The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“157 Organizations Certified as Best Christian Workplaces of 2020 “
January 25, 2021
Al Lopus, Jay Bransford, Cary Humphries, and Giselle Jenkins
Intro: Who are the certified best Christian workplaces in 2020? Well, today we highlight just a few of the 157 organizations we are honoring this week. We invite you to join us on today’s show as we discuss some of the practices these organizations do to set the standard as the best, most-effective places to work in the world.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button and receive our free action guide.
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And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
Welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast. Today I want us to focus on just one question: During the past year, how did some Christian organizations, churches, and Christian-led companies actually create the best, most-effective workplaces while facing a grave pandemic and economic uncertainty? Well, today I have the great pleasure of introducing the list of the 20 20 certified best Christian workplaces. And we publish this list each year to highlight organizations that are living our vision, and that is, we believe that Christian-led organizations set the standard as the best, most-effective places to work in the world. And to help describe a couple of the key organizations that are on our list, I am joined today with BCWI’s senior leaders Cary Humphries and Giselle Jenkins, and I’ve also asked Jay Bransford, our chief operating officer, to help facilitate the discussion. Jay, take it away.
Jay Bransford: Thanks, Al.
This year, our list of certified best Christian workplaces includes 157 unique organizations. Our list spans the breadth of churches, Christian, not-for-profit organizations, universities, and K through 12 schools, mission-sending organizations, and a growing number of Christian-owned businesses. You know, we’re often asked, “How does an organization achieve certification as a best Christian workplace?” And the beauty of it is that it’s based entirely on employees’ feedback. In 2020 we had 157 organizations and their staff complete our 50-plus-question Engagement Survey and achieve being certified as a best Christian workplace.
The way it works is if an organization’s average overall score on the Survey is at or above our targeted level, then they are certified as a best Christian workplace. It’s not easy to reach that certification score, and many of our ministry partners have worked hard to achieve the certification and the level of organizational health that that represents, and they’ve worked hard to maintain it.
So on that note, let’s highlight some of the organizations on this year’s list. To start out, let’s talk about a few of the organizations that have been certified for over 15 years in a row now. Cary, why don’t you lead us off.
Cary Humphries: Thanks, Jay.
Apartment Life has been on the list for 17 years in a row. And what’s better than that, they’re passionate about paying attention to their data and acting on it. Team, for years Apartment Life surveyed their 90 or so national office and divisional leadership team. And then they decided to add the hundreds of geographically distributed CARES team members in their organization, and both teams are flourishing. My favorite quote from Apartment Life came when they were looking at their bottom 10, the questions where they had the least favorable comparison to the sector average. And their COO, KC Jones, remarked, “These are still our bottom 10. They merit our attention.” And off they went, building on their strengths and addressing their areas of greater opportunity. Inspirational.
Giselle, who’s next?
Giselle Jenkins: Well, let’s talk about Joni and Friends. So Joni and Friends is another organization that’s been certified for over 15 years. And during that time, we’ve seen worldwide growth, and most recently they’ve had a change in their leadership. Their longtime president, Doug Mazza, retired in 2019, and John Nugent took up the mantle as president. And they continue to have very high engagement. They even used the BCWI Survey as one of their four pillars of accountability. So we’re always delighted to see them on the list.
Cary, are there any Christian universities on the list?
Cary: Yes. In fact, Giselle, Olivet Nazarene University, just south of Chicago, has sought employee feedback through our Survey for over 15 years in a row. David Pickering and Tom Ascher, on their team, dive into the results and provide insightful resource out to their team campus wide. They have consistently been a wide margin healthier than the average Christian higher-ed institution. I would observe that the commitment starts at the top and flows out into every team. Leadership questions are among their very highest, with only a single question, out of 56, below the sector average.
Al: And next, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite categories, and that’s the category where organizations have really made significant improvements. Giselle, you’ve worked with a couple of these organizations. Tell us a little bit in how they’ve made such great improvements since they’ve begun working with us.
Giselle: Many of you heard about Precept Ministries, and they’re a ministry that has been active globally for over 50 years. Well, BCWI hasn’t been around that long, but we’ve had the pleasure of working with them since 2016, and they have an exceptional level of employee engagement. They’re in the top quartile. We call that quartile flourishing. And their leadership team has been really diligent, and they are always focused on making sure that every area of their ministry experiences a top-quality work-life balance in just the work that they do. And they’ve made building a healthy culture a top priority.
Just to let our listeners know, there’s a good amount of effort to build a healthy culture, but there’s so much more effort that goes into trying to deal with the problems of an unhealthy culture, which I mean, which kind of work would you rather have? That of building the healthy or dealing with the unhealthy? I have a friend and she calls this choose which kind of hard you want to choose. And at Precept they’ve definitely chosen to do the hard work of building a healthy culture.
