How One Manager Ministers Daily to His Coworkers
By Lindsey Bell
I’m not in ministry, so I doubt I’m making much of a difference for the Lord. Have you ever thought something similar? Many Christians battle feelings of insecurity when they compare what others are doing for Jesus with what they’re doing. Their own attempts feel miniscule in light of what those in full-time ministries are able to accomplish.
Transition in Ministry
After ministering for 17 years, Bryan’s life changed significantly when he accepted a role as Assistant Manager over the fresh area at an Illinois Walmart. What didn’t change, though, were opportunities to minister to those around him.
Before accepting the job as Assistant Manager, Bryan worked full-time as a senior minister. He took a part-time job at Walmart to pay off debt during those years in the ministry. Then, when the debt was paid off, he stayed on at Walmart working one day a week as a cashier. When his ministry role came to an end after 17 years, he was offered the job as Assistant Manager at Walmart. He took the job, transitioning from ministry to retail.
Even though he’s no longer serving in vocational ministry, Bryan still has plenty of opportunities to minister to people.
As Assistant Manager, Bryan’s role is to schedule and train workers and make sure everything is set up in the produce, deli, bakery, and meat departments of his store. While performing these tasks, Bryan reminds himself daily that he’s not only working for Walmart, he’s also working for the Lord.
“I know who my real boss is,” he said in a recent interview. “And that has made all the difference.” It has challenged him to have a positive attitude even when it would be easy to be negative. “You can’t always change your circumstances,” he said, “but you can change your attitude.”
It has also challenged him to work hard. Some managers might hesitate to get their hands dirty, but Bryan believes that because Jesus wasn’t afraid to work and wash people’s feet, he shouldn’t be either. His main job, he says, is to serve those around him.
Working in retail is definitely different than working in full-time vocational ministry. Retail is results-driven, and that can create stress for many employees. Many Walmart managers work long hours, trying to get as much done as possible, sometimes to the detriment of their families. Bryan has chosen to be intentional with his time.
“I don’t work late to get more done,” he said. “My family is my first ministry.”
Bryan hopes his coworkers see something different in him. He hopes they notice he’s willing to work and serve and listen to his teammates if they’re having a rough day.
Opportunities to Witness
Bryan doesn’t preach a sermon weekly, but God has given him and other Christians working at his store a platform to share their faith. He told me about a friend of his named Matt, who works with the Walmart Academy.
Walmart provides two to three Academies per state to teach department managers and assistant managers from area stores “what good looks like.”
The store where Bryan and Matt work is an Academy site. Matt teaches hundreds of Walmart employees how to maintain a standard of excellence in their stores, Bryan says, but he also gets the opportunity to show them the love of Jesus.
God brings hundreds of people to Matt and Bryan each week for them to minister to. It’s like God is bringing the harvest fields straight to them.
“In churches in particular,” Bryan says, “we’ve made ‘calling’ all about paid ministry. But whatever you’re doing—whether working as a cashier, flipping hamburgers, substitute teaching, or something else—there’s a harvest field there.” There’s a harvest field anywhere there’s a hurting person. When you and I choose to listen to this hurting person, we’re making a difference.
Bryan asks God every morning to send him one person to talk to, and God has faithfully done it every day. Ministry, Bryan has learned, is not just for those standing behind a pulpit. It’s for all of us.
Lindsey Bell is an author and speaker living in Southwest Missouri with her husband, Keith, and their two children (lindseymbell.com).