If reports are true that Americans spend more time at work than anyone in the industrialized world, what role might congregations play in supporting their members’ work lives? Here are several ideas that might help your congregation begin imaging its unique role:
- Sponsor occupational groups—small groups of individuals working in similar fields or occupations—in which individuals may discuss their work. See below for possible topics for discussion.
- Help members to identify their sense of calling, their gifts, their passions, or their strengths. Then develop concrete ways in which your congregation can support your members in responding to that call, utilizing their gifts, pursuing their passions, or working out of their strengths.
- Encourage members to reflect upon the connection between spirituality and work. The reflection may take place on an individual basis or as part of a study (or study series). See below for questions for reflection.
- As the pastor or rabbi, offer active support to the members of your congregation—encouraging them to discover the connections between their faith and their work in the world. As a member of a congregation, encourage your rabbi or pastor to offer such support. See below for some suggestions for pastors and rabbis.
Topics for Discussion for Occupational Groups
- Describe how you spend your day.
- What is satisfying for you in your work? What is stressful?
- What is the impact of your work on your health, on your family, on your financial life?
- How does your workplace need to change? How can you help, or not?
- What are the ethical and justice or fairness issues you have to deal with at work?
- Does it make any difference that you are a person of faith in your workplace? How does your faith connect to your work?
Adapted from The Empowering Church: How One Congregation Supports Lay People’s Ministries in the World by Davida Foy Crabtree (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 1989), p. 2.
Reflection Questions for Connecting Spirituality and Work
- What part—if any—have spiritual traditions played in the formation of your values/ethics/beliefs?
- What activities inspire, encourage, or renew you?
- Describe any community in which you participate that provides you with support, renewal, and insight.
- What are your central values?
- What does spirituality mean to you?
- Describe how your spirituality/central values influence your leadership practices.
- Some writers on leadership and organizational studies are calling for greater integration of spirituality into the workplace. What is your reaction to this?
Adapted from Hearts to God, Hands to Work: Connecting Spirituality and Work by Steve Jacobsen (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 1997), pp. 82-83.
Suggestions for Pastors and Rabbis
- Be a believer. Truly believe that the members of your congregation are called to and can discover ways to minister in the world.
- Listen. Ask the members of your congregation to tell you what they do in their daily routines. Listen to their stories and remember them.
- Affirm, affirm, affirm. Remind the members of your congregation that they have God-given talents and affirm the ways in which they already are using those talents in their daily lives.
- Be patient. Not all members of your congregation will see themselves as “ministers” in the world. Don’t be discouraged—or push them too quickly.
- Equip. Work with the members of your congregation to find the ways they best can express their faith in the world, including their workplace.
- Nourish. Make sure that your members have experiences within the congregation—worship, teaching, small groups, etc.—that will nourish them for their work in the world.
- Support. Help the members of your congregation create their own support groups. You don’t have to do it. Just provide support and resources.
Adapted from Ministry in Daily Life: A Practical Guide for Congregations by William E. Diehl (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 1996), p. 70.
Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual & Organizational Tools for Leaders by Gilbert R. Rendle
Many books have been written about leadership and change, but until now none has focused on the kind of change that tears at a community’s very fabric. Alban Senior Consultant Gil Rendle provides a respectful context for understanding change, especially the experiences and resistances that people feel.