The 50 Best Christian Places to Work
Susan Walsvig, a fifth grade teacher at Mariners Christian School in Costa Mesa, California, had always enjoyed her job. But after a recent family tragedy, she gained even more appreciation for her workplace and colleagues.
Last December, her nephew was dying of brain cancer. She wanted to take time off but she did not have enough vacation days to do so. That's when the school's headmaster, Mary Letterman, went to see her. "You shouldn't be here," said Letterman. "Take the time you need so you will have no regrets, and go be with your family." The administration was not the only point of support for Walsvig; her coworkers helped carry her workload until her return.
The response of Mariners' leaders and employees reflects the attitude found in many of the top finalists of the second annual Best Christian Places to Work survey. Conducted by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI), the survey polled more than 10,000 employees from 107 organizations in a variety of Christian industries (including this year's new additions: church-related organizations and businesses with a Christian mission that do not necessarily offer explicitly Christian products or services). But the workplaces that stood out were the ones that extended the boundaries of loving one's neighbor to include office colleagues. These organizations look more like Christian communities than Christian corporations, and their employees treat one another more like family than co-workers.
"We look out for every aspect of our employees' lives, beyond what is happening in their classes," says Letterman. "We work to create an atmosphere where we can care for our faculty and staff in practical ways."
When employees believe that their employers genuinely have their best professional and personal interests in mind, the employees are more likely to demonstrate that same concern for one another. As a result, Christian workers can develop strong bonds, both inside and outside the office. "If an e-mail goes out to the staff stating a place to go to lunch, almost all of our staff shows up. This shows how much our staff gets along, as well as the family atmosphere that our work provides," says Daniel White, sponsorship manager at finalist Gospel Music Association.
"We seem to have a whole staff of people with the gift of encouragement and exhortation," says Mariners music teacher Tricia Heins. "On any given day, I have at least two e-mails from fellow staff members asking me how my day is going and how they can lift me in prayer."
The Importance of Trust
The strength of Christian community is a barometer for how a Christian workplace is functioning. But even more significant is the relationship between managers and employees. This year's survey demonstrates that the happiest Christian employees work in companies where their leaders strive to create a climate of trust.
"Successful leaders know that the quality of an organization's ministry and the quality of internal trust are directly related," says BCWI executive director Al Lopus. "When people trust one another, they are fully engaged in the ministry and good things happen. But when trust is never established or broken, relationships suffer and employees can become disengaged from their work, discouraged, or even fearful. As a result, employee satisfaction nosedives."
In fact, the employees at companies that placed at the bottom of this year's survey reported that their managers failed to show trust. Virgil Smith, professor of management at Biola University, believes that trust is a challenge for some Christian managers and leaders because "[they] are not willing to take a risk on the employees. But if we wait until the employee has all these abilities and maturity before we will trust them, we will never develop them."