How do you share your faith at work?
Publishing a Christian book has had a totally unexpected impact on my work life. A great example is from just this past week. I was at the Urban Land Institute national conference in Los Angeles. U.L.I. is a nonprofit group devoted to land use research and development, so the conference was full of real estate people in one form or another. I had the chance to meet Dan, a Managing Principal at a company I work with part-time. He asked what a “typical day” looks like for me, which gave me the opportunity to mention 4word, and the fact that I recently published a book.
“Oh, what’s your book about?”
—pause for a quick silent prayer—
“It’s called, Work, Love, Pray, and it’s a book for professional women of faith who are trying to balance relationships, and professional lives while keeping faith at the core.”
Gulp. At this point, I was sort of painfully aware that the conversation could go a number of ways. I’d communicated with Dan about business before, but I didn’t really know him. I had no idea where he was faith-wise or whether this could sour our professional relationship. Basically, it could have gotten awkward. But instead it got awesome:
“Wow, my wife needs your book, and so do I!”
This touched off a great conversation about balancing careers and family and faith. What started with a random question ended with a faith connection and real friendship! We even had a “small world” moment: it turns out that their Pastor, Miles McPherson, serves with me on the National Advisory Board for the Salvation Army and actually endorsed my book! (Side note, any of you ladies out in San Diego, check out The Rock church!).
This whole exchange, and many others like it, has really got me thinking about the ins and outs of sharing faith in professional settings. I love the call in Matthew 5:13-16 to be salt and light for the world, and there’s no question that “the world” includes our professional environment, but it can be hard to know what is appropriate and effective for sharing faith at work.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a lot of experience, and here’s my approach in a nutshell:
Let your faith be known in a non-aggressive way, and then live it out fully.
I think part of the reason that the book has been such a great conversation-starter with other professionals is that it’s sort of neutral territory for people. It’s a great way to share what I’m about in a way that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on others to respond. But you don’t have to write a book to effectively share your faith at work. Just be open about who you are. If you’re leaving happy hour early to make it to bible study, say so. If someone asks what you did this weekend, it’s okay to give an answer that includes church. Is there a risk that some people might get offended or put-off? Maybe, but all you can control is your approach, not their response. And I tend to think that if your attitude is one of honesty and openness rather than judgment or disapproval, people can tell.
Letting your faith be known in an effective way can be tricky, but it’s not actually the hard part. The tough stuff is living it out every day. Once people know about your faith, you become a sort of ambassador. Your coworkers will notice how you approach your work and how you treat people in the workplace. Your actions and attitude over time tend to convey more about your faith than any one thing you can say.