JACKSON, MS (August 19, 2015) — Even before Common Ground Covenant Church formally organized, the congregation started a business to be its first community development project, one that the pastor tried to scare them off from doing.
The church purchased a building that was going to need a lot of repair so that it could be transformed into a barbershop the church later named Hopeful Barbershop where people would be trained to be entrepreneurs and learn how to start and run businesses.
“We were just an idea of a church plant when we were offered the building by a zoo that was moving,” said pastor John “Big John” Perkins. “I told our people it was going to cost $70,000. I tried to scare them, and I said it would mean putting our tithes and offerings into the most violent area of Mississippi.”
“But then “Miss Lilly,” who is 71 years old, said, “This is what we’re supposed to do.” When Miss Lilly spoke, it was a done deal.
The church is a 75-percent owner in the barbershop and will gradually turn over its shares to barber Marcus Landfair, who owns 25 percent. Landfair served time for manslaughter but was unable to find work—just the type of person Common Ground is hoping to help.
“We’re providing the back-office help for this entrepreneur who was a felon, the guy no one wants to give a chance,” Perkins said. “When he went to prison, he couldn’t read. But he gave his life to Christ and learned to read the Bible in prison.”
Landfair is a licensed barber instructor so he is able to train others as part of the church’s ministry. The shop has 17 chairs, with 11 of them for salon work, Perkins said. Other barbers contract to use booth space.
The church opened the barbershop on February 28. Participants in one of the Covenant’s Sankofa trips happened to be in town that day and prayed over Landfair and the building.
Hopeful Barbershop already is far exceeding expectations and making a profit, said Perkins, who also is the president and CEO of the Spencer Perkins Center started by his grandfather, civil rights activist John Perkins.
“There are so many men—particularly black men between the ages of 18 and 30—that come up to me and ask me for a job,” Perkins said. There is a lot of work to be done, but not a lot of businesses that meet the needs.
So Perkins is looking to bring together the needs of the community and individuals by helping develop more entrepreneurs and employees for businesses. That will require organizations and individuals willing to provide a circle of support for the trainees.
“A lot of these guys will fail at jobs or training because they’ll get disheartened,” Perkins said. “They might not have money for gas in their cars, their children might get sick, and there’s no one else to care for them. These are real problems, so we’re going to come around them and say we’re not going to let you drop out. We’re going to see them through to the end because they want that. They need that.”
Perkins added that the community development projects and job training are part of sharing a holistic gospel, and emphasized that the church is intent on helping people come to Christ and develop their relationships with him.