Michael Tummillo is a Workplace Chaplain in Stephenville, Texas. He’s a Circuit Preacher of sorts, traveling from workplace to workplace on a quest for hurting souls. Tummillo has many stories attesting to the effectiveness of his job as a corporate missionary: “Jamie (not her real name) was hurting. I was on my way to my car when she came running out the door and called to me. She said, “I’ve been building up the courage to talk to you for three months…can we go inside?” She was a pretty girl age 21, and she was bearing an unbearable burden for several years.
“Tearfully, she shared that burden with me. She told me about the car accident she was involved in, one she had walked away from, that left her passenger – her popular brother – dead on the scene. “The funeral was huge,” she recalled. “Everybody was there.” Soon, she was sobbing, “I feel like I murdered him…!” Jamie admitted that she hadn’t returned to church, feeling that she was the topic of discussion there.
“We prayed, I counseled, she hugged my neck. Though she moved on and attended college, a friend of hers has reported she’s doing well.”
Tummillo continued, “Vivian (not her real name) lagged behind after the Bible Study in the Conference Room. She needed to talk. Recently, she was entertaining thoughts of suicide, feeling hopeless about so many things pertaining to her family and her marriage. We talked and prayed. A few weeks later, she smiled and reported that she hadn’t had “any more bad thoughts” and was excited about her future.”
“After speaking with a group of employees,” Tummillo added, “encouraging them to utilize my services and assuring them of the confidentiality, two women have since contacted me. One, we’ll call her “Maggie,” a single mom, approached me quite timidly. With tears in her eyes, she told me about her kids, in their 20’s and unemployed, staying at home, eating, having friends over, leaving lights on, while she worked. I gave her some parenting and confrontation pointers. We prayed. Her countenance has since changed and her kids are contributing…the other individual contacted me by eMail. Their situation was based on racial matters. They had recently submitted a resignation letter. After we corresponded by eMail, I was told that she had changed her mind.”
A much beloved employee died. An intruder stabbed another in her stomach in the early morning hours as she slept. In every instance, employers must ask themselves:
• What employee is best suited to handle these situations?
• Who can afford to leave their job responsibilities and spend time counseling, praying, visiting hospitals?
• What would it cost a company to replace employees who are killed, injured, or quit because of their despondency over situations at home?
• What could it cost a company whose employees have become depressed or apathetic regarding relational issues or matters that will, ultimately, have a negative impact on the whole staff?
Who would become a Workplace Chaplain?
Tummillo believes that, with so many Institutional Church (IC) ministers leaving their pastorates for the Simple Church (SC), there’s no reason that they should abandon their pastoral giftings and seminary training in order to earn a living. “It saddens me to picture a man with 20 years of ministerial experience leaving his church and pushing carts at WalMart or selling insurance. Sure, every Christian’s job is their ministry – I believe that with all my heart. But a person who has been called by God, trained, can still utilize those skills through the doors God is currently opening in the secular workplace.”
In order to provide former IC ministers with a source f training and endorsement, Tummillo’s group, “The Church @ Work” (TCAW) is offering a FREE online certification program which offers certification, encouragement and Tummillo’s 25 years of marketing to help Chaplains obtain work in their own communities. “We also offer a monthly conference call and a weekly newsletter, not to mention other sources of encouragement and training via email. I’ll send the certified WC (Workplace Chaplain) a certificate, business card and stationery art so they can print their own materials, plus additional materials that will help position them in their communities as the local expert on workplace ministry.”
Tony Dale of House2House Ministries (house2house.net) encourages those in the SC to get involved, “The Workplace… is ‘THE Place’ for so much of what God is currently doing through His people…Michael is helping to spearhead this through his ministry. Get involved and make your place of work and outpost of the Kingdom of God.”
Robert Fitts, author of “The Church in the House: A Return to Simplicity, echoes Dale’s response: “I am excited with you when I read of the progress of The Church @ Work! Wow! The time is coming when you will have helped hundreds of Workplace Chaplains into this exciting ministry”
Who would hire a Workplace Chaplain?
As of May 2003, approximately 47,000 employees had access to workplace chaplains employed by one chaplain provider. According to another agency, their 1,200 chaplains minister to over 250,000 employees and their family members across 36 states.
The demand is on the rise. The International Fellowship of Industrial Chaplains, a training and certification group, reports that company requests for Workplace Chaplains has out-paced their capacity to train them. Concurring, Rev. Robert Vickers, director of chaplaincy evangelism for the Southern Baptist Convention, says that business and industrial chaplaincy is growing within his denomination by about ten percent per year.
It’s been estimated that by 2010, over 20,000 people will graduate with Corporate Chaplaincy degrees.
Surprisingly, it’s not only private, Christian-owned-and-operated companies that are fueling the trend. Even publicly held companies are employing Workplace Chaplains. To cite just two examples, Allied Holdings, based in Georgia, has employed chaplains since the mid-60s and after going public in 1993, maintained the program. Today, they employ 77 part-time chaplains (representing 17 denominations) at 97 locations in 35 states and 9 Canadian provinces. Similarly, Tyson Foods employs 52 part-time chaplains serving in 39 plants, with John Tyson (grandson of founder of the company and presently CEO and Chairman of the Board) as the driving force behind the program.
