How to Jumpstart a Workplace Ministry
The keys to starting a ministry in the marketplace
2600 word, read time: approximately 8-10 minutes.
“Wow! Where did you get that prayer?” Those were the first words out of John’s mouth after praying the prayer of salvation during a lunch break from work. John had been stopping by my desk to chat for a few months and each time I would share the Lord with him. You could tell that he was hungry and wanted more. So one day we went out to lunch and I explained the gospel to him in detail asking at each stage if he believed. “Do you believe you are a sinner?” “Yes”, he responded. “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross?” “Yes”, he said again. “Do you want to ask Him to forgive you and come into your heart?” “Yes!” That day John became a new creation in Christ. We then spent several weeks working on some discipleship materials and becoming better friends.
Over the last ten years, I have had the privilege of ministering the gospel with great effectiveness within Corporate America. I have seen God move more within the confines of cubicles and board rooms than what takes place in some churches. People have been healed, set free and saved on days that they woke up thinking it would be just another day at the office. I’ve also seen the Body of Christ nourished, edified and united in this environment. By applying some of my lessons learned over the last eight years and relying on God’s power, you too can jumpstart a workplace ministry in your office.
Before jumping into the practical “how to” steps, it’s important to understand how Corporate America is analogous to a mission field and why believers should avoid viewing their workplace environment strictly as a means of provision.
Similar to foreign countries, most workplaces are protected property. Outsiders are not permitted to enter onto the facility without a badge or a special invitation by an insider. As a Christian, you have the privilege of meeting the people within your organization that others cannot. You can leverage your business acumen as a means to access the people within your company just as a foreign missionary uses a skill or talent as a means to enter into any given country to spread the gospel.
Working in a global environment has provided me access to people from around the entire world. In my brief business experience of less than ten years, I have work with people from Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe and Australia. Just think of the implication here; instead of having to travel to a foreign land and learn to speak another language, you can simply stay where you are and have people come to you.
Additionally, American people, particularly in urbanized areas, are living more isolated lives than ever before. When was the last time your neighbor stopped over to borrow an egg? If there is something we need, we go get it, or we just order it on-line within the comforts of our own home. We have become an ultra-independent society. For this reason, the workplace is an optimal venue for missions. The workplace breaks this independent cycle by forcing us to roll up our sleeves and work with others. It is one of the few places where people still regularly intermingle with their “neighbors” and with people who are outside of their close-knit family units, making it a great arena to build relationships.
Furthermore, many Christians will progressively isolate themselves from unbelievers as they “mature” in their faith. Ironically, Jesus, our example, spent so much time among sinners that He was thought to be one of them! “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matthew 11:18a) When was the last time you were mistaken for a pagan, not because of your poor conduct, but because you spent so much time with the smokers, gamblers, porn watchers and thieves? The workplace provides a great venue for us to rub elbows with “sinners” without having to partake in their behavior.
Finally, the workplace is a wonderful environment for non-believers to discover what it’s like to be a Christian. Quite often, our lives get placed under a microscope the moment our faith is made known. Lying, cheating, or dealing falsely will quickly ruin our witness. However those who display Christian maturity, walking in the Spirit and working with integrity can become a beacon of light in a dark world. Our behavior can be a great testimony to the sincerity and validity of our faith and others will notice a life that is genuinely different.
If you are ready to transform your job into a mission, here are some practical steps that will help:
This may seem rudimentary, but it’s essential. When you come to God willing to serve Him and asking Him to open doors for ministry He is faithful to answer. Several months before September 11th, our Bible study group at work had felt God leading us to dedicate our weekly meeting time to prayer. Little did we know God was preparing us for ministry. The Friday after 9-11 took place, we held a prayer meeting and seventy people showed up! The gospel was presented and many seeds were planted. I believe our time in prayer prepared us for this opportunity. I daily pray over the ministries taking place in our office asking for God’s favor, protection and fruitfulness.
Don’t be a lone ranger. Ask God to support you with other believers in your workplace. You may be surprised at the number of Christians that suddenly appear out of the woodwork. Remember what God said to Elijah, when he thought he was the last prophet left on earth. “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:4) I was washing my hands in the men’s bathroom at work and started a conversation with the guy next to me. I soon discovered that he was a Christian and new to our facility. He said to me, “My first prayer was, ‘God, help me meet other Christians.’” He soon joined our fellowship.
Use your Gifts and be resourceful
God has gifted each of us differently and desires us to exercise the gifts He’s bestowed upon us. (Romans 12:6-8) Don’t feel obligated to run a Bible study if you are not gifted as a teacher. If your gift is encouragement, prayerfully seek opportunities to minister to the downtrodden. If your gift is generosity, look for ways to bless other people – everyone loves a free lunch. If your gift is healing, pray for those who are sick. Keep your eyes and heart open to the needs around you. If you have a ministry on your heart, but don’t feel equipped to run it, be resourceful. For example, if you feel the urge to conduct a Bible study and don’t have the gift of teaching, go to your local Christian bookstore and find a study guide that provides good notes and questions or seek another believer who has the gift(s) you need.
Before you start a formalized Bible study or outreach in your office make sure you know your company’s policies. It would be wise to speak to someone from Human Resources to discuss your intentions and seek their approval. Also, do not assume that the use of any company equipment, computers, e-mail, conference rooms, copy machines, phone lines or any other property is at your free disposal without first being granted this permission. Every year on the National Day of Prayer, Christians within our company hold a prayer meeting that joins five different sites on a conference call. A few years into the event we decided it was best to pay for our own conference line even though it was a negligible cost to our company.
