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Keeping The Faith

Churches use entrepreneurship to build community.

This story appears in the October 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Faith-based economic development is not a new trend. Churches have worked in U.S. communities since colonial days. "What is new in modern-day America is the focus on minority institutions using their strengths and assets to develop inner-city neighborhoods," explains Rev. Dr. Fred Lucas, president and CEO of New York City's Faith Center for Community Development Inc., which provides technical assistance to faith-based community development groups.

Entrepreneurship has become a major tool that faith-based community developers wield to revitalize urban areas. Lucas says the move into entrepreneurial ventures was a natural evolution of the churches' mission to help the poor. "It's not enough to have housing programs; people need jobs and access to quality goods and services," says Lucas. Religious organizations also needed money to maintain their core activities in the face of a shrinking government and corporate belt-tightening. "It became an issue of how to generate operating money and help community businesses develop," he says.

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