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FIRST-PERSON: Workplace chaplains & the bottom line

DALLAS (BP)–“I have to get right with God! Will you help me?”

Those are the surprising words the chaplain heard coming from the mouth of a company truck mechanic — the same fellow who for seven years had scorned any expression of friendship, care, compassion or acts of kindness that exemplified God’s love at work.

The employee now crying out for spiritual help was the same man some individuals described as “meaner than a snake and hard as nails.” However, the faithful concern of a chaplain, who went about raising the umbrella of compassion over everyone whether they desired it or not, was the instrument God used to touch the heart of another individual in the workplace.

This “touching” was accomplished without religious harassment, or “preaching” at anyone. It was done with sincere and genuine compassion for people, especially those “hard cases” who often need it most. Chaplain Gerald Rodgers of Fredericksburg, Va., has seen this scores of times over the last 10 years he has served in the workplace as a company chaplain with Marketplace Ministries.

In fact, this chaplain started the Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church in his city five years ago. Because of his “company parish,” where he serves more than 2,000 employees and family members, some 60 percent of his Sunday congregation also is in his Monday “congregation” at the company. He is one pastor who is with his people every day, seven days a week, serving them at work and at church.

With nearly 70 percent of America’s workforce not having a member-relationship with a minister, priest or rabbi, chaplains in the workplace are the main source, and often the only source, for extending pastoral care. Even though people may not go to church, or least not to the church where they abandoned their church membership years ago, they still become ill, die, have accidents, get married and even some desire to dedicate or baptize their new babies in a church. All of these people need a minister. Chaplains are ministers to those who have no minister, which is by far the majority in the workplace today.

Death comes to individuals and families in scores of ways, from a worker going home on his motorcycle or a father and son in a private airplane crash to a 13-year-old girl being hit by a freight train and a young man taking his own life. Whenever death strikes, comfort is given with compassion, and hope is extended to hurting hearts because the chaplain is always there seeking to “make sense” out of those unanswerable life’s questions. Chaplains cry every day somewhere with someone who is crying too, fulfilling the biblical exhortation to “weep with those who weep.”

What is the “bottom line” when workplace chaplains raise the umbrella of compassion over the company’s workforce? There are many positive business results, like less turnover, higher productivity and greater employee loyalty, which have to do with financial success. The eternal bottom line is about significance — when truck mechanics and others, more than 25,000 over the last 19 years, get right with God, so right that their eternal destinies are changed.
Stricklin is the founder of Marketplace Ministries, based in Dallas.

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  • Gil Stricklin