Corporations need pastors.
Not in some “personal spiritual advisor” sort of way that many people take it…as if God has to rubber stamp your thoughts and your work. That kind of pastoring is largely just ego-stroking.
I’m talking about the real day-to-day work of a pastor that has more to do with picking up the broken pieces of existence, not reinforcing the powerful-but-fragile personalities at the top.
I’m talking about pastoring the real, vulnerable, crap-laden work of the corporate world.
I mean, let’s be honest, many HR professionals unofficially take on this role.
Or perhaps it’s the admin at the front desk who is both gatekeeper and secret-keeper for the people behind the door.
You know the situation: he’s the one everyone comes to with their frustration; she’s the one that everyone sees as both their confidant from the power brokers and their access to the power brokers.
But often times these are ad hoc roles, a way for the living organism that is the corporate ecosystem to right itself (or keep the even keel) so that harmony can exist within and mission…if there is one…can be maintained without.
Really, though, HR can only go so far before they break their own rules and regulations as both confidant and enforcer. And the person at the front desk may have the skills…but do they have the time?
Or, even worse, they have the time but not the skills…which is part of the problem…
Which is why corporations need pastors, chaplains, spiritual leaders. Because…well, let me give you a glimpse into the life:
-at our best we are well-practiced at the art of prioritization.
-every week we prepare at least one, but normally 4 or 5, formal reports. We do research, we write, edit, and re-write. We lean on knowledge and actively gain more knowledge as part of our work.
-every week we craft experiences. Every week we seek to engage hundreds of other people into the mission of the place, intentionally, through shared experiences.
-every week we seek to make direct connections between people’s experience and their greater purpose in the world.
-every week we seek to foster community.
-every week we mediate between individuals.
-every week we mediate between people and their personal struggles.
-every week we invite people to intentionally reflect on their lives.
-every week we deal intimately with a budget, and when we’re at our best, we filter our budget through our priorities.
-every week we manage staff and volunteers.
-every week we coach people in problem solving, both personal and otherwise (which I’ve sought special training to be able to do).
-every week we provide an ear and an open presence to take on the burdens of others, throwing them into the nether regions of the world so that the person doesn’t have to carry them…or at least, not as much of them.
-we’re trained and skilled in counseling, and don’t charge counseling fees. And when we’re healthy we’re a discerning referrer, paying attention to what we can help you through and what might require therapy beyond our capacity.
-we’re a trained dumping ground for anxiety. We can teach and encourage practices that alleviate stress and move people to living fuller lives.
-if you’ll let us, we’ll help you tap into something bigger than yourself. Most people I work with call it God. Some call it “purpose.” And some just say that they feel different after our time together. But regardless of what you think is going on, something is.
-we’re great at giving permission: to let go; to feel; to stop feeling; to ignore; to pay extra attention to.
-every week I have active projects with moving deadlines. We juggle people’s expectations and weigh them against our calling…and we help people do the same in their lives.
-every week we tell stories that wrap up the stories of others into a larger purpose
-every week we provide ritual moments that ground people in their contexts.
None of this is intended to glorify the work.
If anything, writing all this down terrifies me a bit (no wonder I’m tired as all get out every day)…
And, of course, I’m leaving out the phrases like, “Every week I wonder what the heck I’m doing and if I’m making a difference and I sit at my desk and scratch my head for a half hour deluding myself into thinking I’m working when actually I’m just not sure where to start…”
Which, of course, means that we’re just like you in many ways. But often times that’s exactly what you need: someone assigned to walk with you who is in many respects just like you because in this social media crazed world it feels like no one can relate to you. Right?
I write it all because, more often than not, when I talk to people in the corporate world, they’re struggling with time management and purpose. They’re struggling with having the rat-race business rub up against their values. They’re struggling with connecting their work with their deeper purpose in life. They’re struggling with how to relieve anxiety and stress in an ever expanding work week. They’re struggling with a corporate culture that encourages competition to the detriment of personal actualization and mission cohesion.
And I write this because the CEO’s and managers I talk to struggle with keeping mission and vision at the forefront of their work. They struggle with asking the hard questions about their role and impact in a society that is feeling more fragile and fractured these days.
And there’s evidence that a deep spiritual life helps an individual handle life…which makes me think it could certainly help a corporation handle life.
Most people think a pastor’s work is primarily one of evangelization, and certainly that fits our training. But practically, I see the soul-emptying work of many of my friends screaming for a chaplain for their soul. And not just outside of their work, but specifically in their work.
With the growing number of “nones” and “dones” who are leaving organized religion (and with good reason…I get it), there is an aspect of life that might be lost here. An aspect of the whole person that might get neglected.
And I wonder, I just wonder, what would happen if a corporation took a chance and, instead of hiring a new M.BA sought out an experienced, nuanced, competent M.Div?
Not to convert, but to convey.
Convey that this organization cares about you past your on-paper productivity.
I just wonder, what would it look like for corporations to invest in the soul of their employees in the same way they ask their employees to invest in the corporation.
I just wonder if corporations need pastors.