Workplace Ministry
by Erin Olson on January 30th, 2012

Recently in the news Alaska Airlines announced that it would be discontinuing its distribution of prayer cards to in-flight meals. Brad Tilden, president of Alaska Airlines said, “This difficult decision was not made lightly,” and Bill Ayer, chairman of Alaska Air Group, the airline’s parent company, said in a statement, “We believe it's the right thing to do in order to respect the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of all our customers and employees.” This coming from a company who borrowed the concept of the prayer cards in the late 1970's as a "way to differentiate it from other air carriers." (http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-alaska-prayer-cards-20120127,0,597952.story) Where's the differentiation now? Has the airline caved in to a society that is truly closing its ears, eyes and hearts?

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has chimed in on this topic. She wrote a letter to Tilden and Ayer and said, "Please remain strong and courageous in the face of a cultural trend that wants to wage war on any positive thing that a few may construe as offensive." She complimented the airline on its exemplary customer service and the blessing of this small gesture to its passengers. Perhaps this small gesture is part of a bigger picture within the company that promotes servant leadership and servant workers.

How many other companies are not specifically Christian companies but are led by Christians who are committed to taking the Gospel to all nations? While anti-discrimination laws prohibit companies from discriminating against a person based on their religion, what impact does the servant model make on the company, its employees and ultimately its customers?
Most of us are well aware that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays so that its employees are free on Sundays. Hobby Lobby is also closed on Sundays and spends money to take out full-page ads in local newspapers promoting the Bible. However, how many of you know that In N Out Burger and Forever 21 have owners who are Christians? Did you know that each company promotes Bible references on their bags and packaging? How about Toms? Did you know that the owner of Toms contemplated giving up his company to pursue a pastoral position? While in seminary, a professor advised him instead to utilize his company as a ministry.
While not every company posts scripture on their packaging or are closed on Sundays, they can still instill a servant principle in their company atmosphere. Companies such as Service Masters (think Terminix and American Home Shield) are guided by Christian principles, such as treating others as you would like to be treated and everyone being created uniquely. Perhaps the customer service on Alaska Airlines is so good because the cultural attitude within the company is to treat employees as being special. If employees feel good about themselves and their company, they will be happier doing their job.

Many of us may or may not be in a position of owning a high profile company, but there are small things each one of us can do to conduct a “workplace ministry.” For instance, my email signature line always has a scripture in it. This is a way in which I can reach the people I deal with on a daily basis. I have even had people take offense to it. A few years ago, I was volunteering for a large non-profit. Although I was using my personal email address, a Board member came to me about the scripture reference in my email. She asked that I remove it. I told her that I would not since it was coming from my personal email address. Why? One day I got an email from someone who received an email from me. My scripture reference at the time was Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” She was at an anxious point in her life because of the economy and her job. She wrote me that this scripture helped put things in perspective for her that day. What a blessing.

While it is not possible for everyone to put a scripture reference in their email because of company policy (I do not advocate doing this without getting permission from your superiors – always wise to respect authority over you), there are many ways in which we can model our Christian walk in the workplace. Be helpful, be on time, work hard, be kind and encouraging to fellow workers and superiors, treat customers with respect and of course, make ethical decisions. Be a servant to all.

I applaud people who are so bold in their faith that they are not afraid of losing a customer or a friend - people who choose Jesus over business.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)


Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Alaska Airlines, In N Out, Chick-fil-A, Forever 21, workplace ministry


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