Flourishing, energizing, life-giving, meaningful and purposeful, having impact – what a way to describe work!
As I reflect on three decades of nonprofit work those words come to mind, along with trying times fraught with trials and challenges. I’ve seen the highs and lows while leading Human Resources with Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship for more than 20 years, and now working with over 50 Christian ministries consulting with the Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI). Yes, highs and lows, yet we continue the journey with little temptation to leave this work. It’s so much of who we are as Christian leaders.
Thinking back on my beginnings, I recall a short stint of government work in-between my nonprofit assignments. I was an economist, and I insisted that we deal with the numbers with transparency. My boss said, “Oh, you are an idealist. This might not be the right work for you.” True, so true.
Indeed, the nonprofit world draws people who long to see positive change, seek justice, love mercy, heal hurts, bring hope, ease suffering, build disciples, and get God’s Word to people –idealists like you and me. We can visualize God’s kingdom here on earth: no hungry children, an end to human trafficking, prisoners healed through the power of the gospel, the dignity of having a job and a roof over your head, marriages saved, and so much more.
We call this “life-giving work,” and data shows that is the top engagement factor in nonprofit work.
There is amazing power in these critical efforts. At BCWI, we’ve learned both through stories and concrete data that unleashing this power gives life to both the receiver and the giver. We call this “life-giving work,” and data shows that is the top engagement factor in nonprofit work. It’s about a great mission, and meeting a compelling need through people who are using their God-given gifts and talents.
You might think to yourself that it can’t be that simple. If it was, wouldn’t almost all ministries have thriving, flourishing workplaces? You are right, it’s not that simple. Other building blocks we call “flourish factors” are needed for an organization to thrive. So, how can we know and leverage them? Well, I bet you know them already.
Building Blocks for Flourishing Christian Workplaces
Recently, I asked church interns to describe a flourishing Christian workplace. Guess what, they nailed it, even though several had never done paid ministry work! Though obvious, pulling it all together takes hard work. If feeling a strong connection to the mission is there, what are other building blocks of health and effectiveness are essential to thrive?
The foundation is a high level of trust between leaders and team members. How is that built? By empowering others with authority to do the work, including them in decisions that affect them, seeking and acting on their ideas, and explaining reasons for major decisions.
Additionally, strong competence must be visible in leaders. That is demonstrated by a Christ-centered focus, and the skills to manage the ministry well. It is seen through goals being met, and strategies being implemented to effectively address the needs of those they serve.
People experience job security when leaders make plans that value staff stability despite the inevitable ups and downs that will come. People want to see fairness, openness, honesty, and most importantly humility among their leaders. At BCWI we call this “Inspirational Leadership,” “Healthy Communication” and “Sustainable Strategy.”
I've learned that feedback is a gift.
Over my career, I’ve experienced quite a bit of variety around leadership, communication and sustainable strategy. I’m sure you have too. I appreciate that BCWI's engagement survey provides laser-pointed feedback in these and other areas. Daily, I debrief leaders on survey feedback and watch their heads nod (or sometimes shake) as they gain insight. I've learned so much by their wisdom and mistakes, coupled with my own. I've learned that feedback is a gift.
There are other building blocks that support a thriving workplace. Like regular, caring support from supervisors who provide feedback, development, training and recognition. Or talent programs that recruit, reward and promote highly capable people. Strong teams that are capable, conflict competent and collaborative are a must. And, of course, a total compensation package to sustain staff and their families is vital.
Advising leaders over the years, I’ve rarely had to hammer in a belief that a compelling mission is essential. It’s part of their essence. Helping them see the other factors has been more challenging, but possible, and very effective.
If you’d like to know more about these powerful factors of an engaged and healthy culture, get a copy of our 8 Drivers of a Flourishing Workplace Culture.
We’ll see you on the path to flourishing!
Giselle Jenkins serves as Consulting Director with Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI) supporting organizations seeking flourishing cultures through developing outstanding leaders and providing programs that attract, retain and develop fantastic people. Before BCWI, she was Vice President of People Development with Prison Fellowship and served on the organization’s senior leadership team. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from The American University.