Also, I want to just highlight a new ministry partner that we have. They’re a special Christian-owned business in Pennsylvania. They’re called Premier Custom-Built. And they build cabinets, very, very fine cabinets. Their president discovered BCWI by listening to this very same podcast, and he went online, and he signed his company right up for the Survey. In the past two years, they’ve made some really great changes in their company, built a lot of healthy practices, and they brought up some new leaders from the ranks. Their hard work paid off, and in just two years they became certified. So we really celebrate with this new ministry partner.
Cary: Those are great stories, Giselle. And I’ve got another one.
I’d love to tell the story of Southeast Christian Church, just south of Denver in Parker, Colorado. In a challenging time for Southeast, they came bravely and decided to Survey to get some data on their culture. Their result was pretty painful, but they stayed the course, made some necessary changes, and within two remarkable years, they had progressed an astronomical 104 points.
Now, some listeners might not know what that means, but that is a sea change. Hard to imagine. The new senior pastor, Aaron Couch, and his executive pastor, Tom Fitzgerald, got a reputation for believing together, we can fix that. And “fix that” they did. Steady, one decision after another, thrilling to see. And their story is available in a podcast on our website. Just search for Southeast Christian on our website’s resource section.
Jay: Thanks, Cary. It’s really encouraging to hear about so many of these churches and other organizations who are doing well even during these challenging times.
Now, we already mentioned an example of one of these ministry partners, but now let’s move to one of our largest-growing segments, that of Christian-led businesses. These businesses are part of a great movement to be lights in the world, to building the kingdom through relationships developed in business. Giselle, lead us off.
Giselle: Well, thanks, Jay. I’d like to talk first about Classical Conversations. Classical Conversations is a bright light, especially during COVID. Just imagine that 2020 hits, and you are a tech-savvy, online classical-education organization. For those of you who don’t know them, their purpose is to lead the home-centered-education movement by teaching parents and students the classical tools of learning so they can discover God’s created order and beauty, and as a result, enable others to do the same. If you’re a regular listener to our podcast, you’ll recognize their CEO, Robert Bortins, as a guest. And I’m always impressed when I debrief their Survey about their amazing communication scores. Now, wouldn’t that be wonderful to have someone say you have amazing communication scores? Well, they do. And they’ve been remote for years. They’ve really figured this thing out. They also have an amazingly effective strategy which was tested this year. And you know what? They’re a flourishing organization. We’re very proud of them.
Cary: That’s a great story, Giselle, and I have a couple to highlight. The first is ACR Supply Company. Led by supercharger Troy Meachum, ACR had a flourishing workplace culture when they arrived at our doorstep. They’d been keeping an eye on their culture for years. But with BCWI’s help, they found new and increased clarity on the way forward, and they made another step of important progress. Troy has twice shared with listeners on our podcast. I’d encourage our listeners to check it out.
I’d also like to highlight our good friends at C12. C12 has become the trusted authority at incorporating business best practices with biblical principles and values to help CEOs thrive. They have a huge and growing network with lots of energy behind it. C12 uses our Survey and has a flourishing workplace culture both at their national office and out into their board-chair network. But they’ve also sent us a growing number of businesses, like ACR, who have found the BWI process a tool for culture and business-results’ growth. We’re excited to grow that partnership.
Jay: Thanks, Cary. I’m a big fan of C12 as well and the way they serve our Christian business leaders. A great blessing they are.
All right. Let’s now move on to some of the larger organizations that were certified last year. Al, could you highlight a couple of them for us?
Al: Well, thanks, Jay. And the first one I’ll highlight is The Navigators. Certainly, The Navigators is a well-known ministry that we’ve worked with for over 10 years. In fact, this year they’ve achieved the best Engagement Survey results yet. With over 2500 associates around the world and over $140 million in revenue, they’ve worked hard to integrate the health of their culture into their annual ministry plans. And as a result, again this year, their culture is healthier than ever.
And another one is Gateway Church. Gateway Church is in the DFW area and is one of the largest churches in the nation. And Pastor Robert Morris has done a fantastic job of hiring tremendously capable leadership talent as they continue to grow across Texas. This year, the health of their culture has also reached the flourishing level, and they have been on the road to flourishing now for a dozen years, and as a result, they’ve been able to successfully pivot during COVID several times as they’ve grown even through COVID.
So, let’s talk for a minute about an organization that is not exceptionally large but is making a significant impact. Cary, you’re working with one.
