How to . . .
Make a difference to your workplace
Your place of work is also your place of ministry. Faye Smith shares some tried and tested ideas to help you witness whilst you work!
Give stuff away
Have you got anything you no longer use that maybe useful to a colleague who is moving house or whose child is getting married? You treated the family to a new telly at Christmas, had loads of chocolates left over (but not in my house!) and want delivering from temptation? Why not e-mail/intranet the details round to colleagues? Have you read a book someone else might enjoy you could leave in the kitchen area?
I’m always recommending books. I’ve recently lent out Christian books to work colleagues like How to Really Love Your Angry Child, Captivating, Five Languages of Love and Nobody’s Child in response to conversations which have sprung up. Over lunch in a café before Christmas, I passed a potential client a copy of The Shack I just happened to have in my bag in response to them telling me how they had turned from God as a teenager when their brother died tragically. This man, who is just shy of 50, texted me soon after to say “this book is very sad,” to which I replied, “stick with it, it has an uplifting ending!” Within a fortnight he had texted back, “Can I come to your church sometime?!” I am big on the new “with-reach”: people like me to kind of take ‘church’ to them, but no-one usually asks me to go to church . . .
All these books have been well received and I never insist they are returned. I encourage people to feel free to pass back or pass on as they like- it takes the stress away!
My only other Christian colleague made a tremendous statement when we moved into our new premises recently. The loos were really grim, so one lunchtime she popped out and brought a selection of pretty pot plants, hand soap and pot pourri in little bowls for the sink area. You could feel the lift immediately and everyone was buzzing about it!
If you are good at baking, food always works and people can’t believe you’d take the trouble to do that- and for free! In the two years I was in my last workplace, I am the only person who ever took in home baking – and people are so appreciative. Muffins, biscuits and fridge cake are quick and easy, and I am often asked for the recipe, so people can make more at home. You can get your colleagues celebrating the festivals, too, with hot cross buns, cornflake-crispie nests or mince pies (I suggest Christmas for those though, bit odd in May!)
How about organising a bring and share lunch around an in-house training event or team meeting? People all chat together rather than hunched over their monitors and there’s usually a real buzz.
If you don’t do baking, bring in a couple of packets of biscuits every now and then, or how about sharing a tin of soup or tuna with a colleague who has forgotten their lunch or is too stressed to leave their desk? A Christian friend of mine who works close by dropped a shepherds’ pie in when she knew I was feeling really low one day and what a tremendous witness that was. People kept asking me what was in the fridge and why someone would bring my supper in!
Promote social justice
Fairtrade week is a good time to raise the issues gently by bringing in a range of biscuits, snacks and tea and coffee for people to try. I have a pre-Christian colleague who is really into it, so she printed off a few posters to put up in the kitchen and helped write a report on the cost of us changing to Fair Trade for the tea club. Soon you will find others take over the baton. On Red Nose Day, a colleague suggested we “do something”. She asked me to bake buns to fund raise and organised a ‘wear as much red as possible competition’, which was terrific fun. People had to pay not to have their photos posted on the wall!
Become social secretary
Often no-one volunteers because it’s a minefield trying to please everyone ... and it’s usually extra work. That’s why you can make such a difference, setting the motivational tone and building a positive atmosphere. How about getting permission to organise an annual away day, team-building event, game of footie, treasure hunt, pub quiz, bowling or theatre trip? Could you sort out the Christmas bash, a birthday lunch or leaving party for someone? Organising cards, whip rounds and rotas are jobs people often dread – could you make a point by making a difference here?
If you have a theatre or cinema trip booked with Christian friends from home, how about inviting the work colleagues you get on well with to join you? Who knows what conversations may develop in response to the film or over a glass of wine afterwards. A solicitor friend of mine loves reading and set up a reading group specifically with the aim of including several of her pre-Christian colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere. They were touched to be invited and come regularly, hearing light chat about our church and a Christian viewpoint on many of the topics the books inevitably bring up. On the back of success like this, they may be much more open to the offer of a carol or crib service at the right time of year?
Listen to them
Our time is undoubtedly the most precious resource we can offer anyone. We all go through tough times. Could you take a colleague out to lunch or for a coffee when they are low and need a listening ear? Can you be an empathic shoulder to cry on, non- judgemental and soul of discretion afterwards? During my 20 years in the workplace, I have been privileged to walk alongside colleagues who have been bereaved, bulimic, divorced, deserted, desperate, depressed, sick, stressed, suicidal, lonely and afraid. A kind word, hug, flowers, visit to the hospital, encouraging card and practical support can all be a life-line in these situations without them ever feeling pressured into going to church.
Pray for them
You know this one already! Let’s get on with it then. Let’s lift up our colleagues’ needs, workplace issues and atmosphere, bosses, finances (especially in these debt-ridden, redundancy-prone credit crunch times) and relationships faithfully to the Lord. Let’s rally support from any fellow believers we know of (and why not ask if you can send round an e-mail suggesting a prayer group if you don’t know any?), and plan a regular prayer lunch-in.
We can pray and show practical love, remembering all the time that our colleagues can sniff out insincerity or scalp-hunting at a hundred paces! We can try to be a blessing to everyone we interact with in our workplace by how we act, what we say and the One we allow to shine out of us. I love the Quakers’ motto, “do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can.” It’s not expensive, it’s not complicated, it takes self-discipline, sometimes boldness and it appeals to activists like me!
Take it further
You can find further resources and ideas from:
* www.stthomaschurch.org.uk/workplace 0114 2419560
* London Institute of Contemporary Christianity 020 73999555
* Worktalk (UK) 020 8764 8080
* Workplaceministers.com Tel 01707 622699