Churches who want to help people integrate faith and work have a lot of options to choose from. The Theology of Work Project has gathered this collection of examples from churches worldwide. From peer support to worship ideas to creative video presentations, this list of over 30 examples provides a window into what other churches are doing on Faith and Work.
There are many ways to incorporate workplace issues into a Sunday sermon. Here are some examples from preachers who have done it successfully.
Preaching Series: Surprised by Joseph
Steve Graham, pastor of a Pentecostal church in Christchurch, New Zealand, was preaching a series of sermons on Joseph. He felt challenged to try harder to understand Joseph’s daily work circumstances and relate these insights to the working lives of his congregation. He was stunned by the warm response from his parishioners and the feedback they provided. He asked some of them to tell their stories during the church service. This series stirred up additional questions about ethical dilemmas, which Graham answered in new series on the 10 commandments, also with a workplace emphasis.
Sermon Series: Ruth and Parables
This preaching series on Ruth and Parables demonstrates how a church can go beyond the entry-level message that "God cares about your work" to dive deep into complex workplace issues such as stress, immigration, hiring, unemployment, and job satisfaction. On this page you can listen to full sermons, read the sermon notes, and download related questions for small groups.
Sermon Examples on Vocation and Work
You can find more than 70 sermons about “Vocation and Work” downloadable from The Gospel Coalition website.
Small groups are some of the best places for Christians to find support in their faith and work. From work-themed small groups to study ideas that get churchgoers thinking about work, these tested programs should give you some ideas to jump-start your own gatherings.
In workplace peer groups, small groups of people who share similar jobs (for example, a group of architects, or moms, or teachers, or CFOs) share what is happening in their work and seek guidance from a Christian perspective. The idea of peer groups is that members have enough in common to actually help improve their abilities on the job. Peer groups typically meet for 4-5 hours once a month, including dinner. Each month two people share a situation in their work, and other members ask clarifying questions. Then they ask: “Does this bring to mind anything from the Bible?” Churches who have developed such peer groups include C12 and Redeemer Presbyterian Church (NYC).
Lunchtime Prayer Triplets
People who work in the same organization meet in groups of three for just half an hour to pray for each other over breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They pray specifically for each others’ work, workplaces and co-workers.
At Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York there are at least 18 major professional groups, including Arts, Education, Entrepreneurs, Finance, Legal, IT, and Marketing. Each group meets once a month, usually around a meal and then in small groups, with the aim “to equip, connect, and mobilize professionals towards gospel-centered transformation for the common good.” For smaller churches it might make sense to work together, perhaps in partnership with a seminary or other organization, to form a larger pool of workers so that each occupation can have its own vocational group.
Faith at Work Breakfast
In Christchurch, New Zealand people gather once a month for a 7:00am faith at work breakfast. People pay $10.00 at the door for breakfast, and for the first 20 minutes there is a buzz of lively conversation. At 7:20 a person from the group (it is a different person each month) shares something of his or her faith and work story. The aim of the talk is an honest, down to earth glimpse of everyday discipleship. There is time for questions. Sometimes a case study is presented for discussion. Formalities are concluded by 8:00am. Many cities around the world have similar gatherings.
A Megachurch Approach to Workplace Groups
Saddleback Community Church provides resources every week for several hundred small groups that serve several thousand Christians meeting regularly to discuss biblical perspectives on faith and work issues. These workplace groups occur in addition to Saddleback’s hundreds of regular home groups. One church staff member is contracted part-time to prepare studies for these groups. Saddleback also runs a website and sends out weekly Workplace Wisdom emails for encouragement and to stimulate reflection.
Tell Your Work Story
At Ilam Baptist Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, several home groups decided to take the daily work of their people more seriously. They spent the first part of each small group meeting listening to one person’s work story. The speaker gave a history of their work and an explanation of the opportunities and challenges they now face. When possible, the small group visited that person’s workplace. They ended each session by praying for the person in their work and for the good of the enterprise and people they work with.
“Three Dwellings” Study Group Format
A God@Work group at Opawa Baptist Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, meets monthly and follows a set three-part format called “the three dwellings.” A different group member leads each of the three parts each meeting:
- Dwelling in the Word - Choose a Bible passage relevant to work. The group listens to the passage read and stops to think in silence about what it says to them. Then members of the group each share their responses before reflecting together on the passage.
