Evangelism in the workplace – think in terms of interactions!
This month at our church we are starting up a brand-new worker’s ministry. It’s off to very exciting start – and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you a way to think about evangelism in the workplace.
The way we tend to think about workers ministry is to classify jobs the way the world does – in terms of industry. And so you might have people in the finance industry, the healthcare industry, the media industry etc. – and we tend to group people into those industries, with hopes that they can strengthen and encourage each other in their witness at work.
However instead of industry, I think there is a better way to think about jobs, and that is in terms of the kind of people interactions involved in their work. Consider the following table. Jobs from quite different industries – but organised (in the right hand column) in terms of the kind of people interaction involved in their work.
|Kind of job||Examples||Characterised by||Category|
|Regular interaction with office co-workers
|Regular interaction jobs|
|Process worker||Manufacturing||Regular interaction with office workers
Same work place
|Lots of interaction with own kids
Some interaction with other mothers
|Low interaction jobs|
|Solitary work||Meter reading
|Teaching||High school teacher
Primary school teacher
|Regular interaction with other teachers
Regular interaction with students
Power/age inequality relationship with students
|Power inequality jobs|
Lots of interaction with patients
Power inequality relationship with patients
|Small regular team
Short intense interaction with clients
Different locations every few weeks
Dangers of travel and being away from support structures
|Very small team with opportunities for good interaction
Different locations every day
Short contact with customers
Temptations of a cash economy
Take away shop
|Lots of brief customer interaction, some repeat customers
Small staff team
|Brief interaction jobs|
|Lots of brief customer interaction
Small staff team
Unusual work hours
Notice that it is more fruitful to ignore the actual industry that someone is working in – and instead think about the sort of interaction that person has.
- Do these jobs have lots of regular interaction – or lots of one-off interactions?
- Do these workers primarily work with peers of equal standing – or is there a high power inequality?
- Do they have a lot of time with people – or only a small window of opportunity?
These are the kinds of questions we need to ask when thinking about evangelism in the workplace!
And this reveals that people of quite different industries could actually have a lot of useful things to share with each other. Someone who workers in the manufacturing industry could have heaps in common with an office worker when it comes to evangelism. And yet a bank office worker may have very little to share with a management consultant – even though they may work in the very same company. It would be more fruitful for the office worker to share their examples and approaches with the process worker, than the management consultant.
This can also give an individual an idea of the kind of job they would be best suited for, and the kinds of jobs they should avoid. Very outgoing, very open kind of person? Well perhaps that person would be most strategic in the kind of job where they have many short interactions, and can leave a good positive impression. Less outgoing kind of person? Well perhaps they are more cut out for the kind of job where they will have time to slowly develop relationships. This might also help someone know if they shouldn’t take a promotion, if it will mean taking them out of a job where they have been very fruitful!
It also highlights that the your interaction with peers – and the way you share the gospel with them – is quite distinct from the way you would relate to people in a high power inequality job. The strategies that you would use, the expectations of what you can do in the same amount of time, how directly you can address the other person – all of these are different. There is no one correct way of doing evangelism in the workplace.
There are of course other kinds of jobs out there apart from the ones on the list – for example: policeman, hospital pharmacist, mining engineer. This table is not meant to be exhaustive. It is just meant to give you an idea of how to think in terms of the kinds of people-interactions instead of industry. And just as we have done so for the jobs in the table, we can also think about these other jobs in terms of people interactions.
I think this way of thinking about jobs and preparing Christian workers for their workplace is much more fruitful than an industry based approach!