Corporate chaplaincy is a growing field, and several organizations are leading the charge to send missionaries right into the center of the business world to care for hurting people.
Corporate Chaplains of America, founded by Mark Cress, is one of those. Cress, a business owner who saw the need to balance running his company and caring for the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of his employees, founded CCA nearly 30 years ago.
Richard Buckley, CCA regional vice president, explained that Cress founded his model for corporate chaplaincy while a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
That initial idea grew into what is now a nationwide team of 300 chaplains serving more than 1,000 companies of all sizes, representing more than 600,000 employees, family members and friends, Buckley said.
“This year, we will see over 11,000 lives changed as our chaplains care for people who are hurting related to marriage and parenting issues, financial challenges, care for aging parents and mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and even suicidal ideation,” Buckley said.
Chaplains make weekly rounds in companies that partner with CCA, and they build “deep, caring relationships” with employees, Buckley said. But chaplains also are on call 24/7, he said, and they encounter people who have all kinds of crises and concerns.
Lacy Peacock, a CCA regional director with the responsibility of overseeing corporate chaplains in the state of Georgia as well as portions of Alabama, said one reason the ministry is so important is because most people spend a third of their life at work.
“When people go to work, they cannot leave their problems at home,” she said. “The most important thing our chaplains do is bring weekly care to the employee. The employee knows they will see their chaplain every week, so no matter what is happening in their life, they have someone who can help them and rejoice with them.”
Peacock said the needs most often focus around areas of mental health, relationships and finances. Chaplains value privacy and do not collect or share specific details, they are able to alert company leaders to concerns that might affect the overall workplace environment.
And while CCA does not limit its work to religious workplaces, the approach to chaplaincy is the same, Buckley said.
Point of need
“As we develop caring relationships and meet people at their point of need, people open up to us and we are able to have … conversations,” he said. “These employees that have been open to being cared for are more focused, miss less days of work, are more productive and tend to stay employed with the company longer.
“We have documented case studies where we can show companies that over 80% of their employees regularly have care sessions with our chaplains,” Buckley said. “Greater productivity leads to greater profitability. One of our large clients documented the fact that the cost of chaplaincy is more than offset by the drastically reduced turnover and related onboarding costs of replacing employees.”
Chaplains serve in wide variety of workplaces
Chaplains are well known in military, health care and disaster relief circles, but chaplaincy is a growing field across multiple sectors as employers recognize the relationship between spiritual health and overall well-being.
“Health is the extent to which we have physical and mental energy, whether we can fully use our senses and the extent to which we can comfortably engage in meaningful activities,” according to one definition included in a 2022 McKinsey Health Institute study. “Health is our strength, our memory, our ability to solve problems; it is our ability to cope with the challenges of life, our ability to build and sustain intimacy and our sense of agency, positivity and purpose.”
Spiritual health gives an individual a healthy sense of self, hopefulness and gratitude, the study notes.
‘Life doesn’t stop’
And though the workplace has undergone many changes in the past few years, work still consumes a large chunk of the week for most Americans. Church leaders know that concerns about family, community, national and global issues affect congregants. It only makes sense that these same issues affect employees.
“Life doesn’t stop when work starts,” states information provided by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for religious diversity in the workplace. “Pains and joys from outside affect what’s inside — inside a person and inside the workplace. … Chaplains offer counsel, assist in managing crises, celebrate milestones and help employees work through a variety of personal and professional experiences.”
More than 3,700 chaplains are endorsed through the Southern Baptist Convention in a variety of workplaces and volunteer organizations. For more information, go to namb.net/chaplaincy. (Carrie Brown McWhorter contributed)