Jul. 29, 2011
Where’s the “Silicon Valley” for Catholicism? Allow me to explain.
We Catholics give a ton of money to some really, really great charities who do amazing work. But most of it goes toward only one part of the “need chain” - the end product (or the bureaucracy to deliver it).
We buy a lot of food and clothes. We counsel a lot of people. Provide shelter and medical supplies. We provide for a lot of the temporal needs of the needy and the practical needs of being The Church.
But how much of that money is going toward doing all of that better? How much is not just going for more food, but to develop more efficient ways of growing and distributing food?
Lots goes toward medicine and bandaids (pun intended). How much goes toward innovative ways to provide those services in more efficient and effective ways?
We create a lot of spiritual material - books, magazines, websites and, now, apps and more. But who is investing in finding ways to market and distribute those in today’s culture in more effective ways?
The key word there is “investing.” It’s not a comfortable word for a lot of Catholics. Or, at least, it doesn’t seem like it. But perhaps it’s because they haven’t been given the opportunity to think of it that way.
Right now, many Catholics give out of obligation. They certainly rarely give because they are particularly impressed by the return on their investment. And that’s exactly what it is: an investment with a return.
Some people don’t like to think about charity as an investment. But that’s precisely why we’re not doing as well as we could be. It’s the same reason people don’t like the idea of running a ministry like a “business.” Well what’s wrong with that? Running something like a business doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a greedy, for-profit organization that exploits people as just another commodity. It just means it’s a sustainable operation. Isn’t that what we should want?
And let’s be clear, charity can’t be based on what you get in return, either. But it is based on what others get in return. And that’s the “return on investment” we’re talking about here. If you can maximize that return (charity), then we will maximize the investment (charitable giving).
If we focused more on developing more such sustainable models for charitable operations, we’d be able to provide a lot more charity and do a lot more good in the world (as opposed to just plain annoying people with endless, dramatic appeals). And if we’d stop running our parishes like 2nd grade fundraisers, and instead inspired people to invest in something amazing and exciting and Holy, we could really do some big things.
All of that said, the point of the Church is not only to feed more mouths. It’s to feed more souls. And that’s where this gets really exciting.
Who’s investing in innovative ways to do that? Who wants to invest their money in new ways to evangelize? To find out what works right now in this climate and this culture? In new ways to re-energize the faithful? In new ways to bring back fallen away Catholics? In new ways to communicate as a Church? In new ways to “market” the Church. In new businesses that can help sustain all of that? In “startups” that pull all of the right people together and put the best and the brightest in the Church on solving the challenges of today?
I think there are lots and lots of Catholics (and many who have a lot of money) who would love to invest in things like that. The problem is that there’s no easy way to do that right now.
Yes, there are individuals who have done this successfully on their own. And there are increasingly more individual organizations doing great, innovative things in this regard. But we can do much, much better. We need to help them. We have the resources to do it. We just aren’t organized enough and aren’t thinking big enough - yet.
The most brilliant ideas occur when the right people come together to share and collaborate. And those brilliant ideas become reality when they meet the people with the resources to execute them. We don’t have a good mechanism for making any of that happen right now in the Church. We should. We need a Silicon Valley for Catholicism.