One of the Greatest Challenges Christian Leaders Face With New Employees

There is a key truth that screams at some juncture to almost every new employee in a Christian organization. (Pixnio/Public Domain)

Before I answer the question that is so eye-catching and thought provoking, let's take a few guesses at the answer to that question:

  • How the no-overtime policy applies to overtime.
  • Explaining employee parking? Simply put, all parking privileges are revoked if you are caught near the administrator's reserved space. NO GRACE here.
  • The employee dress code: what's with this new underwear worn as outerwear? Repeat, what's with this new underwear ...?

For decades, I gave my new employees a copy of the Gene Edwards classic, A Tale of Three Kings. Gene told me it is his most popular book. And there is good reason why; read on. I put the book in their hands during orientation as their required reading, following the employee handbook of course. Does that still exist? Next, we would embark on a series of challenging dialogues about the major points of the book.

One of the major points of this classic is the gripping story how David navigated serving a king who was insane. But in this case it was even worse; the king was possessed with a demonic spirit. The story speaks directly to the dilemma faced when you are serving someone who is a little (or more than little) crazy. I would always get a quick laugh from my new employees with that line; however, the lightness quickly turned heavy when I assured them a time was coming when they were going to be disappointed in my decision-making as leader of this stalwart, Christian organization and might question my sanity.

Quickly (very quickly), I would transition to my real intention of this exercise: to help the new employee come face to face with practical considerations they may encounter in the Christian workplace. For instance: How do I work next to this person who is appallingly negative? What do I do when someone else takes credit for my work? Or how do I deal with a supervisor who plays favorites?  

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There is a key truth that screams, at some juncture, to almost every new employee in a Christian organization—a truth that few Christian leaders prepare their new employees to face. The truth? This company isn't heaven. Sorry, no Utopia here. People at this workplace don't always behave like Christians.

Most people who seek employment at a Christian workplace are drawn by two primary motivations. They want to use their talents to build the kingdom of God, and they are looking for a work environment that contrasts with what they had in the secular workplace. Too many secular workplaces are rife with extreme competition, backbiting, lack of concern for fellow workers and a management philosophy that workers are consumables. It is not unusual to find personal departments in the secular workplace with titles that dehumanize the employees of the enterprise, such as Human Resources or Employee Capital Management. My favorite is the one recently used by one of the largest school districts in my home state, Human Asset Management. What were these people thinking?

Here's the question of the day: How does a leader help the new employee face the disappointment that will come upon realizing this Christian workplace isn't perfect, maybe not even close? The first thing that has to happen is for all of us to understand the impact of disappointment.

I am convinced that apart from sin, disappointment is the most serious problem we face as Christians. Through afflictions, hardships at work, personal failures, accidents, betrayal, unmet expectations and many other apparent negative experiences, we can lose sight of God's purposes and plan.

When we don't see how the Lord weaves all of our experiences into His purpose in our life, we respond in disappointment. Disappointment leads to self-pity, disillusionment, depression and ultimately, withdrawal. This has dramatic ramifications for the new employee coming into a Christian workplace with some of these expectations: Fellow employees will be humming all through the day, "This is the day the Lord has made." The direct supervisor will greet her each morning with, "How can I make this day more spiritually alive for you?" And the Christian leader who is the final authority at work will regularly check in with her to make sure the workplace is spiritually transforming. All jesting aside, it is very challenging for a new employee in a Christian workplace to have realistic expectations of the ethos of the place.

Here is where leadership must be practical and preemptive. It 's the leaders job to define realistic expectations for the new employee in regard to Christian culture. It's the leaders job to create channels of communication to address those nagging issues that eat away at peace, unity and ultimately productivity. The leader must be positive, encouraging and engaged in the culture of the workplace. More than anyone else in the workplace, the leader sets the tone for culture. And it is the direct responsibility of the leader to be concerned with the new employee's professional growth, success in the position and spiritual transformation. Leaders in Christian organizations miss the mark if they are only concerned with production and no complaints.

Come on, now, you leaders out there. Set new employees up for success.

Tim Cameron is a passionate follower of Jesus, a father of five, with six grandchildren and two goddaughters. He graduated from Oral Roberts University, where he was a Division-1 basketball player, and completed graduate work at the University of Tulsa. Tim worked at ORU as director of admissions and financial aid. Following his tenure there, he was a public high school principal and then served as head of school at the largest private school in Oklahoma. Tim currently writes, speaks and serves in intercession and prophetic ministry at Believers Church in Tulsa. He has a great passion for prayer. He authored The Forty-Day Word Fast, and his second book released with Charisma this June: 40 Days Through the Prayers of Jesus: A Journey to Pray More Like Christ.

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