Stephenville, Texas (PressExposure) October 03, 2008 -- Michael Tummillo is a Workplace Chaplain in Stephenville, Texas. Heâs 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: âJamie (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, âIâve been building up the courage to talk to you for three monthsâ¦can we go inside?â She was a pretty girl age 21, and she was bearing an unbearable burden for several years.
âTearfully, 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 â her popular brother â dead on the scene. âThe funeral was huge,â she recalled. âEverybody was there.â Soon, she was sobbing, âI feel like I murdered himâ¦!â Jamie admitted that she hadnât returned to church, feeling that she was the topic of discussion there.
âWe prayed, I counseled, she hugged my neck. Though she moved on and attended college, a friend of hers has reported sheâs doing well.â
Tummillo continued, âVivian (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 hadnât had âany more bad thoughtsâ and was excited about her future.â
âAfter speaking with a group of employees,â Tummillo added, âencouraging them to utilize my services and assuring them of the confidentiality, two women have since contacted me. One, weâll call her âMaggie,â a single mom, approached me quite timidly. With tears in her eyes, she told me about her kids, in their 20âs 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 contributingâ¦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.â
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:
Â· What employee is best suited to handle these situations?
Â· Who can afford to leave their job responsibilities and spend time counseling, praying, visiting hospitals?
Â· What would it cost a company to replace employees who are killed, injured, or quit because of their despondency over situations at home?
Â· 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 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.
Itâs been estimated that by 2010, over 20,000 people will graduate with Corporate Chaplaincy degrees.
Surprisingly, itâs 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?
Chaplains have what has been called a "ministry of presence." Whether itâs through a personal visit, by telephone or eMail, they are specifically trained to work in a secular environment, most having done-so 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 availableâright 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 (as mine did with Aaron). 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. Michael Tummillo, Founder of âThe Church @ Workâ in Stephenville, Texas said, âWhereas 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 â itâs 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.
Will you get sued?
Itâs a valid concern and a question commonly asked is âDoes all this spirituality at work promote litigation?â
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 âthere 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.â
The BETTER question is: "How much will I 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.
For more information, log on at [http://www.TheChurchAtWorkTeam.org] or contact Workplace Chaplain Michael Tummillo, founder of The Church @ Work, firstname.lastname@example.org, 214.476.8792.