For the past five years I have had the pleasure of being a chaplain with Marketplace Ministries — an international Christian organization that contracts with businesses to place chaplains in the workplace. Each week hundreds of us visit factories, warehouses, professional buildings, auto dealerships, you name it — to people on the job a friendly face, a listening ear, and an encouraging word.
Although I have been pastoring for almost 30 years now, each day is different with its own set of hurdles and accomplishments. And being a chaplain in the marketplace is no different. Here are some of the guidelines, blessings, and challenges I have experienced along the way, and how Marketplace Ministries can help your business:
1. We are humble guests of the company.
When I visit a business during the week, I understand that I am a guest of that company. This is not “church”. We do not come to proselytize or hold altar calls. While we are free to kindly share our faith — if people are genuinely interested and ask — we realize that everyone there has a job to do and deadlines to meet.
As I walk through the business once or twice a week — however often the company wants me to come — I obey all the safety rules and respect the employees’ work space and time. At a steel galvanizing plant I wear safety glasses, a hard hat, and boots — and I stay waaaaay back from dangerous equipment.
We chaplains master the art of the “30 second conversation,” to see how you’re doing, how’s the family, and if there are any needs we can meet. Those who want to talk more sometimes meet us later for private conversations in a break room. We don’t bother or pressure those who do not want to talk. But I have found that after just being around for several months, the vast majority realize that we are quite harmless, and are pretty good to have around — especially if there is an emergency.
2. We counsel you, if you need us.
Everyone has struggles. Everyone has issues and confusion and they feel they just really need to confide in an experienced counselor. Marketplace chaplains gently provide biblical answers from an evangelical Christian perspective to those who want to know.
As I walk through the warehouse I talk to people who need advice as they go through a divorce. Sometimes people want to talk about addictions (we also refer people to good rehab programs). Or they are facing major surgery (my previous heart surgery really prepared me to “coach” them through some tough times in the hospital). Or maybe they are just so happy about their kid’s championship ball game or graduation that they just want to share it with us!
I don’t “preach” at the business, but there are times when employees — or even employers! — meet with me for prayer. What great times those are! And a few times a year I am asked to speak and give a devotional at: Good Friday breakfast, Christmas parties, retirement parties. (All are voluntary for the employees, no one is pressured to attend.)
Sometimes a greatly loved employee becomes ill with a life-threatening disease, and I have been in voluntary prayer meetings to pray for that employee. There is a love and a bond there that is very real.
Of course, sadly, there are some people who just do not want to be helped by us. I have dealt with people caught up in some pretty destructive lifestyles and addictions. They do not open up; they do not respond to the help that is offered. The chaplains do not force themselves on anyone. But we are always available if someone calls.
The most important thing we want employees to know is that we really do care about them and their families, no matter who they are and no matter what they believe or don’t believe.
3. We work as a team.
Many people don’t go to church; they do not have a pastor. So, I have become the “pastor” to many at the workplace. When their loved one is in the hospital, we chaplains go visit. We have worked together with others in the company to help out fellow employees who need a hand, whether it is with housing or transportation or some other need when they are “in a pinch.” Chaplains can help!
And many times I have gotten word that an employee in one company many states away has asked for Marketplace to please send a chaplain to their family member in the emergency room, or the nursing home, or to check on their mother or father who was just released from the hospital. We go and minister, no matter where, no matter what time of day or night.
4. We would love to serve your company.
Some businesses only want a chaplain to come 30 minutes a month (some companies only have half a dozen employees and that’s all the time they want or need). Some companies I visit have 50-60 people working that day, and the business wants me to come once a week, for two hours at a stretch.
A lot of good conversations take place in those two hours. Many hearts open up. Hopefully, many find the encouragement they need that day. But whatever the company desires, the chaplains can fit it in. For more information about Marketplace Ministry and placing a chaplain in your business, go to www.mchapusa.com.