Corporate chaplains are good for business
In a small church, a pastor functions as a “jack of all trades” – able to respond competently to any situation. More than a decade with the Be In Christ church in Delisle, Sask., may help Carlin Fehr relate with the tradespeople that currently form his congregation as a corporate chaplain.
Lloyd Postnikoff, president of J&H Builder’s Warehouse and a lay leader at Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon, knew he wasn’t well qualified to counsel his staff, but as a compassionate manager, he knew his workers could sometimes use some help.
He needed no convincing when he learned of corporate chaplaincy: he arranged for a corporate chaplain to work jointly for J&H, Q-Line Trucking, and Alliance Energy in 2010.
“Anytime you have staff dealing with a personal issue, it can affect their work,” says Postnikoff. Having received help with personal issues, staff come to work with a better attitude, clearer mind.
“[The corporate chaplain] is one of the best things we’ve done for our staff and for our company.”
Ministry of presence
“The job of a chaplain is a ministry of presence,” says Fehr, who joined J&H in 2015. “A good portion of time is on the job site, getting to know people, their stories, trying to track with them through different seasons of life.”
From May 2017 to February 2018, Faith River Christian Church member Tim Falk interned under Fehr though MB Mission’s TREK program.
“It’s a huge privilege to learn alongside Carlin day after day,” say Falk, who never knew a chaplain could serve outside a hospital, prison or sports team.
“It’s being a pastor in a work place – that’s amazing to me. It’s an appealing way of living.”
Workers see the value too. “Often when I show up on a job site,” says Fehr, “they’re looking for me, not me looking for them – usually about some pretty meaningful life things.”
Open talk on spiritual subjects
“People are really open to talking about faith and spiritual things,” says Fehr. He asks what supports people have in life – what community provides help; what faith do they rely on.
As a pastor, he thought strangers didn’t want to touch any of those topics. As a chaplain, he finds it comes out naturally.
Fehr offers some programming in addition to his work of listening and supporting.
A highlight of Falk’s internship was conducting Alpha over lunch hour. “From the beginning, we saw lives transformed to be a witness of God’s work.”
One man said he used to be “the atheist,” but now he’s the one explaining why he believes in Jesus to his friends at the bar.
While chaplains in some ways create church in unusual places, “a chaplain is by no means a replacement for a pastor,” says Fehr. “I couldn’t do what I’m doing if I didn’t have the word of God preached in a way that empowers what we do here. It takes all these different gifts to see the impact.”
Fehr urges Christians to be grounded and equipped so they can live a witness out in their workplaces. “As it says in 1 Peter, we are all priests (2:9); we all have a role to be a witness where we work.”
“One of my first weeks, I recognized that what we do here is something I wish everyone would do in their workplace,” says Falk. He’s grateful for the opportunity through TREK to be equipped to serve and the live it out under the guidance of a mentor.
“Chaplaincy has shown me there’s a lot more I can do as a minister in a workplace. I don’t have to have a job title to do that.”
Investing in a “pastor to the staff” is “one of the best things you’ll do for your business,” says Postnikoff. “It’s a win-win” – for the bottom line and for the staff.
He becomes emotional as he remembers one staff member who rediscovered reasons to hope by reaching out to Fehr when he felt life had hit rock bottom. “Our motivation is not productivity, but helping people, and seeing lives changed. There’s not much better reward.”