John explored biblical themes on work looking for models which could be used as the basis for a 21st century theology for the workplace. His surprising conclusion was that neither the family nor household were suitable spiritual models to take into the workplace. The bible does not provide good role models comprising a family unit of ‘mum, dad and 2.4 children’. Four household codes can be identified in the New Testament – but these do not fit well in today’s more open and equal society e.g. the role of women.
Does this mean that there is no role for spirituality in the workplace? Some of John’s characteristics of spirituality especially struck a chord with me e.g. a surplus of meaning, things kept out of balance, open-ended directionality, fundamental instability is a prerequisite for all growth and change, no blueprints.
John then identified some examples of good practices in a work context from the OT. These were used to derive a model for workplace/organisational spirituality based around Skill, Willingness, Opportunity, Acceptance and Recognition. The individual brings skill and a willingness to work and be engaged with the enterprise; the organisation provides opportunity (to work using the skills), acceptance of the individual and what they have to offer and recognition of the contribution made.
In discussion we noted that the Church as an organisation doesn’t measure up very well to these ideals; when they are attained – even if only for a short time – the organisation makes real progress and is a good and rewarding place to be. Members experience suggested that the role of the leader was a key element in creating these conditions – or killing them completely! Organisations need to identity and nurture such leadership.