Cary: Thanks, Al. Yes, Alpha USA has been surveying with us for the last five years, and a small-but-mighty army has made a tremendous journey from not yet healthy to now among our healthiest ministry partners. Craig and Sean at Alpha and their national team have committed to step-by-step improvement in every area. They’re one of the most incredible leadership stories we’ve seen, also outlined for listeners who want to check out what a remote organization can do to build a wildly flourishing culture. And as you mentioned, a small team, Al, but huge impact out to millions.
Jay: Absolutely. You all know what a fan of Alpha that I am, as it was their program that led me to making a decision to follow Christ. So I’m a huge fan. Great organization.
You know, one of the things that has impressed me since I joined BCWI is the international reach we have—Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Europe, Central America, Africa, as well as our neighbors to the north. Giselle, could you give us some insight maybe into one of our certified Canadian organizations?
Giselle: Well, I can. And just before I do that, I want to let our listeners know that we now have a Canadian regional office, and so it’s our first branching out to have an office outside of the United States. And so I have passed this ministry partner on to our regional director, but I did have the privilege in January of 2020 of working with this organization, which is Focus on the Family Canada. And they’re on the list again. This is not their first year. Many of you have heard in the U.S. of Focus on the Family, but they’re also got a strong presence in Canada. And what really impresses me about that particular organization is the breadth of employees who work on engagement.
We often share with leaders that a great strategy to build engagement is to involve more people in the engagement effort. Well, Focus on the Family Canada does that. The top leadership partners with leadership at every level of the organization, and every year they get their report. We have a very large meeting because they involve so many people, and we have several survey debriefs where they look at all of the results, ask questions. And rather than pushing back on any feedback that they receive, they just have these open hands and open arms, and they really dig into the data. They embrace it, as we like to say. Then, they work collaboratively to work on the results. Their year-after-year results are always a pleasure to behold. It’s always fun to debrief this group. And, literally, they have been improving every year.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
Female: As we come through the COVID-19 crisis, leaders everywhere are asking, how do we understand the tensions our employees are experiencing coming back to work? How do we keep our employees engaged, hold on to our best talent, and position ourselves to thrive as an organization going forward? If you’re looking for a way forward, the Best Christian Workplaces Institute can guide you onto the road to a flourishing workplace.
The first step to begin the journey is our well-known Employee Engagement Survey. This proven online tool pinpoints where your organization is already strong and where you can improve your employees’ workplace experience, resulting in more productive people. That’s right. You’ll have more engaged, productive, and fulfilled people. Time-consuming guesswork won’t get you there. Instead, let us help you with a fact-based, hope-inspiring action plan that only our Employee Engagement Survey and skillful coaching can provide. Sign up now to begin the journey to build a flourishing workplace culture and a thriving organization. Find out more at bcwinstitute.org.
Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
Cary: You know, another Canadian organization that we’ve been honored to serve is Catholic Christian Outreach, also called CCO. And there’s a CCO in the U.S., but this is CCO in Canada. And it’s a university student movement dedicated to evangelization. And they challenge young adults to live in the fullness of the Catholic faith, with a strong emphasis on becoming leaders in the renewal of the world. We’ve been privileged to serve them. Jeff Lockert, their president, is committed to healthy culture and has been super focused on their results and the actions that would come from them. They’ve used our services for additional support at times as they dig into results and find the way forward. And for year after year now, they’re in the upper quadrant of all organizations that survey with us. A fantastic success story.
Al: Yeah, thanks, Cary. That is a great story.
Now, let’s turn our attention to a group that has really been impacted by COVID. And this has been, for all of us, an exceedingly difficult year, but it’s a known fact that the poor have been the most directly impacted by COVID. In fact, the work rescue missions have been doing is nothing short of heroic. Giselle is our rescue mission sector leader, so, Giselle, tell us about a couple of rescue missions that are really doing a great job.
Giselle: I’m happy to, Al. There’s so many I would love to discuss. Let me just focus on two that I’ll talk about today. They’re really seeing how having a healthy culture can lead to significant ministry impact even in such difficult, difficult times. And the first one I want to talk about is the Charlotte Rescue Mission in North Carolina. They’re a pretty-fair-sized mission, and it’s really a super joy to work with this group. They’re led by Reverend Tony Marciano, and Tony’s actually been there since 1996, and that’s really a lot of stability. He’s got a real great passion for the mission and a great passion for excellence. Tony and the other leaders have been diligent about building engagement. They’re passionate to understand the data. They ask a lot of questions about our report. They are very active participants in the briefings. And then they also figure out really effective action steps to act on it.
