Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Hood-Check: Creating a Community of Caring in a Business as Mission

I was recently asked in a meeting of executives what was one thing I would recommend to a Christ-following business owner wanting to bring his or her faith more directly into the workplace.

Without hesitation, I immediately recommended what we call the “hood-check.”

This particular discussion was interesting because most of the participants came from the for-profit world and they were really struggling with how to appropriately increase the role of faith in their companies without alienating employees or running in violation of discrimination rules.

I have a slightly different perspective because our non-profit organization, Belay Enterprises, was specifically set up as an urban business as mission incubator. We actively combine faith and business as instruments in rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison. Sometime other business owners seem to think that this special perspective from our unique “DNA” makes our approach not immediately replicable in a tradition for-profit business.

I disagree. If you’re a Christian business-owner your business is your ministry. And the day-to-day interactions you have with employees, customers, vendors, and competitors is sometimes the best chance for people in our culture to experience Christ’s love in a society that has decided that church no longer provides relevant answers to life’s problems.

And this is where the practice of “hood-check” can be a simple yet effective way to help people discover God’s love and God’s desire for people to be in community with others.

At Bud’s Warehouse, we practice “hood-check” at least once a week during our morning meeting. It’s the one thing that keeps the many challenges facing individuals re-entering society from prison from negatively impacting our workplace. We just simply gather together. Our program director invites everyone around the table to share what’s going on in their individual life. Men and women simply answer the question, “How are you doing?”

At first, it’s sometime awkward for new individuals and they simply answer “fine” or “good” like most of the individuals gathered around the table. But very quickly new participants learn it’s a safe place to share. They start to look-forward to a time where people are actually interested in them. Men will tell of marriages that are struggling though bumpy times. Women will share about children that are ill. Others will celebrate something a family member recently did or simply share that they had a hard time sleeping the night before. But though it all, a community of caring is created.

And the empathy carries over into the rest of the day. We find that inter-personal conflict is diminished because co-workers are aware of each other as individuals. If someone shares that they had a fight with their spouse before coming into work, other co-workers are more understanding when that individual seems on edge throughout the day. Never underestimate the positive impact caring employees will have on relationships and the success of a business.

Finally, the hood-check opens up the opportunity for prayer. We close our time together praying about the individual issues shared around the table. Employees don’t have to participate but the large majority does. Even those who don’t believe in God find that they do like the idea of a God who cares for the struggles in their life. And over time God answers those prayers and becomes more visible to even the biggest skeptic. Then the power of the hood-check really shines through.

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