Tag Archives: workplace ministry

Prayer in the Workplace

How would you react if your boss approached you and said, “Would you mind if I prayed over you for a moment?”  What would you think about an employer who told you “We’ve set aside space and a time during the work week for strictly voluntary worship?”  What if your employer permitted its meeting rooms to be used for religious study and prayer meetings by its employees during lunch hours and break times?

Would you wonder about the motives of an employer who hired a ministry team to attend to spiritual needs or other issues affecting performance of its employees during work hours?  If you learned that the business owner, while walking through the workplace, said a prayer for each and every employee in the building, what would you think, or do?  What if your employer allowed or encouraged you to feel comfortable with keeping your religious reference book, whether it be a Bible, the Torah, a Quran, or other reference in plain sight on the shelf above your desk?

What if this employer was a church office?  What if it was a church affiliated non-profit organization?  What if it was a charitable organization?  Or, what if it was an ordinary machine shop, an accounting firm, a food service distributor, or even a discount retail store?

What if your place of work employed Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Ba’Hai, Atheists, and others?  And what if these opportunities were offered freely to all employees, regardless of their beliefs?  What if each employee could accept or decline each opportunity offered without fear of ostracism or retribution?

Would you wonder if your employer was violating the law?  Would you be concerned that your employer might be putting itself at risk for a lawsuit?  Would you feel threatened?  Would you feel uncomfortable?  Would you feel pressured?  Putting all concerns aside, would you avail yourself of these opportunities?  Would you participate?  Would you yourself, as an employer, offer them to your employees?

The businesses to which I refer actually exist.  These businesses are successful, appreciated by their employees, and apparently cheerful and pleasant places to work.  Their employees are dedicated to the organizations and their leadership.  They are celebrated as “best places to work.”  To my knowledge, these businesses have not been sued, nor have they been cited for violating any laws regarding discrimination on the basis of religion or beliefs.  These businesses are considered values-focused, community friendly, environmentally responsible, and philanthropic.  And, these businesses exist in North America.

Could these businesses exist in any free society?  Probably.  Could they exist in an autocratic or theocratic society?  Possibly, but at great risk in certain societies with particular belief systems.

What kind of an employer would even consider offering these opportunities?  Maybe they are organizations that want to be better than their competition.  Maybe they want to be more productive, more successful, and viewed as businesses of character and integrity.  Maybe they view capitalism as need-based rather than greed-based.  Maybe making money is not their ultimate purpose but a reward for successfully achieving their purpose of fulfilling individual or collective needs.  Maybe they want to be more than just a business.

These businesses are people centered, servant led and purpose driven organizations.  They are more than just a paycheck to their employees.  They are a positive influence on their clients, customers, vendors, employees and their communities.  They are more than businesses, they are ministries, and are about the business of building God’s Kingdom here on earth.  Take a lesson from them.  Take a risk.  Become one of them.  Make your organization “more than a business.”

Peace my friends…

Rewards for Performance

Incentive pay does not motivate better performance over time.  An interesting hypothesis, don’t you think?  My partner recently posted on his blog regarding this idea and the evidence behind it.

The idea is predicated on research showing that the difference in performance between people who receive incentive pay and those who do not is statistically insignificant.  The writer further probes the stimulus response concept behind Pavlov’s dogs and other experiments; and suggests that incentive pay is nothing more than a dehumanizing stimulus response tool.

My first reaction was to dig in my heels and disagree.  Much of my business education has been focused on incenting better performance.  I’ve experienced what appeared to be a very successful incentive pay and profit sharing system with a previous employer.  But the more I thought about it, the more suspicious I became that the real motivation in that organization was generated by the way people were treated and the extent to which their values, personal mission, and behaviors were shared throughout the organization.

The company had a business philosophy, mission, and set of values that focused on people, whether they were employees, customers, vendors, or the community as a whole.  The employees felt part of something bigger and more important than themselves; they felt they were making a difference in the lives of others.

The business put on a human face, both internally and externally.  Its leadership team shared a philosophy of servant leadership that was demonstrated by the owners and propagated throughout the organization.  The family owners had defined its vision, values, and purpose in a way that focused on filling human needs.  The result of living out this culture within the organization was a team of happy employees, strong vendor relationships, good community relations, and an extremely high level of customer satisfaction.  The company was rewarded with sustained profits even in tough economic times.

Did the incentive pay program make that much difference in the result?  Well, a study was never done, so we don’t really know.  What we do know, at least anecdotally, is that the employees viewed the incentive pay program as more of a reward for the company’s success in achieving its purpose and goals each year than as a program that inspired them to perform better.

In the end I found myself agreeing with the author and my partner, incentive pay does not motivate better performance over time.  So what does this say about the use of incentive pay programs?  My suggestion is that, if you decide to start or continue using them, they be recast as profit-sharing rewards for achieving the company’s goals and purpose, an approach consistent with my business philosophy.

The true lesson?  Make your business a ministry to others.  Keep your organization people centered and servant led.  Maintain high standards and values; develop and maintain integrity and character, and keep your purpose as an organization focused on filling needs.  Take care of your customers, vendors, employees, and communities.  Let the rewards for successfully fulfilling your purpose be shared with the team.

Peace my friends…