Blog - Supporting Believers
Meshing Sunday and Monday: Workplace VisitsSaturday, October 30, 2010
This continues a series suggesting a number of ways to relate what happens in our church services on Sundays to life in our workplaces on weekdays. This post proposes another way to shrink that distance—pastoral visits to the workplace.
Earlier this month the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization convened in Cape Town, South Africa. Willy Kotiuga, from Montreal, submitted an Advance Paper in preparation for a session on marketplace ministry. In that paper he writes, "Although pastors rub shoulders with the laity in a church context, the discussions are primarily focused on church business and not workplace mission.” That gap can be narrowed when pastors visit church members in their workplaces.
In his website, Justin Buzzard, a pastor in the San Francisco Bay area for several years, writes: "I've discovered that one of the most important things for me to do is to hang out with men in my church at their workplace. This helps the men. It shows them that I care about their callings, how they spend 50+ hours of their week, and the people they work with. This helps me. It teaches me about the unique opportunities and challenges men are facing in their different workplaces, it opens my eyes to a world bigger than our church, and it helps set new trajectories for my preaching and discipling.”
I'd add that working women also need such visits. If gender issues concern a male pastor, he (if married) and his spouse could make the workplace visit as a team. For example, my wife and I visited a woman who worked in the fund-raising office of a hospital.
In an Intervarsity website, Gordon Govier quotes Michael Lindsay, a sociology professor at Rich University. Lindsay has asked many Christians how often their pastors visit their workplaces. "I interviewed 360 leaders in government, business and culture,” he says. "Only one said that their pastor had actually visited them in their workplace.” That one man told Lindsay precisely what he and his pastor talked about that day. He even remembered how they were dressed. Lindsay tells his pastor friends, "If you want to have an influence in your community, get out and pay pastoral visits to the workplace.”
Dennis Bakke, co-founder and CEO of the AES Corporation from 1994 to 2002, writes of his experience with pastoral visits to the workplace in his book, Joy at Work. "I recall only two or three visits to my place of work by one of my pastors in the past 30 years. . . . For people like me, a pastoral visit affirms the importance to God of my daily tasks and reinforces the idea that my work has been ordained by God. . . . I am reminded that I am God's representative at my place of work and that I am accountable to Him for my behavior and actions on the job and especially for the service or product I help provide to society.”
If you're a pastor, consider these recommendations for workplace visits:
- If possible, meet in the person's actual work space. Lunch afterward is okay—but no restaurant can substitute for experiencing the working "habitat.”
- Make certain the working person would welcome such a visit. Some workplaces discourage visits from outsiders during working hours.
- Ask questions about the company or agency as well as the person's role in that workplace. Keep your eyes open and ask about anything you don't understand. Don't let yourself get sidetracked into discussing gathered-church matters.
- Use the opportunity to encourage the person to believe that he or she is there to do the work in ways that reflect Christ. Help him or her to see how the work carries out God's first commission—to care for His earth and its creatures.
A sentence from Lesslie Newbigin underscores the importance of pastoral visits to the workplace: "The primary action of the church in the world is the action of its members in their daily work.”
If you spend your weeks in the work world, and if you were to write a letter inviting your pastor to visit your workplace, what would you say? Please tell us in the comments space below.