- Dwelling in the Work - Choose a case study from one member’s work experience. The group listens to the experience described. Each person is then invited to reflect in silence and then share with the group their response. They concentrate particularly on answering two questions: What strikes you as standing out as important in this situation? What questions does this raise for you? Each group member offers their answers to these questions before there is any discussion.
- Dwelling in the Practice - Choose a particular practice that you have found helpful and/or that might be of help to the group. Group members discuss how they see the implications of this practice for themselves. The group time concludes with members sharing needs and offering support and prayer for each other.
Workplace Talks at Mid-Sized Community Gatherings
Small Boat Big Sea is a Christian group in Sydney that has adopted a pattern for its community life that includes talks about work. A worker such as a Christian lawyer is invited to talk about his job, what he enjoys, what he struggles with, and how his faith influences his approach to work. People ask him any other questions they find interesting. He is then asked what he would appreciate prayer for and the community gathers around to pray for him. A different person is invited to talk about their daily work each week.
Changing Priorities for Church Meetings
One British church leader described what is happening in his church this way: “This whole-life discipleship stuff is getting under the skin a bit – in our midweek prayer meeting one of our ladies prays for the prosperity of the city, then in the following morning leadership prayer meeting there it is again – we’re praying for businesses in Milton Keynes, for our unemployed to not just find jobs but know where they are called to serve God and fulfill that calling in his strength. Deloitte’s, Ernst and Young, Home, Milton Keynes Job Centre, Santander, Alanod, Accenture, MK Hospital, Bradwell School, BT, Keune & Nagel, Stowe School, Invensys PLC…Lights are on; salt is getting some taste to it!” (Quoted in Neil Hudson, Imagine Church (Nottingham: IVP, 2012), 40.)
What if church on Sunday made Christians excited to go back to work on Monday? When Christians see their work lives reflected in the Sunday service, church becomes relevant to them every day of the week. Here are some ways that other churches have valued work during liturgy, prayer, and worship.
Vocational Interviews in Church
When asked, “If there was only one thing you could do to change the culture of a congregation to support Christians at work, what would you do?” R. Paul Stevens said “Give me three minutes and four questions in a service every Sunday for a year. I would get a different person up in front of the congregation each week and ask them four questions… Then we would pray for them.” This technique which is often called “vocational interviews” or “workplace interviews” goes a long way towards integrating workplace issues into the Sunday church service. For sample interview questions and examples of churches doing vocational interviews, see the TOW resource: How to Do Faith and Work Interviews in Church.
Preparing People for Sunday Interviews – a Golden Opportunity
In this video Trevor Lee, Lead Pastor of Trailhead Church in Littleton Colorado, shares what he's learned about preparing people for workplace interviews. Adding a pastoral meeting to the preparation process has dramatically increased the impact of these interviews, not only for the congregation but for the person being interviewed.
TTT – This Time Tomorrow
The Imagine Church Project in London encourages churches to invite a different person each week to answer three questions about This Time Tomorrow (TTT) in their worship services. (See Neil Hudson, Imagine Church (Nottingham: IVP, 2012), 100-101.)
- What will you be doing this time tomorrow?
- What opportunities or challenges will you face?
- How can we pray for you?
A Biblically-Based Set of Interview Questions
Redemption Tempe does onstage Sunday interviews which it calls “All-of-Life Interviews.” The preacher asks a worker four Questions:
- How would you describe your work?
- As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Genesis 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 5:1, Colossians 3:17). Where do you take the greatest joy in your work?
- How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world? (Genesis 3:1; Romans 3:10-20)
- Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mark 10:35-45; Ephesians 5:1; Romans 12:14-21; Colossians 1:24-27)
Commissioning Workers in Church
David Gill found it particularly meaningful to his congregation when he commissioned workers as part of the Sunday service. See the TOW article Commissioning Our People for the Workplace.
A teacher said to Mark Greene, ‘I spend 45 minutes a week teaching Sunday School and they call me up to the front of the church to pray for me. The rest of the week I am a full-time teacher and the church has never prayed for me.’ (Video here) In contrast, another church is praying for a different group of workers each month. They have gone through their church list with the aim to include everybody in special prayer for their daily work at least once a year.
Spreydon Baptist Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, created a humorous but sobering video clip to introduce young people to faith and work issues. Scenes of oppressive working conditions from Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times were interspersed with digital photos of youth group members in their places of work, all set to the rock song ‘We gotta get out of this place’ by The Animals. During each chorus the words ‘We gotta get out of this place’ appeared on the screen, until the end of the video when the subtitles posed the question: ‘Or do we?’ This though-provoking video was followed by a spoken presentation on faith and work.
