At Work & Economics 101 & Public Square

An Uncommon Company for the Common Good

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The Good-Works Company is an uncommon company working for the common good. Their goal is “alleviating poverty, restoring human dignity, and creating flourishing communities through good work,” according to their website.

They’ve been working through subsidiary companies, such as Bonton Wood-Works and Bonton Farm-Works, to combat poverty and unemployment in South Dallas.

They want to fight poverty by running a “better form of business,” explaining that,

That “better form of business” is one that operates under a robust theology of work where employees share responsibility, knowledge, power and profit to create a God-honoring form of business.

Michael Craven is the CEO and chairman of The Good-Works Company. He recently spoke on a special panel on poverty hosted by IFWE at the Heritage Foundation, where he talked about how The Good-Works Company is using a theology of work to bring about flourishing in South Dallas.

He also spoke with me briefly to share in detail about the mission of The Good-Works Company, and how biblical and economic principles influence how the company operates.

What is The Good-Works Company trying to accomplish? Why was the company started?

The Good-Works Company was formed on behalf of H.I.S. Bridgebuilders, a non-profit ministry that has been working for the restoration of poor, inner-city communities in Dallas.

After nineteen years of efforts focused on the spiritual development of individuals and families, health and wellness programs, and educational development, including job training, we discovered that the poor were still often left with little or no economic opportunities capable of inducing them to abandon government dependence or criminal enterprise.

Only 53 percent of our inner-city population graduates from high school and, arguably, those that do have failed to receive an education capable of preparing them for college. 60 percent do not have transportation, so their job opportunities, those near public transportation lines, are the lowest paying and most competitive. Finally, most working age adults have felony backgrounds, which further limits their job opportunities.

Not surprisingly, we have had little success in attracting would-be employers to these areas or this particular labor pool. Therefore, we determined to be that employer by launching a for-profit enterprise that was self-sustaining and intentional in its effort to alleviate poverty through the creation of jobs.

Furthermore, material poverty represents a scarcity of financial resources, and thus we believe that the best solution is the creation of wealth—if that’s true then only businesses can create wealth.

How does a theology of work inform The Good-Works Company’s mission and everyday efforts?

Theology actually informs everything we do.

First and foremost, our theology of the kingdom leads us to employ every material resource in the service of others and the promotion of human flourishing to the glory of God. Industry is likely one of the most powerful spheres of culture through which the Christian church can offer a tangible sign and foretaste of the kingdom fulfilled by demonstrating life and work under the rule and reign of God.

In addition, we believe that the marketplace offers an ideal context for meaningful disciple-making as we deal with the multitude of challenges that arise in the course of a given day. Through work we are able to mentor and lead our employees in the way of truth relative to their relationship with themselves, others and creation.

Our goal is to lovingly confront those worldviews and behaviors that inhibit their ability to thrive and help them discover the imago Dei in themselves. There are a variety of ways in which we pass on our theological aims. We operate under a Constitution in which these virtues are enshrined and explained. I regularly brief every employee on what we believe and why.

In addition, I spend considerable time teaching and coaching my leadership team in a robust theology of work and ethics. No decisions relative to any employee’s performance or employment is made without filtering every issue and challenge through a biblical matrix. We are here to serve people, not manage them for our own gain.

What economic principles inform the work of The Good-Works Company, and how are those principles influenced by biblical truth?

For one, we believe in the concept of profit and pursue such aggressively. However, we do not believe that profit is the “purpose” of our business anymore than breathing is the purpose of life—important, but not its purpose.

Instead, we practice “seeking first the kingdom of God.” For us, this means that our focus is on the redemptive reality of God’s present kingdom through which he is setting right all that sin has set wrong—namely our relationship with God, ourselves, others and creation.

As a company, we seek to orient the work of our hands and our business toward these ends when and where we can, doing all things in excellence under a profound sense of stewardship.

In terms of pay, our starting pay for entry-level positions is $12/hr. We do this for several reasons.

One we believe that God’s grace reveals a radical generosity that we are to imitate.

Two, we try to take seriously the concept of “righteousness” in which we are called to “disadvantage” ourselves for the advantage of others. As a result, our management team is limited in their earnings relative to the lowest paid employees. Unfortunately, we are competing with public assistance that delivers the equivalent of  $12-$13/hr!

In your view, what’s the relationship between faith, work, and economics?

If one believes in a world created by God, ruled by God, and inhabited by people made in his image who are instructed to exercise dominion, how can one not see the relationship between faith, work and economics? How would culture building and dominion occur without some form of collaborative enterprise?

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