Many of the best workplaces are taking efforts to promote the health of their employees. There are numerous reasons for them to do so:
1) Their staff will be more productive if they are healthy and fit;
2) Insurance will be less expensive to provide for a healthier workforce; and
3) Health incentives attract the best and brightest to apply for open positions.
All of these motivations for encouraging health hold true at Christian workplaces as well. But leaders of Christian workplaces have the added incentive of honoring God in the way they lead their staff. For a Christian manager, the staff under their authority are more than just means to an end, but individuals created in the image of God with eternal souls. As such, employees should be lead in such a way that they can both reach their utmost professionally, but also be wise stewards of their bodies, marriages, and other responsibilities. The Best Christian Workplaces vision is that Christian workplaces should set the standard as the best, most effective places to work in the world. The best place to work is not one that is a detriment to one’s health, but one where you can intellectually, spiritually, and physically flourish.
We asked a few Christian leaders about what they do to promote health at their workplaces and this is what we learned.
Bill White, Ph.D., is Director of Ministry Outreach for Christian Care Ministry and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to healthy living and how it relates to our faith. He laid out a number of reasons we should care about taking care of our bodies. First we should be good stewards of all God made – including our bodies. Secondly if we are healthy we can serve him more effectively. Thirdly, the money we save on healthcare bills can be applied to Kingdom building. Fourthly, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And lastly, we are not our own, we have been bought at a price.
Bill explained that God’s word is our best source to discover how to most aptly care for ourselves. This is because God’s word is a perfect expression of His self-consistent nature. None of His laws are arbitrary. So, the law corresponds perfectly to how we are made – in His image. We need to realize that when we violate His laws, we are not only violating God, but also ourselves. For example God said it is not good for us to be alone and research has shown that we are 2 ½ times as likely to die when isolated, not to mention that quality of life diminishes.
With this biblical view of our person, health is a function of many things: fitness, nutrition, sleep, avoiding toxins. But it also includes knowing God intimately, fellowship with friends, vocation, re-creative expression, rest, closure and core beliefs.
In the secular world there is a fatalistic quality to gene research as people are viewed as victims to their genetic makeup. For Christians, however, we acknowledge that God is sovereign and that we are culpable for our actions. Bill reminded me that our choices are the primary determinant of our health, not our genes or age.
One thing that really got my attention was that at Christian Care Ministries they strive for a disability free life expectancy. In this era of modern medicine that is a radically different paradigm than most of us have. Some of the services they provide for their staff include blood draws and health competitions with monetary rewards. In order to really encourage everyone to participate, even and especially those who weren’t in shape to begin with, they looked at improvement of body mass index. 76 or their 115 employees participated and they paid out over $18,000! Bill acknowledges that it takes time to change a culture and so they have an ongoing coaching program with 8-9 people involved at any given time.
Another Christian organization that has been proactive in inculcating a healthy workforce is Samaritans International. Their health initiate developed primarily out of an understanding that we are called to be good stewards of our bodies. They saw that in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we are called to honor God with our body and so they wanted their employees to be healthier. Further, the nature of their ministry (healthcare) benefits from having members who take care of themselves, and, Justin Easley, head of Human Resources, explained that since each of their full-time employees are members, their ministry’s members directly benefit from their employees taking care of themselves.
Not everyone at Samaritans International has taken advantage of the benefits, but they knew that going in. The success of the program, however, has been proven as more and more people are jumping on board each year.
Justin’s advice for other Christian organizations considering starting a similar program for their employees is, “Any Christian business/ministry should consider a Wellness benefit. Again, we are called to honor God with our bodies and for a minimal price, we can encourage our staff to this end. And, in terms of productivity, healthy employees have fewer absences and tend to have more energy.”