Many pastors who want to help their congregations integrate faith and work are not sure where to start. To help you get your creative juices flowing, we’ve collected some practical ideas that can be implemented at your church on Sunday morning.
Churches attempting to address the Sunday-Monday divide have done everything from simple changes in the weekly benediction to starting faith and work centers. Our examples come from a broad base of churches that are already helping their congregations integrate faith and work. However, there is no formula that will work for every church. Leaders must assess and re-assess the specific needs of their congregation.We suggest adapting as necessary, contextualizing for your church.
Preaching: Making Workplace Applications
Try making workplace applications in your sermons. One pastor in Christchurch, New Zealand, preached a series of sermons on Joseph. He challenged himself to understand Joseph’s daily work circumstances and relate the resulting insight to the working lives of his congregation. He was pleasantly surprised by the warm responses and feedback he received. Lively conversations ensued. As a result, he invited congregation members to share their stories in church. The series also sparked questions from the congregation about ethical dilemmas. So he decided to do another series based on the ten commandments, also with a workplace emphasis. The process of receiving feedback and incorporating members’ stories continued.
A great resource for applying specific Bible passages to work-related themes is the recently-completed Theology of Work Bible Commentary, which is available for free online. To get a feel for some of the questions that workplace Christians struggle with, try spending some time browsing The High Calling, a site for everyday discussions about faith and work. And if you’re looking for examples of sermons that are specifically, entirely about work, here are some resources from the Theology of Work Project and The Gospel Coalition.
This is Our Church on Monday
Combining visuals with music, meditation and song can speak to our souls and spark our God-given imaginations and prayers. One church screens photos of people in their work settings during a time of meditation and prayer. Some people chuckle as they see church members dressed differently than they have ever seen them before. Some in suits and ties. Others in boiler suits, or white coats and rubber gloves.
What we pray for reveals what we believe is important. And isn’t the power of prayer necessary for all of life, including our work?
In a conversation with Mark Greene, producer of People at Work, a teacher commented, “I spend 45 minutes a week teaching Sunday School, and they call me up 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.”
In contrast, another church is praying for a different vocational group each month. They have gone through their church list aiming to include every group in public prayer at least once a year.
Another idea for prayer comes from R. Paul Stevens, professor emeritus of marketplace theology at Regent College and a former pastor. He was 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?” He responded, “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:
- Tell us about the work you do.
- What are some of the issues you face in your work?
- Does your faith make a difference to how you deal with these issues?
- How would you like us to pray for you and your ministry in the workplace?
Then we would pray for them.”
At Opawa Baptist Church, as people file in on Sunday, 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 string lines in the auditorium. Later, during a prayer time, someone reads off the different kinds of work listed, and everyone is invited to offer their work to God.
Adult Education Modules
Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York runs regular classes that address faith and work issues. Each class lasts five weeks. Series have included: Why Work? A Theology of Work; Vocational Decision Making; Leadership, Work and Cultural Renewal; and Ethics.
A number of churches have tried commissioning services for workers. Commissioning services are a way of affirming God’s call and “sending” workers out as a part the church body. Instead of “ordaining” someone for “ministry” in the workplace—which uses terms most people regard as pertaining to clergy—it may be helpful to “commission” someone to work or “service” in his/her field. If people are commissioned for short-term missions, but not for their daily work, it sends a message that church missions are more important than regular work. If doctors and nurses are commissioned for their work, but retail workers and homemakers are not, it sends a message that some jobs are more important to God than others are.
Festival of Work
Many churches are using Harvest Festival or Labor Day festivals to celebrate workplace experiences and explore work-related issues in creative ways. People come dressed in their work clothes and bring objects related to their work to place around the front of the sanctuary. The high point is a commissioning service in which everyone is commended to God for their ministry in daily life. In Bakewell, England they arranged a week-long festival of work; the whole town creates a variety of displays and activities, culminating in a special service to celebrate and say ‘Thank you’ for different types of work in the town.
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.”
What have you tried at your church? What’s worked best? What’s been a disaster? Let us (and other readers) know what your Sunday morning faith-and-work ideas by commenting below and/or on the Faith and Work Leaders Facebook group page. To receive an invite to the group, email us.
This post is part of the Theology of Work Project’s summer blog series, focused on helping pastors and leaders to “equip the saints” (Eph. 4:12) at work. Stay tuned by following us here, on Facebook or via Twitter.
About Theology of Work Project
The Theology of Work Project helps pastors, ministry leaders and Christians in the workplace explore what the Bible says about everyday work. The TOW Project recently completed a first-of-its-kind resource, the Theology of Work Bible Commentary. A team of 138 respected scholars, pastors and workplace Christians from 16 countries contributed to the commentary, which is available for free online at www.theologyofwork.org or in print at theologyofwork.christianbook.com.
© 2001 - 2014 Theology of Work Project. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Theology of Work Project.