What Does a Workplace Chaplains Do?
Whether it’s Bible studies, weddings, death notification, hospital visitations, prayer, counsel, ground breakings, business meetings or company parties, Workplace Chaplains have what some refer to as “a ministry of presence." From personal visits to ministry by telephone or eMail, they are specifically geared to ministry in a secular environment, most having worked secular jobs in the past, and they are on-call 24 hours a day to counsel any employee on any matter, personal or professional. Rodney Brown, Director of employment counseling at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., who, speaking to the National Catholic Reporter, said: "In the workplace, our greatest service to employees is to be available—right now." Gil Stricklin, founder of another chaplaincy agency, concurs: "We don't work by the hour. We work by the needs."
More likely to be clad in polo shirts and khakis than ministerial robes and collars, Workplace Chaplains regularly visit with employees at their work stations and offices, establishing a rapport with workers and making them aware that counseling is available at any time, especially during emergencies. Chaplains also visit sick and bereaved employees and their families and, when no other minister is available, they officiate services. Essentially, they are an extension of an employee assistance program (EAP), offering an indispensable spiritual dimension to the traditional EAP approach.
That spiritual dimension sometimes entails running on-site, voluntary Bible studies and prayer groups, and it occasionally entails sharing of the Gospel. Contrary to what many think, Workplace Chaplains are not in the workplace to push religion. Tummillo said, “Whereas so many people are simply repulsed what many Christians have to say, or even by the way we act, our faith is not an instrument to offend – it’s an instrument by which we serve and love those who are suffering." Tummillo does not see his ministry as evangelistic, but one of providing "basic human kindness." He attempts to influence people for the Kingdom of God by "being there for them when they need you."
Nevertheless, a more-than-occasional outgrowth of that kind of "help" is bringing people into God's family. One chaplaincy provider reported that, in May 2003, 600 employees had come to Christ since the beginning of that year. Another agency claims that during the past twelve months, approximately 4,000 people became Christians through their ministry, with 65 percent of those new believers now attending Bible-teaching fellowships.
Can a business get sued?
It’s a valid concern and a question commonly asked is “Does all this spirituality at work promote litigation?”
You are NOT risking a lawsuit by launching a Workplace Chaplaincy program, especially not if the chaplains approach their job in accordance with their training.
In the United States, employers are permitted to offer faith-based services to employees, provided that they do so without discrimination and without creating an environment where employees feel pressured to conform to a particular faith. In practice, for example, this means that companies may employ chaplains and may have prayer or Bible-study sessions, as long as they are voluntary and those who don't attend are not discriminated against. Employees must not feel that their terms and conditions of employment are in any way contingent upon their religious beliefs.
Another expert whose agency provides Workplace Chaplains offers what might be the more compelling answer to this question: "During more than 60 years of Workplace Chaplaincy history, no company offering a Chaplain Assistance Program, nor any chaplain agency, has been the target of litigation concerning chaplain care." He adds that his chaplains serve one company that has over 400 Jewish employees and there has never even been a complaint, much less a lawsuit. A representative from Allied Holdings says they, too, have never had a complaint in 35 years of providing workplace chaplains, even though Allied has a very religiously-diverse workforce. Stricklin presents a similarly striking statistic: his agency has logged over 1.2 million hours of contracted service during the past nineteen plus years, without legal incident.
Results are in!
Although solid research does not exist to quantify the business value of Workplace Chaplains, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests positive results. Testimonials abound on the websites of Workplace Chaplaincy providers, attesting to the practical value of this employee resource. "This was the best business decision I ever made" and "This is the only benefit that employees have ever thanked me for" are typical. Beyond the information from the chaplain providers, a widely-reported comment comes from Austaco, a large Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchisee corporation, which credits its chaplain program for reducing its annual turnover from 300 percent to 125 percent. Moreover, in the trucking industry, where 100 percent turnover in drivers is not unusual, Allied Holdings has a turnover of four percent, partly, they claim, due to their employee care programs like chaplaincy.
Tummillo suggests a competitive advantage, stating “…there are intangible, significant results in the areas of employee retention and morale. A Harvard Business School study revealed a $4 return for every dollar spent on this type program while a University of Michigan study showed that people would still rather talk to a clergyman than a therapist any day.”
What does a Workplace Chaplain Cost?
The BETTER question is: "How much does a business need to invest to get a Workplace Chaplain?" That depends on variables like company size, number of employees, number of shifts served and where in the nation the business is located. Typically, though, an employer will pay a flat retainer fee per month, somewhere in the neighborhood of three to ten dollars per employee.
“Some people don’t think it’s right for a Workplace Chaplain to charge for his or her services. Actually, the WC can work for free if they wish. One might be independently wealthy or may not need the money. One of our Chaplains in California – a man 64 years old - recently told me that he never thought of this as a source of income when he initiated the call to me. He was looking at this as a means for establishing Simple Churches in the workplace.”
For more information, or to book Tummillo as a Guest Speaker on the Faith @ Work subject, log on at www.TheChurchAtWorkTeam.org
or contact Workplace Chaplain Michael Tummillo, founder of The Church @ Work, email@example.com, 214.476.8792.