One of my parishioners was one of the most Christ-like employers I’ve ever met. Tom was co-owner of an oil and gas well service company that employed approximately 100 people. He was not only involved in and supportive of our church, but really wanted to make a spiritual difference in his workplace.
One day Tom invited me to attend his annual employee Thanksgiving luncheon, an event held in a large metal building located on the company’s property. There I sat among men and women of different races, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures. A few mid-managers were included in the crowd, but mostly roughnecks with grease under their fingernails were seated at the tables.
As I observed Tom offer his employees hugs, handshakes and gentle pats on the back, it was clear they loved and respected him. Not only was Tom an excellent employer who met a financial need in the lives of his workers, but he understood that his oil and gas well servicing company was his very own mission field and a place of ministry.
Tom had shared with me on more than one occasion that the many hours his employees worked in the oil patch put extra stress on his workers and their families. To help in this area, Tom and his co-owner Dan built extra money into their operating budget to allow employees access to professional counseling when personal and family stressors arose. Tom also enlisted the services of many competent ministers in the area to act as company chaplains. They would counsel, encourage and invest in the lives of Tom’s employees, performing important rites of passage for them, such as conducting weddings, funerals and rendered pastoral care during an employee’s illness. Being present for these workers at such critical junctures in their lives opened doors for future ministry opportunities.
I was invited to several functions by this caring church member who saw his workplace as his mission field. I must admit, there were times when I was extremely busy with my own ministry’s “To Do” lists, and wanted to spend my time doing the things on my agenda. However, I now see that the best stewardship of my time was attending those luncheons at his place of business.
The benefits were many. I got to see and hear about Tom’s challenges that he faced on a daily basis in trying to run a business from a Christian perspective. I witnessed firsthand the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of some of the roughest people in a difficult industry, due mostly to the spiritual tone set by the company’s owners. I felt that I was in a better position to minister to Tom as a church member because I was willing to get out and rub shoulders with him in his workplace environment.
Today, I encourage pastors and ministers to take time away from their computers, and make a commitment to regularly go into the workplaces of their church members. It will not only encourage those church members, it will pay immeasurable dividends to pastors and ministers, as well.
Have you invited your pastor to visit your workplace? If you're a pastor, have you visited a church member’s workplace? What did you learn?