Toward Native Tentmaking: The Impact of Social, Economic, Business, and Ministry Factors on Indigenous Tentmakers

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This study examines tentmaking as it applies to indigenous Christian workers. It examines several tentmaking models and considers the place of native tentmakers as distinct from traditional cross-cultural tentmaking. In addition, this study addresses the practice of tentmaking from biblical and historical perspectives. It studies the strategic business elements which impact native tentmakers from social, economic, business, and ministry perspectives. A key element of focus is the support systems that tentmakers need as entrepreneurs and business people.

This study uses interviews, mini focus groups, and participant observation to collect field data from twenty-six undergraduate-level master trainers and ten grassroots-level Christian workers trained at the Training in Evangelism Needs and Technology (TENT) ministry. It evaluates the factors that affect the TENT trainees in the state of Odisha, India as they work as native tentmakers.

TENT trainees are primarily called to ministry, however, the need to support their families, provide for their children’s education, and other expenses motivate Christian workers to take up microbusinesses. Families, community members, and other ministry leaders provide needed moral support, as well as critical resources such as financial capital, labor, and sometimes technical expertise. The financial capital needed to start and sustain a business was not found in banks, but came from families and self-help groups. To achieve a sustainable business, a tentmaker needs to have both a vison and business plan, but most tentmakers lack training in market research and business planning. Tentmaking provides a channel of opportunities for ministry and community engagement which increase the tentmakers credible witness for the gospel. Though most tentmakers struggle to keep a balance between ministry and business, this is addressed through the help of family members, participation in self-help groups, and community business partners.

This study evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in TENT’s training programs. It proposes changes in the curriculum for TENT training and describes a process of change. These changes will enhance the quality of training and strengthen the TENT trainees to be effective native tentmakers.

Degree Name

Doctor of Missiology (DMiss)

First Advisor

Weaver, Alan R.

Document Type





Tentmaking, Native tentmaking, Tentmakers, Micro-business, Rural evangelism, India, Odisha, TENT


Missions and World Christianity


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