Be creative, spontaneous and courageous
Do not limit the Holy Spirit. God can move in the workplace using you as His agent if you are willing to accept the call. Some of the best outreach activities we ever held came from a “holy hunch” – an idea that comes to mind that you know in your gut will work, but will require you to step out in faith and trust. One example of this came just prior to this year’s Super Bowl. I came across a DVD with a testimony from Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts. We first played it at our Bible study and the fellow believers were greatly encouraged. Then I suggested to my Christian co-worker that we plan a Super Bowl lunch party and invite our team members to enjoy a free lunch, watch a pre-game “pep talk” from coach Dungy and enter a contest to win a free football. We requested our Bible study group to pray that God would show up and work out the details. Eight out of ten co-workers were able to make it. Each of them appreciated the free lunch and heard a clear gospel presentation.
Sharing God’s love with people in practical ways can make life fun and exciting. One easy way to do this is to celebrate your co-workers’ birthdays. To keep track of people’s birthdays, I use a free on-line tool from www.birthdayalarm.com. You can send your co-workers an invitation to add their birthday (year is not required!) and you will get several reminders via e-mail before each birthday. Book a conference room, buy a card, bake a cake and have fun! Your co-workers will appreciate your consideration and kindness. One of my co-workers came back to thank me the day after his birthday and mentioned that even his own mother did not buy him a birthday card.
Spread the Word
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to spread God’s Word is by offering a daily devotional to your co-workers. I use this ministry primarily with Christians and others who have openly expressed an interest in the faith. You will find that co-workers start to request to have other people added to the list. Today, the daily verse is sent out to over 70 people each morning. Spreading God’s word is always an effective ministry because His Word never returns to Him void, but will accomplish what He pleases and prosper people’s lives. (Isaiah 55:11) A few suggestions here: always get a person’s permission before adding them to the distribution list, use your own personal e-mail address, and identify a quality devotional that is sent consistently. We use one from www.heartlight.org that is biblically sound and is sent out daily via e-mail.
The workplace can be an emotionally rough environment. Office politics, work pressures, gossip, backbiting and egos make the office a difficult place to feel “safe”. That’s where you come in. As long as you are willing to be a good listener and one who can empathize with the stress that others feel, you will make a great workplace missionary. Everyone is in need of a trustworthy friend who will keep their confidence, show them respect and give them encouragement on the journey. When we display genuine friendship to co-workers they can experience the love of Jesus firsthand. Once a certain level of trust is established, you will find that your co-workers will come to you seeking spiritual advice, prayer or just a listening ear. Give them all three!
Become all things to all people
One of the greatest ways to build relationships is to find a common interest with other co-workers. Do you enjoy the same sports? Do you have a shared hobby? God gave me an idea to start a chess club. Chess is neither my forte nor a game that I’m passionate about, but I do enjoy playing it from time to time. What God revealed to me was that I can connect with people through playing chess that I may not relate to in any other context. So, I put a sign up in each of our building’s copy rooms advertising “Lunchtime Chess”. Before too long I had a group of eight guys who played chess from time to time allowing me to build relationships with them that each have potential to provide witnessing opportunities.
Edify the body
The camaraderie found among believers in the workplace can be an enriching experience. Interacting with other believers on a regular basis allows us to grow closer together and supportive of one another. The other day, I had a conference call with another co-worker whom I’ve never met before, but when I asked how she was doing she didn’t sound good. She went on to explain that her aunt just died. I asked if I could pray for her and she agreed. After praying, I said, “I’m a Christian.” She said, “Me, too”. Not only was I able to edify the body of Christ with my prayers, our mutual faith built a greater collaboration in our work together. The workplace is also a great place for discipling fellow believers. On more than one occasion I have met regularly with co-workers who were younger in the faith to help them grow in their spiritual life.
You may find opposition from people who seem to be your enemies, those opposed to the advancement of the gospel. They may come in the form of a Human Resource manager, a co-worker of another faith or even a Christian with a critical spirit. Don’t be surprised at the opposition you face when you make a decision to advance the kingdom at work. Always remember that our battle is not against people, but against spiritual powers. Read and apply Ephesians 6:10-18 to your everyday walk.
Find another believer to keep you accountable. The last thing the church needs is another moral casualty. If you are married, discuss with your spouse the appropriate boundaries you will set for ministering to the opposite sex. Remember, even Billy Graham in his tender old age, still avoids riding in an elevator alone with a woman. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
When it comes to workplace ministry, many people fear that they will lose their jobs, be seen as “weird” or become an outcast among other co-workers. And quite honestly, all this can happen. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) The good news is that when you determine to fully trust God with your entire life there is no need to fear the power of man. (Proverbs 29:25) Your job is a gift from God (James 1:17) and part of His provision for your life. (Philippians 4:19) I have known people who’ve lost their jobs because of their boldness (or at times overzealousness) in the workplace, but in each instance God has provided them something better. I have faced my own share of threats and run-ins over the last eight years, yet in God’s sovereignty He has chosen to build our ministry and bless my career. Since I know that God is my provider, I need not fear getting fired or ruining my career, I just need to be faithful to do what He has calls me to do and trust Him completely with all the results. God will always be faithful to us.