In the United States today, 153.7 million people are employed. Experts predict that number will rise to 159.7 million in 2022.
Work is a necessary part of a Christian’s life and is essential for sustaining society. But the face of the American workforce is changing drastically — they are leaving their workplaces in hordes, and many more are considering quitting their jobs. Unusually high job turnover is occurring in all segments of society.
Baby boomers are retiring, one of the largest retirements in American history. The COVID-19 crisis also has caused many to leave jobs, stay home and not go back to work, admitting they like having an easier schedule and realizing they can get by on less.
Previous COVID lockdowns and new virus-safety guidelines also have caused an earning crisis, with people losing jobs, work hours cut back and expected pay raises not coming. The pandemic also has hurt retail sales, causing people to shop less, buy fewer items, forgo entertainment and eat out less frequently.
In many ways, the COVID crisis is causing Americans today to rethink their work experience, the time they must spend commuting and the hours they are away from home. Most complain they either work too few hours or they’re overworked
America’s problem of unhappy, unfulfilled workers
People in the workforce today are becoming angry, discouraged and resentful. Many claim they experience income inequality, job unfairness, dead-end work and being underemployed and/or underpaid.
- Only half of working Americans feel they are in good jobs.
- Thirteen percent are actively disengaged at work.
- Thirty percent say theirs is “just a job to get by.”
- They work only because they have to.
- Their job is neither a career nor a stepping stone to one.
Stress in the workplace
A number of workers are leaving high stress jobs, admitting they are tired of working long hours with heavy workloads. Others cite working conditions that make them want to leave their jobs:
- conflicts with bosses and/or co-workers
- lack of support from management
- inadequate work environment
- too many demands
- bad employer decisions
- tight deadlines
- boring work
- unnecessary interruptions
- insufficient skills for the job
- employment insecurity.
Work-related stress has become a significant health risk, resulting in workers’ poor performance, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and other health-related symptoms.
Stress also can cause disease, which can lead to death. Recent statistics on stress show people under constant work-related stress have a 20% higher risk of developing heart disease and suffering fatal strokes and a 50% higher mortality rate.
Biblical meaning of work
Scripture lays the foundation for work, describing labor as a gift from God. Ecclesiastes 3:13 encourages workers to “take pleasure in all … toil — this is God’s gift to man.” God Himself commissioned Adam to work and keep the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15). Work can be part of an active and rewarding ministry when it allows people to use their God-given gifts and skills to help others.
The Apostle Paul encouraged workers to work hard and with a clear purpose: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).
Work can be much more than just a paycheck. It can be fulfilling and inspiring, give greater purpose and meaning to life and provide valuable ministry to others. It can also offer a place to live out faith as well as provide unlimited opportunities to impact others for Christ.
How the church can minister
Researcher George Barna, in a recent online Barna Highlight, writes that “only 41% of Christians ‘strongly agree’ that their church helps them understand how to live out their faith in the workplace.”
How can pastors, church leaders and staff support, teach and encourage today’s workers? Here are a few suggestions:
- provide special work-emphasis services, preaching God’s perspective on work and teaching workers how to view their tasks as a meaningful and fulfilling part of their Christian life.
- offer Bible studies and support groups discussing and emphasizing the value of work, its blessings and the opportunities it provides for the Christian employee to live out his or her faith in the workplace.
- bring in guest speakers from community organizations to show workers how to discover their personal work-related skills and spiritual gifts and help them evaluate God-given talents in choosing types of employment.
- organize and host work-related seminars to instruct workers on writing resumés, researching the current job market, going through interviews, dressing appropriately for employment, etc.
- Distribute resources explaining current rules/laws for sharing faith in the work environment — what is and is not permitted.
- Furnish resources to educate employees on how to evangelize others by setting a Christian example.
- answer theological questions asked by co-workers.
- actively live out faith in the workplace.
Invite health professionals to teach workers how to:
- reduce everyday work stress
- deal with employment stress caused by the pandemic
- incorporate physical and mental rest into their work schedules
- maintain a balance of work with family life and leisure
- strive to include better nutrition into their diets
- exercise their bodies on a regular basis.
In so many ways, the church can become an essential tool in helping today’s workers understand the greater value of their employment, to work with a biblical perspective, to develop a new attitude and to view their work as a witness for Christ and a ministry to others.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Denise George (www.denisegeorge.org) is author of 31 traditionally published books. With her new book: The Christian Caregiver: A Book to Encourage You in Your Work as God’s Heart and God’s Hands, Denise helps churches create new support/encouragement ministries for their congregation’s caregivers. For more information, please contact Denise at firstname.lastname@example.org.