60 Second Summary: The Rise of the Corporate Chaplain

Articles you need to know about, summarized in 60 seconds (or less).

The Article: The Rise of the Corporate Chaplain

The Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

The Author: Mark Oppenheimer

The Gist: Chaplaincy agencies such as Marketplace Chaplains USA, are driving the growth of pastoral counseling in businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The Excerpt:

Workplace chaplains like Bissell can be found at more than 1,000 companies in the U.S. and Canada. These chaplains are a rising regiment of corporate America’s human-resources army, as employers have found that a pastoral touch is often more appealing to workers than an impersonal hotline of the sort included in many benefits packages. A 2008 study by the Families and Work Institute found that more than 97 percent of companies with payrolls larger than 5,000 offer employee assistance programs, with anonymous counseling and referrals available by phone. Yet employees are “dramatically” more likely to use workplace chaplains than standard mental-health benefits, according to preliminary results from an ongoing study by David Miller and Faith Ngunjiri of Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative. At least half of 1,000 employees surveyed have used the services of a workplace chaplain—far more than those who use standard assistance programs.

The Bottom Line: Oppenheimer deserves praise for bringing attention to an oft-overlooked pastoral vocation. Yet despite the article’s many virtues, it puts too much focus on themes of lesser importance. For example, Oppenheimer gives inordinate attention to potential conflicts of interest (“The bosses hire chaplains to make employees feel better, but what if an employee is underpaid or overworked? What would Jesus do?”) considering that no one he interviews seems to think it’s a problem. A more interesting area for exploration would have have been whether having chaplains around affects a company’s ethical climate. Despite these drawbacks, the article is worth consideration. And in an age when religion is expected to be kept out of the public square, it’s encouraging to read about how some companies are welcoming pastors into workplace.

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ Neo

    This is interesting, and something I hope my company can pick up on. They offer a general counciling service, from which you can request “christian” council, but whether or not that means Biblical Christianity or nominal is a different matter completely.

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  • Rachael Starke

    I confess to being a skeptical about what “chaplaincy” in a corporate setting is really about. The corporate workplace is not a setting where people suddenly find themselves displaced due to sudden crisis (like a hospital or a warzone). It’s a function of every day life. Much like corporations who offer three meals a day, drycleaning and child care, this feels like another attempt for companies to make the workplace the central orbit of a person’s life.

  • Dan Truitt

    Thank you, TGC, for posting this article and calling attention to what I observe is a valid ministry of the gospel in the workplace. I have served with Marketplace Chaplains USA for 26 years and have seen many persons impacted by the gospel through chaplains at their workplaces. When the chaplains have opportunity they point employees to Christ and to local evangelical churches. They never intend to replace the ministry of local churches, but to extend the reach of churches into the workplace through an authentic, caring and compassionate service to employees. I give thanks to the Lord for the many business owners who seek to show genuine care for their employees through godly workplace chaplains who honor Christ and serve others in His name.

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