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February 16, 2020
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The Great Commission and the Office Next Door

Helen M. Mitchell • Church-Based Workplace Ministry
Sadly, research shows that people today are increasingly less satisfied with their jobs and see little or no purpose to their work life. Yet in Ecclesiastes 5:18 (NIV) we read, "Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him - for this is his lot."

Workplace small groups and ministries impact people where they live most of the week. The workplace is a part of the Great Commission. It provides a way to meet and reach those who are seeking spiritual answers.

The Great Commission and the office next door

by Helen M. Mitchell

 

Only a few short years ago I was a business executive on a fast track up the corporate ladder, when God interrupted my plans with his purposes. I'd been laid off from my high-powered job and the pain and confusion were high, yet in those early stages of my wilderness walk, I couldn't deny that something was stirring in my heart - a new vision for faith at work.

In my first meeting with the Saddleback Church small groups pastor, Steve Gladen, the vision was still vague and blurry, like a TV with a weak signal. Yet his questions about how small groups could function in the workplace fit like a missing puzzle piece, and the vision came into focus.

As a volunteer working with church staff, I helped build the ministry. In the spring of 2006, we launched hundreds of workplace small groups, attracting the unchurched and believers alike.

Here's what we discovered in the process:

  • More people today are hurting and seeking spiritual answers to life's difficulties.
  • People have more choices and greater access to choices than in previous generations.
  • Spiritual matters are no longer taboo in the workplace.
  • The idea of a small group at work is often less threatening to people than a church.
  • Every working person in your church likely influences at least 10 people in the workplace.

Why workplace small groups?

Sadly, research shows that people today are increasingly less satisfied with their jobs and see little or no purpose to their work life. Yet in Ecclesiastes 5:18 (NIV) we read, "Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him - for this is his lot."

Work is good. God gave Adam and Eve work to do in the garden. If work is good and we should find satisfaction in our work - and if we are not to live a compartmentalized life - then is it possible that the working people in your church are called by God to their workplace? Could they be set aside for working and ministering in the workplace and could work be their nine-to-five mission field?

Workplace small groups and ministries impact people where they live most of the week. The workplace is a part of the Great Commission. It provides a way to meet and reach those who are seeking spiritual answers.

Not only do these Christian workers have influence to reach the lost and grow in discipleship to become more like Christ, but they also represent God's interests daily in marketplace decisions. But if they are not mobilized, trained, equipped, and sent out they will miss the purpose God has for them where they work.

How are workplace small groups different?

Imagine if workplace believers routinely sought the Lord for his strategies during their workday, then acted on that direction and united as the body of Christ in that workplace. Consider how such a reality could impact government, schools, businesses, and lives.

Workplace small groups offer a way for co-workers to come together to pray about tackling the giants in their workplace. It is a place for co-workers to encourage one another and learn to be more like Christ at work and to be a refueling station to connect with God during the week.

Workplace small groups are made of individuals learning how to be more like Christ in their worklife. It could be co-workers at a company who come together during the lunch hour or before or after work. A group could also consist of like-minded individuals across the community who come together, usually before work.

Groups can also form around job functions such as teachers or attorneys, or around industries such as real estate, or within a company or at a job site including everyone from the boss to the hourly worker.

When you connect people with their calling and their passion, it is amazing to see what God can do through the work of their hands. A high school teacher in a school known for violence started a workplace small group and led 40 teenagers to Christ. A man who works for one of the largest auto manufacturers in the U.S. was not only kept from suicide but found Christ because of a workplace small group. Medical personnel at one facility are coming together as a group to reach out to the widows and disadvantaged in their community.

How do I get started?

  1. Embrace the vision that God wants his people active for him in the workplace - a nine-to-five mission field where there is tremendous hurt and hunger for spiritual things.
  2. Partner with someone who has passion for and experience in the workplace. You need a champion for the cause who will help build, launch, and maintain the ministry. He or she could very well be there in the congregation just waiting to be asked.
  3. Realize small groups are a natural way to mobilize people and disciple them in their work life. Consider things such as:
    1. Vision, mission, and scope
    2. The timeline to implement phases and priorities
    3. Who will be on the team
    4. What resources you are willing to commit
    5. How you're going to care for these groups after they get started
  4. Train and equip your workplace hosts. We believe that if the host is not properly trained and equipped on the front end, they are more likely to not get started.

    We've found that workplace small groups have a higher failure rate than home groups and may take longer to get started. Sometimes HR concerns, fear, or busyness are easy reasons to give up.

    To help hosts work through these challenges, our Website provides legal resources, suggested curriculum, and articles at
    www.saddlebackfamily.com/workplace.

    Our
    online trainingcovers vision, how to be on mission at work, prayer in and for the workplace, and legal considerations among other topics.
  1. Launch! As the pastor, you play a critical role in connecting believers with the higher purpose for their work life. If they can understand the responsibility God has placed on them and the impact they can have, they will be more committed. Pray over those who work and are leading a small group and see what God does.

Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel - including the workplace. The people in your congregation need to see the purpose in the work they do and the place to which God has called them.

Will you send them out?

 

 

Helen M. Mitchell is the director and co-founder of the workplace ministry at Saddleback Church and serves under Steve Gladen, pastor of the small group community. Her faith and work articles and devotionals are widely published, reflecting her belief that work does matter. She is also a speaker, author, and consultant to companies and ministries regarding strategy, organizational effectiveness, and building cohesive leadership teams.

©Copyright 2008. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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