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offices 1 246Integrating work and faith - 1

From a study 'From Secular to Sacred: Bringing Work to Church' by Elaine Ecklund, Rice University and others

Work and faith are significant life commitments for many people. Understanding how people integrate these facets of life is important for faith leaders and religious communities.

Researchers in the USA used data from 13,000 respondents to Faith at Work: An Empirical Study. Drawing data from a Christian sub-sample, various questions were analysed:

  • How do Christians draw on their faith community in relation to work?
  • For those in different social locations, in what ways does talk about work come up in churches?
  • What work-related challenges do Christians experience, and how do Christians want their churches and pastors to address them?

They find that many Christians see faith as a resource for enhancing their work lives but do not often encounter discussion of work at church or talk with pastors about work. Further, specific groups of Christians want their pastors and churches to do more to support them in their work and/or to help them navigate faith in the workplace. They also want churches to better accommodate the needs of working people at church, so they can more fully participate.

Denise Daniels, Professor of Management, Seattle Pacific University and one of the authors of the study, recently spoke to Chuck Proudfit, Founder At Work on Purpose. Here is part of that interview:

The Faith at Work movement has been saying, "Hey, work really matters. Work is where we spend so much of our time. So of course, God wants to disciple us in that context. And of course, God wants to use us in that context." But you almost sometimes can go too far and say, "Work is the only thing that matters." That's not true either. It's all of life. It is every domain. It is every aspect, every square inch. The Kuyperian kind of notion of every aspect of life is under God's authority and under God's control.

One of the temptations in work is that it can become an idol. Our identity can become so immersed in the work that we do, that we forget that we do it in service to the Lord for his glory.

I wrote a book called Working in the Presence of God, Spiritual Practises for Everyday Work. The purpose of that book really was targeted to workplace Christians who want to engage their faith in the context of work. Each chapter is focused on a spiritual discipline, or spiritual practise, that you can do in the whole life context. So it's not just having your morning devotions, but throughout the course of the day, how are you tuning into, how are you tapping into God's presence and the recognition that God is with you in that moment? In the various business decisions that you may be making? So chapter one, for example, is a liturgy of commute. As you're going to your workplace, how can you use that time as a time to recognise that God is with you? Are there things that you could do throughout your commute that would focus your on God's work in your life? So that's just an example. The last chapter of that book, by the way is Sabbath, and that's maybe my favourite.

Even in this time of working from home, you can still go out your front door and walk around the block and then come back in, marking the beginning of the workday. You can use that walk around the block to say, "God, here's this time that I'm... This is yours and I give it to you and I want to be used by you." So that's a type of a liturgy of commute, even though you're not commuting anymore.

I've spent the last four years now working on a research project with a colleague at Rice University, Elaine Howard Ecklund. a world famous sociologist and a person of faith.

We held a number of different focus groups in different cities around the country, trying to get a sense of how do people think about their faith in the context of work. We also did focus groups with Christian pastors, both Protestant and Catholic pastors and priests, trying to get a sense of how they thought about and communicated issues of faith in the context of work. Then we did a survey that Gallup administered for us. We surveyed over 13,000 people in the United States. Then we've held about 230 one-on-one interviews with people that we surveyed. So we've got a very, very robust data set.

We're still in the process of trying to untangle the data, and trying to really come to figure out what it all means. Here are a few initial findings...

One of the things that was just really profound for me, and I was so glad to see in the data because I hoped it was there. There really is a difference between people who are regularly attending worship services and those who are not, with respect to how they show up at work. So things like, the experience of work is more positive for people who have a strong faith commitment, and who live that out in their life. People's sense of their satisfaction with their job, their sense of commitment to the organisation that they're working for. All of that was higher for people who regularly attend religious services compared to people who don't.

People who regularly engaged in prayer and attendance were also more likely to have a more positive experience at work, and feel like that what they were doing at work is meaningful. I think there is something to that, that there is a sense that they are not just working to make money. That there's something else besides that, that is important to them. So one of the things we asked about was calling, and the experience of calling that they had. Again, people who have a faith commitment are more likely to say that their work is a calling.

In the next article, Denise gives insights into how and what that sense of calling means.

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From a study 'From Secular to Sacred: Bringing Wor, 09/06/2021

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