As a businesswoman and theologian, who did not choose ordained ministry in the German Protestant State Church, I struggled with a sense of guilt for many years.
Had I made the right choice moving into the business world instead of pursuing full-time ministry?
Could my “secular” job be equally a “calling” from God?
Or was that privilege strictly reserved for clerical or helping professions, such as missionaries, doctors and nurses?
Since 2000, I have worked for Deutsche Telekom GmbH’s ICT-branch T-Systems International in Bonn, Germany. Deutsche Telekom GmbH is a global market leader for Internet and communication technology. We have subsidiaries in 52 countries, including the United States (T-Mobile). I currently serve as Sales Support in the Public Sector customer segment. Our team works for the European Union, the European Aviation and Safety Agency, and the European Central Bank.
I was no longer content with this faith-work split and somewhat “schizophrenic” life-style with two different sets of ethics, one for Sundays and the other one for workdays. Nor, do I believe in leaving work to meet God.
Yet, how was I to blend my work with my faith?
After some research, I discovered Dr. David Miller’s model, the Integration Box, and his Faith@Work Initiative at Princeton. Using his and my findings, I developed strategies for implementing my Christian faith meaningfully at Deutsche Telekom.
Since 2005, I have served on a voluntary basis as a non-ordained Industrial Chaplain for Christians@Telekom. Deutsche Telekom is the co-founder of the German Diversity Charta. Hence, our employees come from various educational and professional backgrounds. I, myself, have served in the business world for 20 years and been a student of theology for 30.
This unique background made me a prime candidate to become an ambassador for “Religion/Ethnicity.” Other colleagues voluntarily cover the remaining Diversity Policy subjects, such as “Gender and Age,” “Sexual Orientation” and “Disability.” We now have about six internal networks that became official employee networks in 2011. All are accessible via our Telekom Social Network (TSN).
After work, Bonn’s core team of Christians@Telekom meets bi-weekly in our Corporate Headquarters. We offer contextualized Bible studies that interpret God’s word for everyday life in worker-friendly language. In addition, we pray for employees and management, invite guest speakers to share a biblical, work-life focused message, and counsel colleagues who prefer a spiritual advisor.
Past speakers include German Christians from various lay movements in Germany, including The Protestant and Catholic Entrepreneur’s Association, Christian Mail and Telekom Association and the Christian Police Association. Recently, the Protestant Military Chaplain shared his Faith@Work experience in Afghanistan, and we hope to welcome his Catholic counterpart in the Fall.
Now, Christians@Telekom has more than 45 people on our email list, with our click rate being more than 100 in our TSN. I am amazed by this response to a Christian network in a secular environment.
My bosses have always encouraged my voluntary commitment to the company, and the network has gained visibility outside of Deutsche Telekom. I just completed my fourth speaking engagement on the integration of Faith@Work.
My vision is that this ministry expands to become part of a German institution similar to “Corporate Chaplains of America” in the United States. I believe that workplace chaplains have a future here and will become increasingly important in our multi-cultural and multi-religious society. We all can contribute to the general well-being of a growing workforce which seeks wholeness and fulfilment in their job with a sense of meaning (calling) and teleological purpose (work as worship).
Andrea Baare connects her faith with the marketplace daily and shares what she wished she had known in the beginning.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
- If not from a ministry background, or from a pastor’s home, I strongly advise to pursue internships early on to have a clear idea what is expected of someone in full-time ministry. Theological education is intensely academic in Germany. Starting internships after six to seven years of mere academia can sometimes lead to a cruel awakening in the actual parish ministry. Being involved early on in pastoral responsibilities helps to define, if one is suited for this office.
- I consider it a great privilege that the American seminaries I attended offer spiritual guidance, academic advising, and mentoring by senior students/professors. I would strongly recommend taking advantage of such opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. This prepares us better for our professional roles, helps us to mature and deal with weaknesses, in order to serve as, hopefully, healthier persons. We carry a big responsibility as God’s ambassadors and cannot fill this role adequately, if we limit ourselves to completing studies quickly and with the highest possible GPA.
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