The Article: The Rise of the Corporate Chaplain
The Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
The Author: Mark Oppenheimer
The Gist: Chaplaincy agencies such as Marketplace Chaplains USA, are driving the growth of pastoral counseling in businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Workplace chaplains like Bissell can be found at more than 1,000 companies in the U.S. and Canada. These chaplains are a rising regiment of corporate America's human-resources army, as employers have found that a pastoral touch is often more appealing to workers than an impersonal hotline of the sort included in many benefits packages. A 2008 study by the Families and Work Institute found that more than 97 percent of companies with payrolls larger than 5,000 offer employee assistance programs, with anonymous counseling and referrals available by phone. Yet employees are "dramatically" more likely to use workplace chaplains than standard mental-health benefits, according to preliminary results from an ongoing study by David Miller and Faith Ngunjiri of Princeton University's Faith & Work Initiative. At least half of 1,000 employees surveyed have used the services of a workplace chaplain---far more than those who use standard assistance programs.
The Bottom Line: Oppenheimer deserves praise for bringing attention to an oft-overlooked pastoral vocation. Yet despite the article's many virtues, it puts too much focus on themes of lesser importance. For example, Oppenheimer gives inordinate attention to potential conflicts of interest ("The bosses hire chaplains to make employees feel better, but what if an employee is underpaid or overworked? What would Jesus do?") considering that no one he interviews seems to think it's a problem. A more interesting area for exploration would have have been whether having chaplains around affects a company's ethical climate. Despite these drawbacks, the article is worth consideration. And in an age when religion is expected to be kept out of the public square, it's encouraging to read about how some companies are welcoming pastors into workplace.