The Hebrew word “avodah” means work, service, and worship. The Avodah Forum is for CEOs, presidents, and business owners seeking transformation in their personal lives, their businesses and the communities their organizations serve.
The Forum Provides Its Members With:
• Mutual Support – You will find a community of like-minded Christian business owners to lean on for support and advice. You will also experience a sense of a shared endeavor—you do not have to go it alone.
• Differing Perspectives – You will hear different views from other forum participants who will help clarify issues you would not otherwise be aware of—in your life, in your business, and in your approach to your goals.
• Resources – You will find that everyone in your group has access to different skill-sets and networks of people. These additional resources will help you make progress in ways you could not make on your own.
• Accountability – Your fellow group members will hold you accountable to the goals you set. Just knowing that you have a regularly scheduled meeting will internally drive you to make progress.
• Business Solutions – You will see new models and patterns as you seek God’s wisdom through this community regarding solutions to business problems.
• Wise Counsel – You will discover how being obedient to God’s word and seeking wise counsel helps you have greater confidence and understanding.
• Action – You will see how companies like yours have experienced more significant growth and profitability by building their organizations around God’s principles.
• Personal Integrity – You will discover ways to achieve victory through challenges that might otherwise compromise your integrity, your relationships, and even your faith.
• Biblical Applications – You will learn how to practically apply the business principles in scripture to your organization.
How It Works
The Avodah Forum is a small, cohort-based community of 12 carefully selected business owners and chief executives led by IFWE’s founder, Hugh Whelchel. There are three core components of the forum: community, consulting, and content.
Once a month, the full cohort will gather virtually using Zoom for three and a half hours to pray for one another, teach on practical business topics, offer focused feedback, and hold each other accountable to personal, business, and spiritual goals. All Forums will be recorded for later access. Below is a sample agenda:
Opening Devotional (20 Minutes)
A devotional delivered by Hugh based on a short scripture that addresses a specific question which will set the stage for the rest of the forum. We will follow the devotional with a brief group discussion on how this theological truth impacts our business and our lives.
For example, from Deuteronomy 8:18, we might explore the question, “Why has God given us the ability to create wealth?” From Genesis 1:28, we may explore, “What is the eternal purpose of our work?” Or from Jeremiah 29:7, we may discuss, “What is the first rule in business?”
Prayer (30 Minutes)
Members will share specific prayer requests for the month and then join together for a time of prayer.
Teaching (30 Minutes)
For 15 minutes, Hugh will teach on a very practical business topic, drawn from his 35+ years of experience as a businessman and entrepreneur.
Each talk will be followed by 15 minutes of Q&A and group sharing on best practices related to the topic. Some sample issues include:
• How to develop and maintain a God-honoring culture in your organization.
• How to hire for difficult positions, like salespeople.
• Best practices in time management, including how to get to inbox “zero” every day and not lose sight of important details.
Case Study (95 Minutes)
Each month, this section of the forum will take one of two formats. The first is a seminar presented by an outside expert on a subject matter relevant to forum members. Below is a typical example:
Subject: “The Principles”
Presenter: Nicholas Leone
Presenter Bio: After finishing seminary at Fuller Seminary, Nicholas spent seven years playing professional ice hockey in Europe. He then returned to New York City and worked for 20 years on Wall Street as a hedge fund manager. Over the last ten years while on Wall Street he has developed “The Principles,” a framework of 60 biblical business principles around leadership, business management, company culture, charity, philanthropy, and investing.
Seminar Summary: “The Principles” are the eternal laws, commandments, statutes, and precepts designed to achieve the highest common good. They were codified in scripture by Moses, illustrated in Solomon’s wisdom literature, and illuminated by Jesus and the Apostles. These principles are woven into the very fabric of creation and are like gravity; they work whether you believe in God or not. To prove that they work, Nicholas and some associates put together 100 million dollars and started a hedge fund that only invested in companies which adhered to the ten business management principles. In its worst quarter, the fund had twice the return of the Fortune 500, and there were quarters that the fund’s performance was over five times that of the Fortune 500.
Other months, the Case Study section of the forum will be much more inwardly focused. Typically, two or three members will take time to do a very structured, deep dive on a big problem or question facing their organization and solicit input and offers of help from the group. For many members, this exercise becomes the most important feature of the forum.
Next Actions (30 Minutes)
Every member will report on the status of the Next Actions they committed to in the last meeting and verbalize actions they are going to take within the next month.
Closing Prayer (5 Minutes)
Monthly One-on-One Calls
These one-on-one calls between Hugh and the forum members serve as an executive coaching session and provide a time for the member to discuss their most pressing challenges and opportunities. Using his experience and network, Hugh will help direct forum members to the right resources and experts to help inform their most critical decisions. This call is also used to discuss potential issues that we may want to bring before the full group during the Case Study portion of the forum. The calls will be scheduled in advance based on the member’s availability and will last an hour.
Member-Only Slack Channel
In between monthly forum meetings, members will have access to Hugh and the other members of the forum through a software platform called Slack. This is extremely valuable for when you inevitably need a sounding board in between our monthly Forums.
Consulting is at the heart of the Avodah Forum, but it may not be the type of consulting you would typically seek out for your organization.
Starting and running a business in today’s environment is difficult at best. Eight of every ten companies fail within the first 18 months of operations. Among those who survive the first 18 months, only four percent of businesses survive after ten years. The odds are stacked up against us in this constant and never-ending struggle to build and scale a company over time without ending up as just another statistic.
For those of us whom God has called to start businesses, we must look beyond the statistics to God’s promises. God has a better plan for you, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God’s desire is for us to build companies that glorify him by bringing more flourishing to his creation.
The beauty of the Avodah Forum is its ability to help its members learn biblical truth from the collective experience of the group, tapping into the expertise and skills of others, including the facilitator. Not only do influential leaders help to guide those that are involved, but so do fellow members, who’ve also struggled and overcome challenges that other members might be going through at that very moment. It’s a rare opportunity for networking and getting one-on-one help at the highest level with the exact people who can deliver the fastest and most proven answers to the questions needed to sustain your organization.
It is important to understand what the Avodah Forum is not:
• It is not a training class. While we will certainly from time to time bring in guest speakers and experts, this is not the primary focus of the forum.
• It is not group coaching. While there will undoubtedly be some coaching in the one-on-one sessions, the group meetings are about the members sharing with each other, not about the facilitator coaching individuals in a group setting. There will be feedback, advice, and support from everyone.
• It is not a networking group. While you will undoubtedly share leads and resources from time to time and have opportunities for professional networking, that is not the main focus of the meetings.
Coming together for the common purpose of successfully building better organizations that operate on biblical principles takes an experienced facilitator and a strong commitment from the forum members. Every member has a role to play. The combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability, and support in a confidential group setting serves not only to sharpen the member’s business and personal skills but also to build a more successful company. Participants challenge each other to set compelling goals, and more importantly, to accomplish them. Members act as catalysts for growth and supportive colleagues. Add the blessing of God and the work of his Holy Spirit toward members who genuinely want to be good stewards of what he has given them, and you will see results of which a traditional consultant can only dream.
The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) has amassed considerable material over the last eight years, all of which will be made available to Avodah Forum members. IFWE’s scholars will also create custom content for the Avodah Forum.
Every morning, Monday through Friday at 6:00 am, IFWE will send you a custom blog to help you start your day with a biblical insight about your work.
Upon request, Forum members will get free access to any of IFWE’s current books and automatically receive advanced copies of any new IFWE publications.
Access to a custom, well-organized repository of documents and other resources will be made available to all forum members through DropBox.