwarded it to other people, who then sent it onward into electronic scholastic purgatory (it has flames, Ticonderoga pencils, and too much standardized testing). I expected that this kind of information passing would be the case. School employees are just swamped. But, all in all the training went really well and we had a bunch of new students show up. It was pretty exciting despite not reaching our targeted goal. And the number of students was just about right for our group of mentors. So, in some ways it felt like bit of famine, but it was manageable and that felt pretty good.
Well, when I rolled into the office yesterday I received three emails in short succession from various school counselors and career advisers. All of them were asking for more information or for a special meeting with some of their students. Another student from our church then asked if she could join the program. She had missed all the communication I had sent out. I got off my my email and the first thing I thought was, "We're gonna need a bigger boat."
The whole dilemma in our program is how fast you can scale. We want to strike a balance between profit and just enough grants to keep us going. We want to balance having students get work experience and having enough time for relationships and coaching. We want a good number of students so that our program feels worth while, but we also need to balance that with the proper number of high quality mentors so that we are getting at the real work we set out to do. It's a hard balance to strike.
So, I had started the day with contented disappointment and finished with, "I need more mentors." I had this sense that this is how the disciples must have felt when they pulled the nets in from the sea teeming with fish. Half the crew (the crazy entrepreneurial ones) thought that this was the best damn day they had ever had on the water! The other half (the details people) felt that this was not the sort of abundance anyone could handle. I have often wondered if they had a sense of the kind of harvest that Jesus was really pointing to. Because in actual practice the harvest of people that he refers to is a bit of a mixed bag. Sure it's lots of fish, but the mass of teeming humanity is often hurting, angry, and broken. Getting them in the boat is one thing, but getting them to shore without sinking your whole operation is another. The harvest that Jesus' actual way of living brings is just as scary as it is joyful. It points to the grunt work of helping to reshape and forge human beings and anyone with half a brain and any experience with people should find that a bit daunting.
But, this is just how it goes in this new world that I am inhabiting. Abundance comes, but it creates new adaptive problems. They are exciting and terrifying all at the same time. It's tricky and I am trying to avoid being gobbled up. One of my favorite prayers used to hang on a placard in my brother's room growing up. It had an anchor and some waves and it said, "Oh Lord, the sea is so big and my boat is so small." I have this inkling (or maybe it's a sinking feeling) that the more we open our doors through missional work, the more we will discover the vast needs that are out there. It's overwhelming. We're gonna need a bigger boat.