Faith is finding its way onto the payroll as members of the clergy increasingly use their experience for a stint at the 9-to-5 grind.
These contracted employees are not arriving to show off a new business degree or attend a management meeting. The workplace chaplains are looking to use a different skill set to help the bottom line -- solid morals and a patient ear.
In between meetings, client calls and routine daily tasks, some companies are giving their employees the option to chat with a chaplain.
"Human resources managers are realizing that employees, especially at a time of crisis, have needs that a chaplain or a spiritual person can address," explained Michigan-based chaplain Ron Klimp.
And recognizing those needs makes good business sense, according to Klimp, whose clients have noticed an increase in loyalty and a drop in absenteeism after employing the pastor's nonprofit group, Workplace Chaplains. His business has gone from servicing four companies when it started in 1999 to the current slate of 24 clients.
The Protestant pastor decided to leave the familiarity of working in a church to walk through offices, assembly lines and work spaces and reach out to anyone interested in the support. "We have dealt with people who were suicidal and intervened in a way that prevented the suicide, we have dealt with a person who was threatening workplace violence and engaged him in a conversation with his management folks until the issue got resolved," said Klimp.
You may think of work and religion as two separate parts of your life, but there's a growing movement to encourage people to merge the two. There are annual conferences promoting faith in the workplace, a range of books published on the topic and Web sites provide tips for mixing faith with the workday. Workplace chaplains have slowly increased their place in the business world. Dallas-based Marketplace Ministries began 20 years ago and now sends 1,500 chaplains into offices across the country.
The decision to literally bring religion into an office is a thought-provoking idea that could easily raise the ire of staffers who do not think religion has a place at their job site.
But as the nation becomes more ethnically diverse, an increasing mix of religions is already arriving at work each day.
"Businesses are just beginning to understand that this is something that needs to be addressed," said Joyce Dubensky, executive director of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, which promotes religious tolerance in the workplace.
She consults with major corporations to help them tackle religious issues in their offices and said it "makes sense" that corporate chaplaincy programs are taking off. "Employees don't leave their religion at the door, or their other life problems," said Dubensky.
What's interesting to note about the current faith and work movement is this underlying mindset among its fans that bringing religion into the office and addressing the personal needs of a staff is merely an additional strategy for running a booming business.