A recent edition of Christianity Today features a cover article worth reading—and perhaps considering as part of your personal ministry. The author is Jeff Haanen, CEO of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work. His premise is forceful: Honoring work as a place of ministry can get narrowed down to only one kind of worker, leaving out people whose occupations are difficult at best and dehumanizing at worst. Haanen challenges church leaders to consider how subtle prejudice might lead to their overlooking working-class people in usual congregational programs and emphases.
You might find yourself reflected in Haanen’s critique of congregational leaders—or as part of the neglected cohort of workers he identifies. Another interesting possibility struck me: Could older congregation members like us bridge the gap that Haanen identifies? Some possibilities come to mind….
Shift-workers—and others whose labors have similar characteristics—deserve appreciation for what they do. We may be a regular recipient of this kind of service, and so might be best able to offer specific expressions of thanks. Plumbers, electricians, gardeners, certified caregivers or attendants, check-out clerks, delivery workers, cleaning crews, garbage collectors, postal workers—these are examples of laborers whose work we may encounter frequently. These people might appreciate our observations about their skills or experience. They want to be known for the quality of their work. They want others to see the significance of sometimes-difficult jobs. They want to rise above anonymity or ordinariness, to be known for other personal qualities or characteristics. (For example, their families, hobbies, continuing education or career hopes.)
An obvious way in which we might be able to minister among or with workers is to reward them financially. Generous tipping comes to mind immediately, but so does prompt payment of bills, Christmas gifts or gratitude about senior citizen discounts. Staying aware of current hourly labor rates can keep us appreciative of the effects of inflation on low-wage workers—we can pay them what they’re worth!
In moderation, conversations with workers can add satisfaction to their labor. So can kindness. “A cup of cold water”, literally or figuratively, might give a worker a few moments of rest before resuming physically demanding toil.
We can guard against elitism or prejudice in our conversations about this cohort of workers. We can purge demeaning language from our descriptions of this kind of work. We can see ourselves not only as grateful customers but also as learners—about a craft or skill set that we notice.
Our congregations might also be places where “second-shift workers” are honored. We could remember specific occupations in prayers at worship. These workers might share their faith stories or spotlight their vocations at special events. These workers could help our congregations’ youth expand their vision for possible career choices. Our congregations might offer their facilities as training or meeting sites for these workers. We might serve breakfast to folks just coming off late-night shifts.
The basic mindset in all of these relationships is simple: Our individual well-being is possible primarily because of people who work with their hands. The same is true for the entire society. Positive and appreciative relationships with workers may help remind them and others about the value of their work, supporting and honoring what they do as a godly gift. And we can call attention to this enduring truth: All work can glorify God.
Including our own….
(Read the entire article at https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/october/theology-of-work-god-of-second-shift.html .)
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