What if church on Sunday made Christians excited to go back to work on Monday? When Christians see their work lives reflected in the Sunday service, church becomes relevant to them every day of the week. Here are some ways that other churches have valued work during liturgy, prayer, and worship.
Vocational Interviews in Church
When asked, “If there was only one thing you could do to change the culture of a congregation to support Christians at work, what would you do?” R. Paul Stevens said “Give me three minutes and four questions in a service every Sunday for a year. I would get a different person up in front of the congregation each week and ask them four questions… Then we would pray for them.” This technique which is often called “vocational interviews” or “workplace interviews” goes a long way towards integrating workplace issues into the Sunday church service. For sample interview questions and examples of churches doing vocational interviews, see the TOW resource: How to Do Faith and Work Interviews in Church.
Preparing People for Sunday Interviews – a Golden Opportunity
In this video Trevor Lee, Lead Pastor of Trailhead Church in Littleton Colorado, shares what he's learned about preparing people for workplace interviews. Adding a pastoral meeting to the preparation process has dramatically increased the impact of these interviews, not only for the congregation but for the person being interviewed.
TTT – This Time Tomorrow
The Imagine Church Project in London encourages churches to invite a different person each week to answer three questions about This Time Tomorrow (TTT) in their worship services. (See Neil Hudson, Imagine Church (Nottingham: IVP, 2012), 100-101.)
- What will you be doing this time tomorrow?
- What opportunities or challenges will you face?
- How can we pray for you?
A Biblically-Based Set of Interview Questions
Redemption Tempe does onstage Sunday interviews which it calls “All-of-Life Interviews.” The preacher asks a worker four Questions:
- How would you describe your work?
- As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Genesis 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 5:1, Colossians 3:17). Where do you take the greatest joy in your work?
- How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world? (Genesis 3:1; Romans 3:10-20)
- Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mark 10:35-45; Ephesians 5:1; Romans 12:14-21; Colossians 1:24-27)
Commissioning Workers in Church
David Gill found it particularly meaningful to his congregation when he commissioned workers as part of the Sunday service. See the TOW article Commissioning Our People for the Workplace.
A teacher said to Mark Greene, ‘I spend 45 minutes a week teaching Sunday School and they call me up to the front of the church to pray for me. The rest of the week I am a full-time teacher and the church has never prayed for me.’ (Video here) In contrast, another church is praying for a different group of workers each month. They have gone through their church list with the aim to include everybody in special prayer for their daily work at least once a year.
Spreydon Baptist Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, created a humorous but sobering video clip to introduce young people to faith and work issues. Scenes of oppressive working conditions from Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times were interspersed with digital photos of youth group members in their places of work, all set to the rock song ‘We gotta get out of this place’ by The Animals. During each chorus the words ‘We gotta get out of this place’ appeared on the screen, until the end of the video when the subtitles posed the question: ‘Or do we?’ This though-provoking video was followed by a spoken presentation on faith and work.
This Is Our Church on Monday
A young person was asked to go out and photograph church members in their work settings. A digital presentation of these photos was screened during a time of meditation and prayer, paired with a song about the meaning of work. Some people laugh as they see church members dressed differently than they have ever seen them before: in suits and ties, in boiler suits, or in white coats and rubber gloves.
Children’s Talk: a Big Bag Full of Work
In this Children’s sermon the pastor brings a big bag full of interesting objects and invites the children to come forward and see what’s inside. The bag is full of uniforms and objects from people’s daily work. The kids put on the uniforms and guess who they belong to. There is a carpenter’s belt and brick-layer’s trowel and big white gumboots and a laptop computer and a plumber’s wrench. The noisiest moment is when the pastor starts up a chainsaw. The kids have a lot of laughs and end up praying for people in their work.
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
Opawa Baptist Church used this form of participatory prayer. As people file into the church service they write down three different kinds of paid and unpaid work they are likely to do this week. During the offering, their writings are pegged on a string which lines the auditorium. Later in the service, during a prayer time, a couple of people walk along the line reading off some of the different kinds of work listed there. Lastly, everyone is invited to offer their work to God.
The congregation of Dumfries Baptist Church in Scotland turn to face the exit door as they say:
May the love of God sustain us in our working.
May the light of Jesus radiate our thinking and speaking.
May the power of the Spirit penetrate all our deliberating.
And may all that is done witness to your presence in our lives.
A modern Benediction used at Cityside and Ilam Baptist Churches in New Zealand reads:
You are God’s Servants gifted with dreams and visions.
Upon you rests the grace of God like flames of fire.
Love and serve the Lord in the strength of the Spirit.
May the deep peace of Christ be with you,
the strong arms of God sustain you,
and the power of the Holy Spirit
strengthen you in every way.
(Diane Karray Tripp)
(Some add “and in everything you do every day” to the last line.)
For additional benedictions and songs relating to Work, see the TOW Worship Resources Page.
Festivals of Work
In numerous churches the traditional Harvest Festival service has been transformed into a festival of work. Other churches use Labor Day services for this purpose. Sometimes people come dressed in their work clothes and bring objects related to their work to place at the front of the sanctuary. The high point of this service is usually a commissioning liturgy in which the pastor commends to God the members of the congregation for their ministry in daily life. The church in Bakewell, England arranges a week-long festival of work which involves the whole town in a variety of displays and activities culminating in a special service to say ‘Thank you’ for different types of work in the town.