Pastoral ministry and business? 

When I tell people about my field of study, I often receive a puzzled look followed by a pregnant pause. “What does pastoral ministry have to do with business?” they inquire. 

 

Ambitious about serving others

Answering this question has sharpened my own grasp of the link between pastoral ministry and business administration: the two complement each other much like the yin and yang relationship between core values and envisioned future.[1]  “Core Ideology, the yin…, defines what we stand for and why we exist.  Yin is unchanging and complements yang, the envisioned future.  The envisioned future is what we aspire to become, to achieve, to create…”[2] For me, pastoral ministry is the yin, the “unchanging,” spiritual foundation and ethical framework that guides me.  Business administration represents the yang, that which challenges me to learn new skills and advance my level of competency in technical acumen, management and strategy. 

The nascent relationship between pastoral ministry and business administration mirrors the inherent balance in my core values of ambitious altruism, deliberate communication and zest for life.  I am ambitious about serving those most in need and empowering them to achieve a better life.  In doing so, I commit myself to deliberate communication.  This value is inspired in part by a quote attributed to a Navajo elder, “The sacred begins at the tip of your tongue. Be careful when speaking, you create the world around you with your words”[3] Deliberate communication fosters integrity, authenticity and trust, which together establish a foundation for empowering others to achieve a better life.  Thirdly, I include zest for life because I believe that every element of creation is sacred.  I intend to bring a spirit of joy, wonder and gratitude to every person whom I encounter. 

 

“…serve others, especially the least favored”[4]

            Upon graduating from college, I was faced with the decision of either pursuing my passion to work in campus ministry as a full-time, paid professional or a part-time, unpaid volunteer.  My ambition led me to choose the former, which resulted in an enriching and intrinsically rewarding learning experience. 

It should come as no surprise that I was drawn to work at Central Catholic High School since its values are closely aligned with mine.  “A clear and well-articulated ideology attracts to the company people whose personal values are compatible with the company’s core values…”[5]   The school’s mission is threefold: to make Jesus known and loved, to educate the whole person and to serve others, especially the least favored.[6]  The mission, however, was not so neatly defined until the accreditation committee required it to be revised and rewritten.  Previously, the mission stood as a convoluted paragraph buried in the parent-student handbook.  Even though the value of the school being “one family” was certainly talked about at school functions and assemblies, it was never included in the school’s core values.  The concept of family, however, can be inferred in the first part of the mission statement, “to make Jesus known and loved” since Jesus treated others, even those who were despised or looked down upon, with the same compassion and respect that would be expected from a beloved family member.  This connection, notwithstanding, was never explicitly made.      

“To make Jesus known and loved” is about exemplifying Jesus’ love for others through everyday interactions.  While this value was certainly lived out by many members of the school community, some also ignored it.  One co-worker went as far as to disrespect others by talking down to them and setting them up for failure by safeguarding necessary information about school programs.  My first year of work with this co-worker tested my ability to persevere and trust in the administration’s ability to ameliorate the situation.  I followed sound advice from friends and colleagues who told me to directly communicate the issues to my co-worker and the administration instead of keeping them to myself. 

 

Lord help me to hold out…until my change comes[7] 

By the end of the first year of work, the administration informed me that my co-worker would not be offered a contract for the following year and that they were actively looking to fill her position.  Fortunately, the next three years of work were full of examples of how intricately close the school’s core values were aligned with its workers’ actions.  I am grateful to say that I had the privilege to work with a team that truly believed in the school’s values and mission statement.  The key to the team’s success was not necessarily the diversity of gifts and talents, but rather, its shared commitment to living out the core values espoused in the school’s mission statement.  I worked with two individuals who were authentic, dedicated to serving others and willing to work hard to achieve collective goals. The type of collegiality, trust, faith in God and dedication to a larger purpose is indicative of the way Jesus interacted with others, which implies a strong connection to the school’s mission. 

 

Moving on to new challenges

Looking forward, the values of ambitious altruism and deliberate communication will ground me as I pursue employment in an organization whose mission is to raise awareness about social issues and address such problems through a sustainable, needs-based approach.   Understanding the specific needs of people is a critical factor in the business of helping others.  In a field that may present emotional challenges, my zest for life will keep me open to change and growth.  It will also allow me to see the world’s problems as opportunities for creative solutions. 

Organizations like Net Impact provide a network of like-minded people, many of whom enjoy financially successful careers while fulfilling Net Impact’s mission, “…to make a positive impact on society by growing and strengthening a community of new leaders who use business to improve the world.”[8] Similarly, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric aptly suggests, “People want…to get promoted, they want stock options.  But they also want to work for a company that makes a difference…”[9]  Success, therefore, is not measured solely in  financial terms; it is also determined by the impact businesses have on improving the lives of others, especially those most in need.   Jeff Immelt continues, “The era we live in belongs to people who believe in themselves but are focused on the needs of others.”[10] For example, GE “decided not to do business in Myanmar” because the country’s government is “a notorious human-rights violator.”[11]  Such actions not only deter future human rights violations but also uphold the company’s commitment to corporate citizenship, and subsequently improve the company’s reputation.[12]  My values of ambitious altruism, deliberate communication and zest for life will lead me to encounter organizations that espouse similar values and share in the mission to make the world a more peaceful, prosperous and just place for the many.

 

Process for determining my core values

I used two methods to hone in on my core values: self-reflection and conversation with close friends.  Completing the provided core values exercise assisted me in narrowing down and naming the values that are most important to me.  Initially, I came up with service, integrity and a certain joy for life.  Later I asked close friends to tell me what values they see in me.  One friend mentioned that I was ambitious in my generosity towards understanding others.  Reflecting on both exercises led me to select my core values: ambitious altruism, deliberate communication and zest for life.

 

 



[1] Collins, James C. & Porras, Jerry I. (1996) ‘Building your company’, Harvard business review, September-October, pp. 66-67.

[2] Ibid.,  pp. 66-67.

[3] Able2know (2003) Available at: http://www.able2know.com/forums/about4003.html. (Accessed: 15 September 2007).

[4] Central Catholic High School (2007) Available at: http://www.centralcatholic.net/chris_ser.html (Accessed: 15 September 2007).

[5] Collins, James C. & Porras, Jerry I. op. cit., p. 71

[6] Central Catholic High School. op. cit.

[7] Cleveland, James. Lead me guide me: the African American Catholic hymnal. ‘Lord, help me to hold out’, Chicago: GIA Publications, 1987, p. 229.

[8] Net Impact (2007). Available at: http://www.netimpact.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1 (Accessed: 18 September 2007).

[9] Gunther, Mark. (2006) ‘Money and morals at GE: Jeffrey Immelt wants to instill values in everything the company does without compromising the profit principle’, Fortune Magazine.15 November, p.1.

[10] Ibid., p. 1.

 

[11] Gunther, Mark. (2006) ‘Money and morals at GE: Jeffrey Immelt wants to instill values in everything the company does without compromising the profit principle’, Fortune Magazine.  15 November, p. 1.

[12] General Electric. (2007). Available at: http://www.ge.com/company/citizenship/index.html. (Accessed 18 September 2007).