by Michael Thiessen
As a business owner, you provide many amazing things for your employees. You provide financial security for their families, a sense of belonging, and the emotional well-being and satisfaction that comes from doing good work. However, if Jesus were running a business, do you think he would stop there?
I believe that we are called to much more than that. We have so many more opportunities to bless our employees and care for them – to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can learn leadership lessons from Jesus, think more deeply and compassionately about who we are hiring, find ways to engage spiritually with our employees, plus some other great ways of caring more for our employees.
Leadership Lessons from Jesus
In true biblical fashion, it turns out that the best way to lead others is to serve them. Stephen Covey, who wrote one of the best-selling business books of all-time, was an advocate of this style of leadership, aptly called Servant Leadership. This is also the style of leadership that Jesus used throughout his ministry. We see this in how he washed the feet of the apostles, humbling himself to serve them even though he was their King. In fact, one of the people I have interviewed for Marketplace Disciples has based their entire business on teaching others how to lead in this way. Jannice Moore coaches the boards of businesses and non-profits, and gets to share the story of Jesus with all of her clients:
“The model of governance in which my business specializes is Policy Governance ®. One of its fundamental principles is that the board is not there for itself, but for its owners, those on whose behalf it governs, and that the board’s relationship with those owners should be one of servant-leadership.
So I build the concept of servant-leadership into every presentation, and use it as an opportunity to note that the concept was one taught by Jesus Christ.”
But what, exactly, is servant leadership, and how do we do it?
The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership says that, “a servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong”, and that, “the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible”. (Servant leadership is a really big topic, and you can find out more about it at the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.)
Stephen Covey described it as being a coach. Instead of simply telling people what to do, you teach them how to do it and empower them to take responsibility and make their own decisions.
Providing Jobs for Those Who Need It Most
Have you thought much about who you are hiring as employees? I don’t mean making sure that they are qualified, respectable, hard-working people. That’s something everyone does. Do you go out of your way to hire people who need it the most? People who are down on their luck, and just need another chance to get back on their feet? When Jesus died on the cross, he forgave us for all of our mistakes, washing away our sin. In the ultimate act of grace, he not only gave us a second chance (and keeps giving them), but also helps us to become more like Him.
This is exactly how Bill Fuchs uses his business to glorify God:
“I do think of my business as a ministry. The ministry comes from providing jobs for people who may not otherwise have a job.”
This attitude affects his entire hiring process, as he goes beyond what may be on someone’s resume and views them more holistically. He looks at the whole person and their unique situation, not just their skills:
“My first step when I need someone is to ask people I know if they have any suggestions. If not, I advertise.
During the interview process we listen to the skills but also the needs. Some people are unable to find work since they were homeless or are new to Canada, but they still have good skills and are willing to learn.”
His company does cleaning and lawn care for commercial buildings. It may sound like a “boring” business, but it’s not at all. Because the work doesn’t require specialized skills, Bill has the freedom to focus on supporting his community – and God’s kingdom – in this unique way.
Catered Lunches and Nerf Guns Are Not Needed
If you could create the ultimate, most perfect job, what would it look like? Mike Bekendam says this about being an employer:
“Employers often complain that it is hard to find good employees, but the same is true for good employees to find good employers.”
You may have some cool and unconventional ideas involving free food, nerf guns, or a slide instead of an elevator. But for many people who earn minimum wage, simply being able to make enough money to make ends meet would be a game-changer. A living wage is the income needed for a full-time worker to have a decent standard of living. It includes food, housing, transportation, some recreation, and often a modest vacation. It usually doesn’t include paying back debts or savings of any kind.
This wage will be different for each community, but it is often quite a bit higher than the minimum wage. This means that if you’re only paying your employees the legally required minimum, they may not be able to afford some basic necessities. Don’t you think that Jesus would try to pay his employees a living wage? If we are going to truly love and care for our employees, I think that this is something to strive for. There is also the added benefit that increasing pay can make your employees more productive, and can also reduce turnover. Both of which are great for your business.
Don’t Leave Anything Out – Engage Spiritually
It would be a shame to focus on the material and physical, only to forget about the spiritual aspect of life. In fact, there has been research that shows that allowing and encouraging employees to engage spiritually boosts morale.
When bringing spirituality into the workplace, we need to make sure that we are allowing employees to express their individual faiths, whatever they may be. In Douglas Hicks’ book, Religion and the Workplace, Hicks calls this idea respectful pluralism, which is based on the Golden Rule. If we want to express our Christian faith at work, we need to allow others to express their own faith. There are many ways to do this, but I think that incorporating Bible study and prayer are good places to start.
One interesting way of providing spiritually is to organize a Bible study for you and your employees. Chris Patton runs a family-owned car business that has 7 new car franchises and over 100 employees. He offers a chaplain and Bible study program which he considers to be one of the company’s best benefits.
“Our chaplain is in our business facilities every week and speaks to every employee on each visit. He also teaches a Bible study over lunch and breakfast each week. We provide the food for these meetings, and attendance is voluntary.”
For those who are non-believers, a Bible study like this is a great way for them to learn more about what Christianity is and what the Bible teaches. It can be much less intimidating than joining an intense session of prayer.
It’s a very important spiritual discipline, and it’s also a wonderful way to bless and support others around us. In our businesses we can pray for our clients , and we can also pray for our employees. With employees, we have the chance to develop deeper relationships with them and to better understand what is going on in their lives. We can pray for them privately, or with them, as long as they are okay with it. Gayle, who runs a marketing agency, knows that when life gets hard, prayer is a good response.
“I can take time and pray for a team member if they are going through a tough time, because life sucks sometimes. Divorce, anger, and death all impact our team. We always pray for our team in private, but there are times when we pray for and with them directly.”
I know that in many places there is a societal norm against praying or doing anything spiritual at work, and the first few times might feel weird. Even so, if you can push through, you may find that you really enjoy praying with your employees.
As Christians we are called to love our neighbours, and this definitely includes our employees. God has placed us in a position to care for them in ways that no one else really can. Maybe you can re-think how you lead your employees. Maybe you can re-think how you hire and look for those who are passed over by other businesses. Perhaps there is a way you can afford to pay your employees more, so that money doesn’t have to cause them so much stress. Or, maybe you want to try starting a Bible study or prayer group with your employees, or even just start praying for them in private.
Whatever you decide to do, I urge you to look for ways that you can love your employees, and in so doing, show them the love of God.
You can also read Jannice’s full interview here: How a Consulting Business Shares the Gospel With Every Client
You can read Bill Fuchs’ full interview here: Creating Jobs for Those in Need
You can read Mike’s full interview here: Growing a Christian Business By Having a Servant’s Heart
Michael Thiessen is a reclusive software engineer by day, but by night (and sometimes early morning) he interviews Christians about how their faith radically changes the way they do business, and writes about business from a biblical perspective at Marketplace Disciples.
Get the free resource guide filled with the best blogs, podcasts, and books to help you run your business in a biblical way!