Entreprayneurs: Business starters pray more often, study finds
WACO, Texas — Valerie Young is an entrepreneur. And she prays.
"I pray every day," Young says, "...'Thank you (God) for this opportunity to have this livelihood.' "
A new study by Baylor University scholars of business and sociology found that entrepreneurs pray more frequently, and are more likely to view God as personal and active in their lives than non-entrepreneurs.
The study published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion also raises questions about the ways in which religion and business intersect and how some religious communities may foster the entrepreneurial spirit and improve the economy.
"Our interest (is) in really exploring an overlooked potential connection to entrepreneurial activity," says Kevin D. Dougherty, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at Baylor, a private Baptist university in Waco, Texas. "That is the role of faith and faith communities. Does (faith) inspire people to take chances in the marketplace or is it an impediment?"
Dougherty set out to discover how entrepreneurs may differ from the general populace in religious beliefs, behaviors and affiliation. Dougherty says he suspected to find that entrepreneurs are so busy with their businesses that they might not go to religious services as often. "We didn't find that," he says. "What we did find was on the flip side."
The study found that in many religious aspects, America's entrepreneurs look no different than any other full-time workers. Entrepreneurs attended services at about the same rate as other Americans and believe in God at the same rate as the national average.
But there were a few differences.
The study found entrepreneurs pray more frequently than non-entrepreneurs. While more than half of non-entrepreneurs in the study said they pray a few times a week or less, more than half of entrepreneurs told the researchers they pray every day, and a third said they pray several times a day.
The survey did not ask what people pray about or how long they pray, which Dougherty said he would like to explore in a future study. He speculates entrepreneurs probably pray about the difficulties that come with long hours and starting and running a profitable business.
Jared Rubin, an economic historian at Chapman University, a private university in Orange, Calif. affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), says that it is possible that entrepreneurs pray more frequently because they live more on the edge, and so they may need more comfort.
He also says they may pray more frequently because entrepreneurs take bigger risks.
"The assumption seems to be that entrepreneurs were praying for something," says Young, an entrepreneur and professional speaker and the author of "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women." " 'Help my business survive,' 'Help me make the payroll,' 'Help me with my cashflow.' "
Young says she considers herself spiritual and often prays — but rarely asks for anything. "To me it is much more about being grateful. My experience with entrepreneurs is they have a different mindset."
That mindset, she says, tends to be optimistic. Entrepreneurs don't think in terms of failure, but risk. They take a risk. They try something. If it doesn't work out, they try something else.
"I have friends that are not entrepreneurs that say they pray for money or to win the lottery," Young says. "Entrepreneurs see themselves as being ultimately responsible for their success. There would be less of an inclination to ask for things or to put the control outside of yourself."
A more personal God