I have aspired to be in vocational ministry. I have been attending seminary to pursue that goal. I certainly did not want to be in management, yet that’s precisely where God has me right now.
Early on in my management career I realized I did not know how to connect the gospel to my work. I knew the seminary answers about how we have vocations; how we work heartily unto the Lord; how unequal scales were an abomination to the Lord; and that whatever we do, do it for the glory of God. But what does it look like to do management for the glory of God?
For the longest time, I had a difficult time answering this question. At work, I had a boss to report to and employees to manage. All day long I put out fires. The weight of meeting monthly goals rested squarely on my shoulders. Emails coming in at night, asking what I was going to do differently the next day to move the needle further toward my goals. Employees coming to my office with genuinely troubling issues and crying in my office, and meanwhile I still needed to hit my numbers and coach my employees to help get us there.
At times, I found it hard to be passionate about what I was doing. I felt restless, and maybe rightly so because I aspire to be in vocational ministry (and I am not there yet). I would get so excited about hearing updates from other missionaries about their gospel work and adventures. I would hear from friends who had gone on to pastor a church. Yet I would wake up on Monday morning feeling like my job did not matter.
What did my job have to do with the glory of God? A friend encouraged me to bloom where I am planted; so what does that look like?
Here are some thoughts that have helped me with where I am at in life now, and I hope it can be an encouragement to you if you are in a similar situation.
While I would greatly prefer a day without problems, this goal is not realistic, nor is it biblical.
1. I don’t pray for a good day.
I stopped praying for a “good” day after my second week of management. While I would greatly prefer a day without problems, this goal is not realistic, nor is it biblical. Instead, I pray for increased faith in Christ, to trust Him for what He has for each day. I pray through the Psalms, Proverbs or Romans 8:28-29 and apply these truths to my work context and situation.
2. I pray God would bless my efforts.
I do not typically pray that I would achieve a specific outcome (although I have done this in the past). Instead, I pray that my work would be fruitful and that God would bless my effort. I must be constantly reminded that I ultimately work for King Jesus (not just my supervisor), and I need to glorify Him in how I do my job.
3. My work is my mission field.
The work world is your mission field in which God has placed you. Your joyful attitude, respect and gentleness will be noticed. When you ask for forgiveness, it will surprise people. I ask myself: Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in me? Am I willing and able to verbally proclaim the gospel?
To be sure, we need wisdom to share the gospel at work (especially as a manager). But if missionaries are willing to risk their lives on the mission field to share the gospel, why should I be afraid of getting written up or losing my job? We must remember 1 Corinthians 5:17-21 and know our identity and mission. I have not always been perfect at this, and there have been times that I have quenched the Holy Spirit for the sake of not wanting to be looked on disapprovingly by co-workers.
4. I pray for my employees and supervisors.
I am not always perfect at doing this either, but praying is a way for me to love those I work with. Pray for those who are easy to get along with and those who aren’t.
5. I watch my words and my tone.
You can say the same thing in three different ways and make someone feel three different ways. A wise man told me this, and it makes sense. Think back at the good bosses you have had — and the terrible bosses. How we say something is just as important as what we say. Look at Proverbs 12:25, Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 15:1 and other scriptures pertaining to how we communicate. That said, sometimes you must be direct and assertive to protect yourself or other employees before a situation gets worse.
How we say something is just as important as what we say.
6. I aim to be faithful and present.
While you may not have intentions for this job to be your long-term career, your co-workers or employees may have those intentions. Love them by helping them reach their goals, develop and flourish in their jobs. Also keep in mind you are at your job because that is where God has you as well. If He wanted you somewhere else, you would not be there.
7. I’m grateful for the church.
I have never looked forward more to worshipping at my church with brothers and sisters in Christ and being a part of a small group. With all that goes on in the workplace, I have come to realize how refreshed I am when I am with other Christians who encourage me, pray for me, sing the Word and teach the Word. I have also gained the utmost respect for strong Christians in the workplace. I love talking to other Christians and hearing how they have navigated through their jobs while walking close to Christ.
8. I trust God has a purpose for my work.
Don’t think for a second that your work and management experience is being wasted. I have had countless people tell me (people in and out of vocational ministry) that the experience I am gaining now in management will be used for vocational ministry.
Just think how you have been stretched and learn to trust the Lord in tough situations. God does not waste time. Also think how much more you will be able to connect and resonate with church members who are possibly anxious about Monday morning. You will be better equipped to empathize with them, walk beside them and encourage them, so they can trust Him in the whole of their lives. The more we place our dependence and trust in God, the more He gets the glory.
I still have much to learn, and I have made many mistakes, but I hope these thoughts are helpful for you. For further reading, consider these helpful books:
- The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
- Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
- God at Work by Gene Veith