Where is the church on Tuesday? Do our church members view themselves as agents of the kingdom of God where they work? How can a congregation better affirm and mobilize its pewsitters in ministry within their jobs? Here are 10 basic ideas for a church to serve its members:
1) In worship services dedicate or commission the members from various industries on a given Sunday. One option is to design worship on Labor Day around the responsibilities and positions your members have Monday through Friday. Members or selected representatives could either wear their work clothes or bring items from their jobs for a dedication ceremony. Also, a slide show could be presented portraying various members at work.
2) In the public pastoral prayer include intercession and/or thanksgiving for key industries. Pray for particular difficulties such as a downturn in business, a strike, disaster or a major challenge it might be facing. Have members serving within that arena stand during the prayer. The prayers of thanksgiving could rotate through various sets of people and affirm their calling and service to the larger community (teachers, managers, public servants, transportation workers, retailing, social work, finance, food service, etc.).
3) Clergy should have patterns of visitation at work as they do with the sick, bereaved or homebound. Some call this "shadowing." You spend a few hours with a member at their workplace as a silent guest. You would not be introduced as a pastor, but as a friend. Afterward, the two of you could have coffee or a meal and explore what you observed so you can understand. This will enlighten and enrich your work in the Scriptures, counseling and preaching, while affirming your people.
4) Create a pattern in the educational ministries of your church where classes, study groups, seminars or evening institutes are shaped around workplace issues or affinity groups. Some could be formed around specific industry groups (educators, managers, government work, healthcare, law and justice, manufacturing, retailing, etc.) while others could be around workplace responsibilities (supervision, finance, administration, sales, ethics, philanthropy, management, leadership, etc.).
5) Small groups could be developed throughout the congregation around workplace affinities in industries or responsibilities. These could meet for breakfast, happy hour, weekends or even within the Sunday school time for prayer, accountability, encouragement, study, case studies and problem solving. Pastors could attend as advisors and learners.
6) The church could sponsor employment helps such as a career guidance event, a job hunting and availability bulletin board, a care group for the unemployed or transitioning members, or internships for young people at members' places of work.
7) Establish congregational communications that feature news about members in their work. Options include a bulletin board, a column in the church newsletter or bulletin, a prayer chain or hotline, etc. Items can come from the local newspaper, business publications, photos taken by friends, awards received, job promotions and changes or workplace news stories with a note about which members are in that industry. Other items could be occasional profiles of biblical personalities that are in various industries. In the church member listing add the industry (not the organization because these change frequently) of each working person.
8) Sponsor special experiences about the workplace and faith development. These might be a children's day at work with their parents, workplace storytelling, testimonials or panels in children's Sunday school classes, or seminars, mini-retreats or workshops on various themes about work. A "Bring your boss or co-workers to worship" on a special Sunday featuring them or their industry could be sponsored.
9) Equip the church library bookshop or resource center with helps on work and faith connections. There are many good books (over 200 currently), videos, publications and curricula now being published. Do a regular feature or review of these in the church publication to inform folks of topics and availability.
10) Do a sermon series on workplace themes from the Bible. It could feature profiles of various people (Lydia in the clothing trade, Daniel, Deborah or Joseph in government, Nehemiah and Ezra in construction, Priscilla and Aquila in affordable housing, Job and Jacob in agribusiness, Matthew in finance, etc). Another approach could be on various themes and issues such as money, power, ethics, witness, management, service, conflict, etc. You might establish a review group of working laity to work on these sermons with you. You could also build in a brief lay response of application, testimony or critique to your sermon.
We need to help the church function seven days a week. Our members are the delivery system for the kingdom's salt and light. The recognition and support of the workplace ministry of our people is a challenging and rewarding venture that deserves all the affirmation, understanding and guidance we can muster.
Pete Hammond directs the Ministry in Daily Life for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
For further reading on this subject we recommend