Five Capitals 101: A Story of Investment

By January 27, 2015 July 22nd, 2019 2 Comments

In the past few weeks we’ve looked at what the five capitals are and why they matter, and we’ve learned that investment (as opposed to sacrifice) is the best metaphor for understanding what it means to follow Jesus.

But some of you may be wondering what all of this looks like “in the flesh.” What do concrete decisions look like when we view our lives through the lens of the five capitals?

To answer that question, we continue our Five Capitals 101 series today with a story of how one family leveraged, invested, and grew their capital.

Dave and Kim Rhodes, along with another partner, founded a ministry to young adults called Wayfarer, and their story of starting this ministry is a great example of investment of the five capitals. Pay close attention to their lack of financial capital at the beginning, and how they leveraged other forms of capital to make up for their lack.

Here’s the story, in Dave’s words:

It all started at Palm Beach Atlantic University. We were a bunch of guys who were doing life together, seeking God together, and we were seeing God show up in remarkable ways.

Though we didn’t have language for it at the time, we had essentially started a Missional Community, and the fruit of it was really sweet. It was a bunch of people living as a family, doing life together, seeing people come to Jesus and join us. It was awesome.

When it was time to graduate, we asked the question, “Why does this have to stop? Who says this has to stop?” Again, although we didn’t have language for it at the time, we were experiencing an abundance of relational capital and questioning why people simply drop all the relational capital they accumulate in college because it’s the normal thing to do.

In the meantime, we were beginning to expand our little family on mission—we met a ministry partner and began to lead summer youth camps together. Again, we had developed what was basically a Missional Community: we traveled together, did life and ministry together.

We built a friendship and eventually decided to go to seminary together (preserving relational capital instead of choosing to do these things individualistically, which is the normal way to do it). We moved to Birmingham, Alabama, for seminary, and eventually five or six of the other families we’d been doing life with came and joined us in Birmingham. We spent three and a half years there as an extended family on mission. We lived in the same apartment complex, doing life and mission together.

We came to the point of graduating, and another decision was upon us. What now? Again, the normal expectation is that everyone says their goodbyes and you go your separate ways, throwing away the relational capital. We decided to do something different. There were some opportunities locally, but we felt called to start something.

So we decided to start something. We didn’t have any seed money, besides $2,000 out of our own pockets. We took stock of where we had other kinds of capital we could build on, and for a number of reasons we felt like the Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina, area was the place to start. We both had relational connections there (more relational capital), and it felt like God’s grace was going before us.

So we moved there (before long, so did a few of the other families we’d been doing life with). We started Wayfarer in our partner’s parents’ basement (again, following the relational capital) and didn’t take a salary for nine months. We paid the bills because both of our wives got jobs with another local company where we had relational connections. It allowed them to use their skills, but they got the jobs in the first place because of the relational capital we had with the owners.

By now we had leveraged a lot of relational capital to get this thing started, and now that we were moving, it was time to leverage our intellectual capital to grow the business. Our intellectual capital consisted mainly of an ability to write and speak.

We actually had a heart to start a ministry for local twenty-somethings, but we knew if we simply started there, we’d have to shut the whole thing down because twenty-somethings didn’t have any financial capital, which is what we needed to pay the bills at the time. So we used our intellectual capital to create a business that developed curriculum and did communication at camps and other events. This eventually provided us with enough financial capital to enable us to do the local ministry among twenty-somethings that we wanted to do.

As the business grew, we needed more staff. But again, we didn’t have any extra financial capital lying around, so we couldn’t exactly hire people in the normal way. So we turned again to our relational capital when we’d talk with people about coming to join us.

“We have an opportunity here,” we’d tell people, “but no income. The opportunity isn’t primarily about financial capital, it’s about relational capital, and the testimony of our lives is that if you come and join us here as a family on mission, we as a family will make sure you get fed. We don’t have a job to give you—we have an opportunity to put in front of you.”

The only way that makes any sense to people is if they can trust the relational capital to make the financial capital work.

We hired the next four or five people that way. They first moved to simply join the family, and in the process there was eventually enough financial capital to give them an official job.

In the process, we grew our business from a budget of maybe $20,000 a year (85% of which came from ministry gifts and 15% from our self-sustaining efforts) to a budget of almost $750,000 a year (85% self-sustaining, 15% ministry gifts).

And none of that came with any seed money. It was relational seed that we leveraged for an opportunity to leverage our intellectual capital that eventually resulted in enough financial capital to make ends meet and do the local ministry we felt called to do, investing spiritual capital in twenty-somethings.

Of course there was lots of spiritual and physical capital invested along the way. As in all startup businesses, we all worked lots of hours, we prayed a lot, and we constantly needed to rely on God going before us with his grace.

Can you think of a time in your life where you invested similarly? Leave a comment below and tell us your story!