This Is Our Church on Monday
A young person was asked to go out and photograph church members in their work settings. A digital presentation of these photos was screened during a time of meditation and prayer, paired with a song about the meaning of work. Some people laugh as they see church members dressed differently than they have ever seen them before: in suits and ties, in boiler suits, or in white coats and rubber gloves.
Children’s Talk: a Big Bag Full of Work
In this Children’s sermon the pastor brings a big bag full of interesting objects and invites the children to come forward and see what’s inside. The bag is full of uniforms and objects from people’s daily work. The kids put on the uniforms and guess who they belong to. There is a carpenter’s belt and brick-layer’s trowel and big white gumboots and a laptop computer and a plumber’s wrench. The noisiest moment is when the pastor starts up a chainsaw. The kids have a lot of laughs and end up praying for people in their work.
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
Opawa Baptist Church used this form of participatory prayer. As people file into the church service they write down three different kinds of paid and unpaid work they are likely to do this week. During the offering, their writings are pegged on a string which lines the auditorium. Later in the service, during a prayer time, a couple of people walk along the line reading off some of the different kinds of work listed there. Lastly, everyone is invited to offer their work to God.
The congregation of Dumfries Baptist Church in Scotland turn to face the exit door as they say:
May the love of God sustain us in our working.
May the light of Jesus radiate our thinking and speaking.
May the power of the Spirit penetrate all our deliberating.
And may all that is done witness to your presence in our lives.
A modern Benediction used at Cityside and Ilam Baptist Churches in New Zealand reads:
You are God’s Servants gifted with dreams and visions.
Upon you rests the grace of God like flames of fire.
Love and serve the Lord in the strength of the Spirit.
May the deep peace of Christ be with you,
the strong arms of God sustain you,
and the power of the Holy Spirit
strengthen you in every way.
(Diane Karray Tripp)
(Some add “and in everything you do every day” to the last line.)
For additional benedictions and songs relating to Work, see the TOW Worship Resources Page.
Festivals of Work
In numerous churches the traditional Harvest Festival service has been transformed into a festival of work. Other churches use Labor Day services for this purpose. Sometimes people come dressed in their work clothes and bring objects related to their work to place at the front of the sanctuary. The high point of this service is usually a commissioning liturgy in which the pastor commends to God the members of the congregation for their ministry in daily life. The church in Bakewell, England arranges a week-long festival of work which involves the whole town in a variety of displays and activities culminating in a special service to say ‘Thank you’ for different types of work in the town.
People need as much guidance and encouragement in their jobs as they do in their personal lives. Pastors who value the work that a person does outside of church see their congregations deepen in engagement and faith. Here are some ideas on pastoring people at work.
British Baptist Pastor David Coffey said, “In my time as a Pastor I made a regular pattern to visit church members in their place of work, whenever this was appropriate. I have sat with the defense lawyer in a court room; I have watched a farmer assist in the birth of a calf; I have spent time with a cancer consultant in his hospital; I have walked the floor of a chemical factory and sat in the office of a manager who runs a large bookshop. I have driven a tank and spent time with some senior military officers; I have shared the tears and joys of family life with homemakers; I have visited a London hostel for the homeless and walked round a regional prison with a Governor. The purpose of such visits is primarily to encourage and disciple a church member in that place where God has called them to be a worker.” (Rev David Coffey in an unpublished paper, “Supporting Church Members in the Workplace” produced for the Church Leadership Commission BWA Council Dresden, July 1999)
As much as church members appreciate workplace visits, they also notice the absence of such visits. A very prominent Australian businessman who was accepting a prize for integrity in public life commented that while he had spent ten years as churchwarden of his Anglican church, and as a support to and confidante of the ordained minister, not once in those ten years did that minister ask about his work or how he expressed his faith there. (Alan Kerr at the presentation of his Zadok Prize for integrity in public and working life in February 2002 in Melbourne. See "Lausanne Occasional Paper 40 Marketplace Ministry 2004", p.13.) Haddon Robinson offers a similar warning in this article When the Sermon Goes to Work. A Christian businessman told him ruefully about his pastor, “I enter his world once or twice a week, but he doesn’t bother much about mine.”
