By Jamie Shafer
A car pulls into a driveway on a neighborhood street. The driver steps out, walks to his mailbox, and returns to his house. The door closes behind him. All is quiet on the street again. It’s a familiar scene in America.
It can be tough to build relationships with our neighbors, let alone share the love of Christ with them. But the workplace environment is different. The workplace is a place of both camaraderie and conflict. In the early 1990s, business graduate Mark Cress realized this fundamental truth. His corporate career was in full swing and as a person of faith, he recognized that employees came to their jobs and shared the burdens they were dealing with in their personal lives.
This led him to launch Corporate Chaplains of America in 1996 in Wake Forest, North Carolina. CCA’s original mission still remains a central focus today: to build caring
relationships with the hope of gaining permission to share the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ in a nonthreatening manner.
How It Works
Many people are familiar with the idea of chaplains in a hospital or military setting, but the corporate chaplain is an idea still unfamiliar to many. CCA employs full-time, long-term career chaplains who have worked previously in a corporate setting. Most hold graduate degrees from accredited seminaries and all are required to commit to continuing their education through CCA’s unique curriculum.
After completing extensive training, chaplains are assigned to a client. They make weekly rounds at the client’s place of business and focus on building relationships with employees. According to President Jeff Hilles, they simply view a new client as a new mission field. “We believe the workplace is the greatest mission field in America.”
Hilles has had the pleasure of watching the organization grow significantly during his 12 years there. “Today, we have almost 150 chaplains in 36 states and four countries. We are in about 800 business locations, serving about 100,000 employees and their families.”
During their weekly rounds, chaplains share a few minutes of encouragement with employees, building relationships over time. The chaplain is on call for employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When paged, he will respond to a need within 10 minutes. Many employees who find themselves in a crisis have no minister or church home, but the chaplain is available and ready to help.
Hilles explains, “We provide care for employees regardless of their faith, but we approach it from a Christian worldview. When people ask questions about the peace or joy we experience, we share our faith. With their permission, we share the good news of Jesus Christ in a non-threatening manner.”
When employees are facing a hard place in life, they find the chaplain is there to care for them. Understandably, employees often feel uncomfortable approaching the business owner with personal issues. Chaplains can enter jail facilities, emergency rooms, and accident scenes. Hilles notes that they help employees through tough situations like abuse or even interpersonal conflicts on the job.
Impact on Employees
CCA has remarkably low turnover in both chaplains and clients. One owner stated that while his employees didn’t usually thank him for providing insurance or a cost-of-living raise, they express gratitude that he cares enough to provide a chaplain who listens and responds to their needs. Other business owners have said that if they needed to make budget cuts, the chaplain program would be one of the last cost-saving measures because it has been so beneficial in their business.
“Our primary focus is on the eternal purpose of what we do,” notes Hilles. “But we also talk about reducing absenteeism, increasing positive atmosphere, and reducing turnover. Owners tell us that they see those things.”
Client Bill Mutz writes online, “Corporate Chaplains serves our associates spiritually in ways we simply cannot otherwise address. Many of our associates are unchurched, and CCA becomes a direct link to Jesus in a very balanced and nonthreatening way.”
Hilles says that a common question relates to the legalities of a corporate chaplain. “We focus on permission-based interaction and confidentiality. We train chaplains on many different topics, but we really focus on those. After a while, employees learn that we are a safe source.” To learn more about CCA, visit www.chaplain.org.
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.