Conversations about “Work/Life” balance seem to abound of late. Certainly, over the last five to ten years the concept has blossomed into a topic of great discussion. So, before dismissing this article as just another in a long string of stories on the subject, please stay tuned for a few more lines to discover how some leading companies of all sizes are tackling this issue with abandon–and success.
"The core of creating a God Honoring Culture of Caring where you work begins with the Christ centered worldview of “loving your neighbor not ourselves.” Dr. Mark Cress
“Who is my neighbor?” you may ask. Understanding that we are workplace missionaries, our neighbors are our fellow team members, their family members, customers, vendors, people in neighboring businesses, those living in neighborhoods surrounding our worksites, industry contacts,
and even our competitors.
My dear friend, Buck Jacobs, the founder of Christian based The C-12 Group, created, and for many years has taught, a seminar titled: “A Strategic Plan for Ministry.” One of the most eye opening moments during these events for most participants comes when they fill out a form Buck has designed to calculate the sheer scope of ministry opportunities even the smallest business affords. I recall a story about one relatively small business in particular that touched more than 5 million people annually through their advertising and customer base. Just contemplate that for a moment. Your workplace has the potential to reach tens of thousands of people with the Good News of Jesus Christ by simply becoming intentional in “loving your neighbor.”
Think how many churches it takes to reach that many people each week, yet our American free enterprise workplaces are perfectly suited to both profit from their business platform and at the same time succeed grandly as agencies for dispensing the fruit of the Spirit, which according to the book of Galatians in the New Testament is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These nine words can change your business and the community in which it operates forever! When we begin to see our workplaces as genuine ministry and caring outreach agencies, the opportunities become enormous.
There are literally thousands of businesses in the U.S. currently operating under such a plan. If you are not one of them, how do you get started? Those who have been at it a long time will advise you to start small and start as close to the top of your organization as possible. Employees are often eager to get involved once they see leadership take the lead. Sometimes it can be as simple as saying yes to an employee who seeks approval to start a weekly prayer or Bible study group. Remember, it is perfectly legal to allow Christian prayer or Bible study groups at your place of business so long as there is equal accommodation for those of other faiths to initiate their own. Also, it is important to ensure such meetings are totally voluntary in nature and that no employees are required to participate. If the concept of equal accommodation challenges you to be concerned that other faith groups will come out of the proverbial “woodwork” seeking accommodation, you can take heart in the fact that in over 20 years of being involved in the workplace ministry movement, I have never had a business owner tell me someone has even asked.
Some of the best advice I have heard on this subject came from Dr. Bill Jones, President of Columbia International University, when he spoke at a “t-factor” conference to encourage business, owners to build God honoring cultures within their businesses hosted by Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated recently at their Charlotte, NC headquarters. Dr. Jones encouraged business leaders to avoid the trap of simply adopting programs and focus instead on establishing stair steps to long-term success. Each of the steps led to great spiritual maturity, leading to Christian reproduction through evangelism, by living out the Great Commission in the workplace.
Clearly, there is no shortage of caring programs and ideas a business leader can implement almost immediately. The key is to find the ones that will be a cultural fit for the long term at your particular business.
"Cultures within businesses are like fingerprints. All are uniquely distinguished from one another, and just because something works in one business does not necessarily mean it will succeed in another." Dr. Mark Cress
The successful experiences of Coke Consolidated mirror the leadership model of encouragement and accommodation listed above. Almost twenty years ago, some employees sought management approval to initiate a regular time of prayer during their workweek. Management not only agreed; in addition, senior executives also joined in whenever possible. Many people credit this early approval and participation in the prayer groups as the springboard for the dozens of both internal and external God Honoring caring activities going on at the company today. These activities include, but are certainly not limited to, outreach for single parents, adoption of needy communities, nursing home care, feeding the homeless, programs in schools, a robust chaplain program for all employees, employee led Bible study programs, as well as a host of programs at each company location through an organized “Stewardship” program. These programs at the local level enable employees to extend the organization’s impact for the Kingdom far away from the company headquarters.
Another element of success is to get as many people in the company involved as possible. Peter Freissle, a Christian business owner in Spartanburg, South Carolina has become an international leader when it comes to encouraging business people to live out their faith at work. By his own admission, prior to a spiritual epiphany a number of years ago, his industry leading manufacturing business, Polydeck Screen Corporation, was anything but a caring place to work. It was not making a difference in the community. Employee turnover was too high, and Peter readily admits his priorities were not in the right place. Then while on a retreat, God clearly spoke to him about the things he cherished most in life, and immediately he knew things had to change. During this weekend retreat, he surrendered to what he saw as God’s will to dedicate his life to serving Christ through his life and business. He changed the mission and vision of the company to be one of “caring.” He even printed this mission, complete with references to his Christ centered values, on the back of his business card. Here is what it says: “We are a company grounded in the Christian values of humility, honesty, integrity, respect, kindness and a sense of social responsibility. Our goal is to create eternal value by striving to honor God in all we do. This is reflected in how we conduct our business and how we care for our employees–our greatest asset.” Basically, all Peter did was surrender to God’s call to create a culture of caring in his workplace, and Peter will tell you, God took the reins from there. Today, not only have Polydeck and its stakeholders been transformed through the process; but out of this sprang an organization called His Way At Work, that is successfully offering training and support for business leaders, around the world on four continents, to do likewise (www.hwaw.com).
Why not take the leap like Buck, Peter and many thousands of other Christian business leaders around the world to consecrate your workplace to Christ as a place dedicated to “loving neighbors” and seeing lives transformed in the process.
By: Mark Cress
Mark Cress is the Founder of Corporate Chaplains of America. CCA (www.chaplain.org) is the nation’s leading provider of full time workplace chaplains to more than 800 public and private business locations across the US and internationally. He holds business and seminary degrees including a doctorate in Business Ethics and Leadership. He has authored seven books through Lanphier Press. Mark has a passion for Christian leadership matters within the emerging workplace ministry arena. He and his wife Linda have two grown daughters and reside in North Carolina.Read More Articles by Mark Cress