Contacts, Counsel, and Kudos for Job-seekers
Perimeter Church, Atlanta, runs a not-for-profit ministry called Crossroads Career Network. This ministry seeks to provide contacts, counsel, and encouragement to help job seekers find a job, a career, and a calling. Perimeter's Crossroads Career Ministry offers monthly career meetings that act as foundations for support and spiritual growth. Each meeting includes a short presentation by a guest speaker or expert in the business community. Attendees gain insight and instruction on what scripture teaches about employment and provision from God. There is no charge to attend.
Discipleship Dynamics offers a comprehensive assessment on spiritual discipleship that you can use either for individual counseling or for groups, with a cost of between $9 and $15 per user.
There are many programs that help Christians understand their calling to work outside of the church. Here are some examples of workshops directed at marketplace Christians.
Where Do I Fit in God’s Jigsaw?
Avonhead Baptist Church in New Zealand hosts a series of Sunday evening services and mid-week workshops aimed at high school and university students who are about to graduate. This series titled Where do I fit in God’s Jigsaw? addresses themes related to career and life planning. After running this series for young people, the church discovered that a number of mid-lifers and people facing retirement are also looking for help in this area. An ongoing hope is that people graduating from this course can be trained to offer it to others themselves.
New Directions Workshops
Willow Creek Church has offered a 9 week workshop for people who are in transition and exploring new directions in their career. Bob Buford’s ‘Halftime’ resources have also been widely used in American churches for mid-lifers.
Adult Education Modules
Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York runs regular classes lasting five weeks that deal with faith and work issues. These series include topics such as: Why Work? Vocational Decision Making, Leadership, Work and Cultural Renewal, and Ethics. Some churches stop other small groups for a few weeks to enable members to attend such classes.
An increasing number of churches have developed Fellows programs to offer intensive training and resourcing for selected workplace Christians over 9 months or one year. Some large churches have developed their own programs, for example Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York which created The Gotham Fellowship, a nine-month program for 42 adults who are employed full-time in New York City and have at least two years of working experience. The typical class comprises 50% men and 50% women between the ages of 25-35 working in fields including law, finance, education, government, non-profit, design, medicine, and the arts.
Other churches have combined to offer Fellows programs, sometimes in partnership with a seminary or parachurch ministry. Examples of this include the Cascade Fellows in Seattle and the 5280 Fellowship in Denver.
For more details on Fellows Programs see:
- Gotham Fellowship
- Cascade Fellows with Fuller Seminary
- The Fellows Initiative
- Trinity Fellows Program
- 5280 Fellowship offered to emerging leaders in the Denver area through Denver Institute for Faith & Work and Gordon College
Exploring Work as Play
A program piloted at Christ Community Church of the South Hills in Pittsburgh uses play to help participants link their work to God's continuing work in creation. According to the program's founder Dave Bindewald, the key to redeeming our experience of work is to cultivate a childlike sense of wonder. Bindewald teaches "Play & Exploration" as a multi-month cohort experience or as a week-long leadership development camp. For information watch the video here or contact email@example.com
For individuals or churches looking for help exploring the intersection of faith and work, here are some additional resources.
Faith and Work Resource Centers
A number of churches have started faith and work resource centers online. Faith and Work resources designed specifically for churches can be found at these websites:
- Redeemer Center for Faith and Work
- Faith at Work (New Zealand)
- Episcopal Church Ministry in Daily Life Resources
- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Mockler Center
- Le Tourneau University Center for Faith and Work
- London Institute of Contemporary Christianity
Introductory study materials on faith and work include:
- Mark Greene’s Life on the Frontline 6 week DVD series
- Going to Work with God by Robert and Linda Banks (8 sessions)
- Where’s God on Monday? by Alistair Mackenzie and Wayne Kirkland (12 sessions)
- See more study materials on the TOW Recommended Books and Resources page
Churches can make a direct impact in their communities through economic development programs such as this one.
Community Economic Development Programs
Grandview Calvary Baptist Church (GCBC) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada began praying in the early 2000s about how it could best serve its surrounding community. The church realized that some of the unemployed people nearby had education and skills, but were having trouble finding full-time jobs. The church tapped David Holcomb, an entrepreneur with a background in business and community development to create JustWork, a business incubator. Its aim is to create revenue-generating businesses to offer dignified, meaningful work for people facing barriers to work. As of 2013, JustWork has created three such: JustRenos, a renovation firm; JustCatering, a catering service; and JustPotters, which sells handcrafted pottery throughout North America. As of the end of 2013, the three JustWork enterprises employed 28 people.
© 2014 by the Theology of Work Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Theology of Work Project.