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Caring Well for Your Co-Workers

Caring Well for Your Co-Workers
 

Editor’s Note: For the month of March, we’re focusing our attention on the theme of caring well for the souls of those with whom you work, those men and women that we minster shoulder-to-shoulder with every day. In the task-oriented and often times urgency-driven environments of our ministry’s “behind the scenes”, it’s important to thinking carefully about how we treat one another. Join us this month as reflect on caring well for those standing next to us.

Caring well for the Souls of Coworkers

I feel like I’ve had to learn how to care for the spiritual wellbeing of my coworkers the hard-way. It might be because I’m a high-C, task-oriented, perfectionist. It might be because I’m just a slow learner, but over the years, I’ve learned from the good habits and practices of friends and coworkers who have cared well for me. I’m still very much a work in progress, but I hope to embody this same kind of intentionality I received from others with those with whom I share my nine to five.

Here are three lessons I’ve been learning the hard-way…

Creating a Safe Place in the Office

It wasn’t long into my first full-time ministry that I learned that some offices are safer than others. I had unwittingly made the mistake of sharing a ministry frustration that had morphed into a personal pain with a coworker who wasn’t interested in taking the time to sit with it. At least, that’s how their response made it feel. With a dismissive comment and an uncomfortable glace at their computer screen, their body language made it clear that I had crossed an unspoken line with my self-revelation.

I can still remember turning to leave and thinking to myself, “That was stupid, Aaron. Don’t do that again.” In that moment, I had learned what an unsafe office felt like.

careoffice

A few months later, I found myself in another office just down the hall from the first one. This time, the door was closed, my coworker sat across from me with sympathetic eyes and a caring heart. Whatever else was supposed to be on their agenda for that afternoon could wait. They were choosing to be fully-present with me as I began sharing what God had been stirring in my soul.

I had never expected to share that vulnerably with a coworker that I hardly knew, and yet their questions, body language, and intentionality continually invited me to open up. They didn’t have a vested interest in my youth group lesson for the next week, my programming calendar, or my accomplishments. In that moment, their only concern was to be fully present as a brother-in-Christ shared his confusion and questions. In that moment, I learned what a safe office could be.

One important way that we can care well for the souls of our co-workers is by creating a safe place in our office for them to share from the deep and difficult places of their heart.

Creating a safe place demands trust, confidence, and a commitment to not rush, dismiss, or betray what’s being said. When a person leaves your office, regardless of their position or role, do they genuinely feel heard, accepted, and encouraged?

Placing Our Values on the Meeting Agenda

“We never have enough time to get to what we really need to talk about.” The thought ran through my head about forty five minutes into a team meeting. I was distracted with the busyness of my day, organizing a to-do list in the margin of my notes, and mindlessly skimming the rest of the meeting’s agenda when the thought gripped by attention. For three-quarters of an hour, we had been sitting quietly as a team, reflecting on the month that had passed since our last meeting, sharing what God had been doing within us.

There weren’t lists of accomplishments being rattled off or project updates being presented, instead there was slow, thoughtful listening and few words.

Scheduling A Meeting In A Diary

As I think back on that moment, I recognize the irony of my reaction. The healthiest thing on my overcrowded schedule that day felt like an annoyance, an abrasive speck of truth rubbing against my comfortable busyness. I needed this, but I didn’t want it. In a clearer moment, I would have said that this practice was a core value of mine, and yet it was the last thing I wanted to see on the agenda.

A second important way that we can care for the souls of our co-workers is to place our value for spiritual health on the meeting agenda.

We can intentionally create space in our gatherings for slowing, listening, and reflection at an unhurried pace. When contemplative time together becomes a focus and not just an icebreaker, transformation can begin to happen.

But it will chafe against our habit of busyness.

Slow Down to Embody Care

I have a confession to make: I sometimes ask, “How you doing?” without actually caring about how someone is doing. It’s as if the question has become synonymous with saying, “Hello!” Sometimes I don’t even slow down enough to hear their response. How many times have I completely tuned out someone’s response to my insincere inquiry about his or her well-being? That seems messed up.

careconvo

On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been caught unaware by the very same question. Someone asking, “How you doing?” and actually expecting a meaningful response. It’s almost off putting in its rarity, and yet they’re communicating something in that simple gesture that speaks volumes: “You are worth my time and intention”, “I care about your well-being”, “You are more important than whatever I’m headed to do.”

A third important way that we can care for the souls of our co-workers is to ask slowly and sincerely about their well-being.

May you find yourself in the midst of meaningful moments with your coworkers. May you move slowly and listen well. May you discover and create safe places to share deeply in the midst of your office hours.

Aaron Brown
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Aaron Brown is an Assistant Professor of Student Ministry at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. He attended Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. Before coming to LBC, he was the Sr. High Director at Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, PA. Aaron serves as the Project's editor and web guy.