I work in two very different worlds. On days when I’m at Southeastern Seminary, I pass by gifted theologians on my way to the office. I serve alongside a team of young, talented creatives. I immerse myself in the intersection of faith, culture, work and economics.
But when I leave the seminary, I drive 45 minutes into the country to serve my small, rural church. I trade in hybrid cars, pour overs and suburbs for pickup trucks, tobacco fields and country roads.
I relish living and working in these two completely different cultures. Few people are so privileged. In fact, all of my writing and thinking on faith and culture is informed by my work as a pastor to this loving body of believers.
But I began to wonder: How might my work with Intersect inform how I serve my congregation? Specifically, in what ways can I bring the conversation about faith and work to a small, traditional church in a rural farming community?
I had already begun including workplace applications in my sermons. I regularly addressed work in men’s meetings. But what else could I do to help believers understand that God cares about every inch of their lives — even their work?
Asking these questions sparked an idea. Our church decided to host an event to bring the conversation about faith and work to the educators, farmers, retirees and blue collar workers in my community. As we planned this event, we discovered that you don’t have to be a megachurch to address faith and work.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation. You want to help everyday believers in your church understand how their work matters to God, but you’re not sure how.
I’d like to share the steps that our church took. I share these not because they’re the only way to plan such an emphasis. (You probably have much better ideas than we did.) Instead, I share these steps with the hope that something we did might be helpful to you — and that they might spark you to begin having this conversation in your own church.
1. Pray and plan.
This first step is the most overlooked but most important. Begin by praying for your church and community. Ask questions such as:
- What do my people do with the majority of their waking hours during the week?
- If they work, what is their workplace like?
- What might the gospel have to say to my people in their work?
As you answer these questions and pray for your people, you will begin to gain a clearer picture of what “work” looks like in your community. You’ll then better know how you can contextualize the principles about God’s view of work to the specific workplaces your people face.
Next, develop a plan to train your people to glorify God in their work. Your plan may involve hosting an event (like we did). Or, you may launch a multi-week study or a sermon series.
Whatever you decide, don’t simply develop a new program for a program’s sake. The last thing your people need is one more obligation to fill up their already busy schedules. Rather, root this plan in your church’s mission and vision. Have a crystal-clear answer as to why this event or series should exist.
Planning and praying may be a slow process, but it will be well worth it.
2. Share with the leadership and the church.
Next, approach your church’s leadership with the idea. Describe what you want to do, but spend most of your time explaining why you want to do it. The average Christian, even those in leadership, have never thought deeply about faith and work. No one has ever explained to them why or how their work matters to God. Be slow and intentional in training your leaders about this topic and building consensus.
Hopefully, your church leaders will catch the vision and be advocates for your faith and work plan. If so, ask them for feedback and ideas. One gentleman in my church wisely suggested that we host a fellowship meal before our event. Another encouraged us to promote the event in local businesses. Your leaders have wise ideas; listen to them.
What if your leaders are not on board? Perhaps they have not fully understood why faith and work is so important. Or, perhaps they see potential obstacles that you do not. Either way, listen to and respect your fellow leaders’ advice.
If you do get their buy in for the idea, set a date and share the idea with the church. Again, thoroughly explain what you plan to do and why. Tell stories to illustrate the importance of the faith and work conversation. Connect the issue to their own situations and workplaces so they too will catch the vision.
In our church, we rooted our faith and work event in our desire to reach our community. As a result, we leveraged all possible channels to promote our event.
We announced it on the church sign, website and regular posts on social media. We printed hundreds of flyers, and our church members went door-to-door inviting people in our community. We sent personalized letters to the staff of a nearby elementary school. Our local church association spread the word to other churches in the area.
How your church promotes your faith and work emphasis may look different than ours. But use your faith and work event or series to serve your community, and invite your church members to join your outreach.
4. Host and follow up.
Finally, the day for our event arrived. Dr. Benjamin Quinn was gracious enough to come speak on a Sunday night about “Why Your Work Matters to God.” To be honest, I was not sure how many people would come. Yet when the start-time rolled around, the attendance for the event was almost double that of a normal Sunday morning service.
The topic hit a nerve. Attendees lingered long after the event was over to speak to Dr. Quinn. I had multiple conversations with my own church members in which they shared questions or concerns related to what they do from Monday to Friday.
Attendees caught a vision that God does care about the rest of their lives, not just the churchy parts. They discovered that God can use them in their workplaces to honor Him and advance his kingdom. For some people, it was a paradigm shift.
But our efforts haven’t stopped since the event ended. Attendees filled out visitor cards with specific prayer requests for their workplaces. Our prayer team will pray for these people and follow up with them — demonstrating to them that our concern for their lives and work is ongoing.
Again, your faith and work event or series may look different than ours. But do consider following up with attendees. They will discover that your church doesn’t just talk about faith and work — it tangibly cares about them.
Our efforts to train our church members to integrate faith with the rest of their lives can’t stop with a single event. We will continue to weave a concern for people’s everyday lives into all that we do at our church.
And the same will be true for you as well. There is no single event or series that will answer everyone’s questions about faith and work. But we can all start somewhere. Even in small churches like mine. Even in churches like yours.
What ideas do you have for integrating faith and work into your local church? Share in the comments below.