I was recently interviewed on a podcast (link coming soon!), and the host asked me a really interesting question that has had me thinking ever since: What is one piece of advice you have for people doing ministry in their workplace?
Here’s (essentially) the advice I shared: I used to think that doing ministry in the workplace was predominantly outward expressions of faith, but I’ve realized that the more important piece is all the behind-the-scenes work. I’ve been part of Christian organizations that didn’t operate all that Christianly—and that’s because while the outward work was Christian, behind-the-scenes, things were run differently. What’s most important is focusing on the behind-the-scenes work of operating in ethical, moral, Christian ways. If we focus on that, there’s no telling the incredible impact we can have.
This is a lesson I’ve learned along the way that’s incredibly important. Whether you run a coffee shop, an agency, or a dance studio, we can be tempted to believe that our work is only ministry if we are outwardly expressing our faith—like making sure we have verses printed on our brochures, or displaying crosses on our walls, or playing Christian music, or publicly donating some of our profits to churches and charities, or having faith resources available. Even if we’re not that overt with displays of our faith, we want to make sure—in one way or another—that our customers or clients know that we’re Christians.
But by focusing primarily on these aspects, we can miss what’s even more important—the unseen, behind-the-scenes parts of our business. To flesh this out (more than I was able to on the podcast), here are four things I believe we must be focused on if we want to do ministry in our workplace—wherever we work.
1. Treatment of our employees and coworkers.
This is absolutely critical, and often completely missed. We must ensure that our employees and coworkers feel seen, heard, and appreciated. We must work to continually develop our employees and coworkers, encouraging them in the areas they have particular skills and gifts, and noticing when they go above and beyond. If your employees or coworkers are cared for in these ways, the impact of your work will be greater than you can imagine—and likely greater than you’ll ever know. When people feel seen, heard, and appreciated, they bring their best to work, and they inspire the best in everyone else around them. Can you imagine that kind of shift in your work culture?
2. Treatment of our customers.
Secondly, we must extend this kind of care to our customers or clients. Yes, we won’t have the direct impact on them that we might have on our employees and coworkers, but we still can create an environment where people feel seen, heard, and appreciated. If you have a physical business, you can literally feel the difference when you walk in—it feels warm and thoughtful and human. After all, if your employees feel seen, heard, and appreciated, there’s a great chance they’ll naturally do that for your customers. If you have an online business, it will require other means to create this feel digitally, but it is absolutely possible. This means when they interact with your business online, they feel they’re part of something, they’re being treated fairly and thoughtfully, and they’re seen as human beings—not just a wallet. My goal at every event at The Perch is that people would walk away feeling seen, heard, and invited in—no matter who they are and where they’re coming from. I want you to have a taste of the kingdom when you’re at The Perch. It also means that I expect our community to treat one another that way as well. Anything less is not tolerated.
3. Financial integrity.
If we’re approaching our work as ministry, this is a non-negotiable. Whether it’s in paying our taxes to how we keep our books to how we price our products and services to how we pay our contractors, being above board financially is absolutely key. And yet I’ve found that because so few people will ever see the books, many are tempted to let them slide a bit. As much as you have control over the finances of your workplace, make financial integrity key to your business. For those of us who provide services and products, how we choose pricing is really important. That means pricing things fairly in accordance with their value, our community, and more. Being a good business person means setting prices that allow us to cover our costs and make some money, but we can do that fairly or unfairly. If we want to do ministry in our workplace, we’ll need to choose to be fair—in what we charge, in what we pay others, and even in where we get (and who makes) our goods.
4. Caring for ourselves.
We are often tempted to think that if we’re treating our jobs as ministry we should give and give and give—even beyond our ability. But frankly, that’s being a terrible steward of who we are and what God’s given us. We may think we don’t have time for soul care, but honestly, we don’t have time not to engage in soul care, especially if we want to treat our work as ministry. Ministry requires all of who we are at the table, which means we must prioritize our health—emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. This is really a form of personal integrity—being true to our own abilities, limitations, and needs. We set the tone for our companies, departments, or teams when it comes to caring for ourselves. If we work crazy hours, we communicate that we expect that from others. If we don’t have emotional health, no one else will either. If we never take a break, no one else will either—and everyone will end up burned out. It’s critical to continue to develop and grow personally, learning more about ourselves, our blind spots, and our strengths and weaknesses. The more we engage in personal development, self-care, and rest—and we’re honest about these things with those we work with—the healthier we’ll be, and the healthier our companies, departments, and teams.
I’d love to hear from you: In what ways do you do ministry in your workplace? How do you apply these principles in your workplace? In what ways are you trying to grow this year?
Amy Jackson is founder and director of The Perch.