Just think about it. You’re running a rescue mission in a major city during a pandemic. You can envision all the daily challenges they’ve been facing. And yet their employee engagement increased in 2020, during this pandemic. So we really want to give them a shout out and a big congratulations to them and everyone in the mission who worked with us.
Another one that’s a great story is not far from Charlotte, just north of there, in Philadelphia. It’s called the Sunday Breakfast Mission, and they’re a tiny little group, and they’re feisty, and they’re mighty. They have a lot of frontline work. They all pitch in, and they’re really literally daily taking ground for Christ among those experiencing homelessness in Philly. In their journey, they’ve actually broken records, several records, records around improvement, in just a few short years. Like many others we’ve mentioned, they also have this passion for their teams to be healthy and for them to have a great work experience.
Just kind of a funny story. I once asked their executive director if he was familiar with a certain question on the Survey as we were debriefing. And he said, “Familiar with the question. I’ve memorized all the questions on the Survey and their ratings.” Well, goodness, someone who sees the power of engagement and, boy, has he got a powerful impact there.
Cary: Wow, that’s amazing.
Now, another sector that’s really been hit hard this year also is schools, and in our case, Christian schools. Online, in class, or hybrid have been common topics of discussion for schools today. Al, give us the name of a certified Christian school on this year’s list.
Al: You know, with 300 employees, Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale has been working hard to serve their students. And it’s really a remarkable, highly flourishing organization, and they’ve moved to flourishing and they’ve stayed there for the last several years. And they’ve surveyed with us now for six or eight years. This is another organization that’s been on the road to flourishing now for several years and has seen their culture improved dramatically. With their 300 employees, they’ve had to pivot this year in COVID several times, and that’s really brought a lot of extra stress to their teachers and administrators. But they’ve maintained that flourishing status. One way they’ve done it is to have refocused their efforts to have regular progress discussions and reviews with their employees and to make sure that they’ve got good communication from the senior leadership all the way down to the front line and teachers working in the classrooms. So that’s been a great story.
Hey, Cary. Let’s wrap up the list with a couple more organizations.
Cary: Sure, Al.
You know, RightNow Media is a fascinating one to consider because it’s a name many of our listeners will know. And one of the most exciting things about RightNow Media is that they’re a technology company, and they have more than two-thirds of their workforce under the age of 40 and are amazingly engaged. Team, you can see in the energy around their table, when they receive their results, they’re committed to make sure that their team can bring the best of who they are to work every day.
And finally, we’re thrilled to have the privilege to work with several missionary-sending organizations. We’ve developed a unique survey for foreign missionaries because of their unique aspect of their role as missionaries. One of the great organizations that is certified again this year is East-West Ministries International. And finally, East-West demonstrates commitment from the very top, President Kurt Nelson, through his entire leadership team, and especially to H.R. lead, Jessica Garrett, as they took hold of their data early on and built commitment to dig into results each year and steadily build on progress both at the national office and out in the field. They’re committed to care for their missionaries and for each person who supports them. They’ve also been an open door to share their learnings out to other mission-sending organizations. What a great ambassador for healthy culture and a thrilling story of commitment.
Jay: Wow. Al, Cary, Giselle, thanks for the rundown of these 19 out of our 157 certified organizations in 2020. And I’d like to invite everyone listening to go to our website to see the complete list. That’s bcwinstitute.org.
Now, sometimes people ask, “Does everybody who completes the Survey with their employees become certified?” And the answer is definitely not. In fact, this year, 66 percent of the organizations we worked with were certified, and many of them were certified after working with us for a couple of years. So it can definitely take some time and a lot of effort. But today we want to honor these Christian organizations who are walking their talk, those who are setting the standard as the best, most-effective places to work in the world. In fact, we’d like each of you to join us as we look to have a 1,000 flourishing workplaces in the year 2030.
Al: Thanks, everybody. And I’d especially like to thank Jay Bransford, our president and chief operating officer of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, and our consultants and directors, Giselle Jenkins and Cary Humphries. Thank you for fulfilling the vision of the best Christian workplace, that Christian-led workplaces set the standard as the best, most-effective places to work in the world. And to each of you, thank you.
Jay: Thanks, Al.
Giselle: Thanks, Al.
Cary: Great to be with you all.
Outro: Thank you for joining us on the Flourishing Culture Podcast and for investing this time in your workplace culture. If there’s a specific insight, story, or action step you’ve enjoyed, please share it with others so they can benefit, too. Please share this podcast with friends on social media, and show your support by rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen.
This program is copyrighted by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. All rights reserved. Our writer is Mark Cutshall. Our social-media and marketing manager is Solape Osoba.
Remember, a healthy workplace culture drives greater impact and growth for your organization. We’ll see you again soon on the Flourishing Culture Podcast.