For Christians who work in professions that are not automatically labeled as ministry, sometimes it can feel as if there’s a gap between what we do on Sunday and what we do on our work days the rest of the week. But that’s not so at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PC) in New York City, where plenty of ministry happens every weekday through its Center for Faith and Work.
Founded in 2003, the Center for Faith and Work exists to equip, connect, and mobilize leaders in various professions and industries as ministry settings for Christians to live out their faith in their professions. Part of this connection is to affirm their vocation, to hold them accountable to Christian values in the workplace with others who understand their work context, and to encourage them to explore deeper ways to spark gospel-centered transformation for the common good.
“They took Welfare to Work to a whole new level. They call it Welfare to Career,” says Janet Jamieson, CPA, professor and co-author of Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors.1
Over the years, leaders in the Redeemer community have initiated small groups that meet regularly to serve particular professional communities or interest areas. These professions include business, education and entrepreneurship, the arts, advertising and healthcare, financial services, filmmaking, fabric arts, and legal services.
But Redeemer’s program is not alone. “There are at least 1300 Christian Faith at Work organizations,” says Jamieson. “Why not have them grounded in the church?”1
The Center’s organization of multiple vocational groups is a great inspiration. So how might we begin in our own congregations, perhaps at a more introductory level, to move in that direction? In their book, Ministry and Money,2 Janet and Philip Jamieson recommend at least three specific things we can do:
1. Pray for parishioners’ work in the world. “The church should be a place in which prayers are routinely and publically offered for work performed by its members, Monday through Friday. Rather than just commissioning those in the pew for the ‘sacred’ work they perform within the church, the minister should consider ways to ordain all members for their daily work.”3 Prayers in public worship can dedicate believers for their daily work week ahead, encouraging them to see the possibility of God’s activity through their work in the world. Yes, we can continue to commission our Sunday school teachers and mission teams, but why not pray for our tax advisors before April 15 and our bookkeepers before monthly closing, too?
2. Visit people in their work places. When the pastor gets to know parishioners in their work spaces, he or she affirms a ministry of presence there and lets church members know that they can express their faith and values through their professional as well as church life. Such visits also open up the possibility of pastoral care when members are facing job-related dilemmas and ethical choices.
3. Preach and teach about faith and work. “Teaching that dignifies, rather than denies, a member’s identity as a business person can bring healing and correct the unintended messages that work in business is suspect or that the believer must leave the world to enter full-time Christian service.”4 By preaching and teaching, church leaders can help believers working in business to develop a Christian understanding of the purpose of business that incorporates their faith. Such teaching can prompt members to look for God’s activity already at work around them and to ask themselves how they can help further it.
1 – Dec. 1, 2010, “Expanding the Money Conversation” presentation at the 2010 Leadership Seminar sponsored by The Ecumenical Stewardship Center, http://www.stewardshipresources.org. For more information about Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work, go to http://www.faithandwork.org.
2 – Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors by Janet T. Jamieson and Philip D. Jamieson), Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
3 – Ministry and Money, p. 182.
4 – Ministry and Money, p. 183.
Written 12/15/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church