Most Americans spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Considering the current economic challenges, inevitable communication mishaps and usual personality differences, workplaces can be stressful places. Sprinkle in the normal day-to-day personal and family challenges and most of us would admit that, at times, our focus and productivity suffers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antidepressants are leading the pack as the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.
As more and more Americans look for ways to deal with their stress, anxiety and depression, companies are increasingly helping employees manage work and life challenges by hiring part-time chaplains. While this service is certainly valuable, it is not purely an altruistic perk for employees; it also serves the company’s bottom line. National statistics show that companies save between $1.50 and $6.85 for every dollar they invest in employee wellness programs. Workplace conflict alone is reported to cost U.S. companies $359 billion annually due to factors such as lack of productivity, absences, errors, turnover and re-training new employees. This doesn’t include the deleterious economic impact of other life events such as divorce, family strife and other life stresses
What is a chaplain?
The term chaplain has roots in the story of an act of compassion by a fourth century saint, St Martin of Tours, who witnessed a shivering beggar on the street and stopped to share his cloak with him. Roland Barlowe, Area Team Leader for Marketplace Chaplains USA points out “that cloak was eventually enshrined as a holy relic in a place called a chapele. The keeper of the chapel became known as the chapelain, and today, the ‘chaplain’ continues the tradition of caring for others with compassion while guarding what is sacred.” He continued, “We accomplish this through a non-denominational and non-judgmental approach which respects the diversity of the workplace. We simply come alongside and care for individuals as they deal with life’s issues regardless of spiritual, religious, and cultural traditions and beliefs.” According to the Marketplace Chaplains website, a recent survey by a company with over 600 employees showed the chaplain benefit to be rated highest by their employees in comparison to other benefits.
The role of a chaplain
Chaplains work to create a “partnership of care” with employers to address the wide range of issues that their employees may face. According to Barlowe, typically, chaplains provide support in the following ways:
– Provide 24-hour, 365-day Chaplain Emergency Care for crisis intervention and emergency situations.
– Visit employees and their immediate families in the hospital, family homes, nursing homes, funeral homes and jail, while helping to support family members and other employees through the process as well as the grieving, and transition period.
– Assist in planning funerals and memorial services for employees.
– Facilitate individual and family discussions to address family conflict, serious illness, death and grieving, and other personal issues.
– Assist employees and their family members who need assistance dealing with drug and alcohol issues.
– provide post-termination care, at the request of the company, for employees who are laid-off to help them transition to a new work environment.
– Advise on moral, ethical and morale issues that affect the workplace environment and company.
– Provide referrals and resources to assist employees in transitioning into the company and addressing issues as they arise.
– Make regular visits to the worksite to interact with employees to build relationships of trust and friendship.
According to Bernie Diaz, a chaplain with Marketplace Chaplains, “Overwhelmingly the biggest peacemaking advice I share with people is to be willing to forgive. Overlook small differences or disputes and seek understanding and reconciliation. Rebuilding trust can and will happen over time, if people have willing hearts.”
Serving a diverse workforce
As our nation, communities and workplaces become more diverse, some may wonder how chaplains serve workplaces with varied spiritual, religious and cultural traditions and beliefs. Like St. Martin of Tours or the Good Samaritan, they follow Jesus’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Chaplain Diaz notes, “I try to take the Apostle Paul’s example from Acts 17 when he spoke to and shared gospel truth with the Athenian philosophers on mars Hill in Athens, Greece. Like Paul did there, I try to listen to and consider the traditions, beliefs and views of this culture and those who hold other worldviews. And, wherever possible, I try to inject the truth of Christ and the gospel at the appropriate point and in the best and most appropriate way.” He continued, “If given the opportunity to share my faith in Jesus Christ as a means of comforting, encouraging and helping that person, I will.”
According to Barlowe, Marketplace Chaplains USA is intentional about meeting the needs of a diverse workforce by providing each client company with both female and male chaplains as well as those who can connect with employees from different cultural backgrounds and those who speak other languages.
Marketplace Chaplains has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Bloomberg Business Week. For more information, go to mchapusa.com. Other organizations that offer chaplain services include Workplace Chaplains found at workplacechaplains.us and Corporate Chaplains of America located at chaplain.org.
Dr. Terry Morrow Nelson is the president of Morrow and Associates Partnership for Leadership and Transformation. She is a Certified Christian Conciliator and serves as a professor and administrator at Nova Southeastern University.