I am going to be doing some work over the coming months with social enterprises. A social enterprise addresses challenges or needs in the community through an entrepreneurial business approach. An example of a social enterprise could be a bakery which employs people with learning difficulties or a community venture which provides classes, activities and support groups for people locally to combat isolation.
Part of my role will be to help these groups with their strategic planning. What do they see as their purpose? What would success look like? And for a social enterprise that is more about the change they want to see in the local community rather than making large amounts of profit. What is their strategy – how do they get from where they are now to where they want to be?
A strategic plan is a very useful thing to motivate an organisation but not if it is left sitting on a shelf. It has to be translated into action. So I will be helping the organisations explore how they can do that. What needs to happen on a day to day basis to move them forward in the direction of their vision? Nor is a strategic plan just something for the boss. If it is going to have any vitality, then everyone in the organisation needs to feel a sense of ownership of that plan and be able to see where they fit into it and what they can contribute to move it forward. How leadership in an organisation gets that buy-in from everyone will be yet another challenge for us to explore together.
The readings for Mass this Sunday got me thinking along similar lines. If someone asked you, “What is your purpose as a Christian?” what would you say? Jesus in Sunday’s gospel is very clear. “You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world….your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). That sounds great, but what would it look like to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah provides us with the action plan, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin… If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon’” (Isaiah 58:7-10).
As an action plan that is pretty clear! The Word of God is not something to be left on the shelf but something to be lived out, made real, incarnated. Internal communication is a vital strength in any organisation if all involved are going to feel that the vision is their vision and that they have a role and responsibility to make that vision a reality. It is the same in the Church. The vision of being a light for the world is not something just for the hierarchy – it is for all of us.
We have another of our First Holy Communion Family Masses this weekend and at the beginning of Mass we will bring up a bowl of salt and a lantern with a lit candle. These will set the theme for the Mass and also provide Fr Brendan with useful props when he engages with the children at the homily. We want the children, their parents and all of us present to leave Mass this weekend thinking about how we can be salt and light. The responsibility to live the gospel is not reserved for the few. It is an invitation and a challenge for each of us. How will you be salt of the earth and light of the world this week? Now there’s a topic for round the kitchen table!