Resources to help grow a worker-friendly church
Where do the people in your church engage with the world each day? Where has God placed them to be salt and light? Many go to work, where there’s lots of oppo...
Different kinds of church have different forms of service, but most contain common elements: some form of welcome, confession, sung worship, preaching, and prayers, for example.
This article is full of suggestions you can use to run a Sunday service around the theme of work. Have a read through and think about what could work in your church – whether you want to weave work into every section of the service, or just a couple of key moments.
All these ideas could work for a standalone service – but the best thing is to keep returning to this issue regularly. After all, work is always part of many people’s lives – and a key place for them to live out their calling as disciples of Jesus.
A week or so before the service, you might like to gather some information about where the congregation spends their time outside of the church context, to help you tailor what you’re doing to the people in your particular congregation.
Perhaps you could ask your small group leaders to pose some questions to their members: where do they see their ‘frontline’ – the place where they engage with the world? What are their occupations? What are their opportunities to serve Jesus at work? What are the pressure points?
Worshipping on a Sunday draws the body of Christ back together after a week scattered in the various places in which we work: paid or unpaid, at home or in the office, wherever we shape God’s world on his behalf.
People will have come from a wide range of different places. It’s good at this point to mention a few and perhaps some of the challenges they face. Try to keep the definition of work broad to include as many people as possible: people engaged in office or manual work, in education and health, in business and in public service; and also those who are working at home running a household, bringing up children, and caring for others.
Our worship together reminds us of who God is, of his amazing story of salvation and of our part in that – our purpose in God as we go about daily life and work.
If you normally have a time of confession and forgiveness, try relating it to working life by using workplace examples in your introduction: ‘Lord, we bring our relationships to you at home, at work, at school…’
If you don’t normally have a formal time of confession, perhaps you could use the Lord’s Prayer at this point and pause at ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. Again, this can be connected to daily life and work with examples: for instance, someone may have resented the amount of work they had to get through this week, so here is an opportunity to forgive their manager.
The Lord’s Prayer can also be used as a guided reflection around work. You can find tips on how to use it as such here:
A line-by-line look at how to use the Lord’s Prayer to pray for the workplaceDownload
Wherever it comes in the service, many churches highlight some important parts of church life on a Sunday morning, sometimes interviewing someone who is considered to be doing something significant (like going overseas on mission, for example). This is a great opportunity to endorse the value of all our work in God’s eyes, by holding a short interview with a regular working person.
A simple but effective way to do this is simply asking what they will be doing ‘this time tomorrow’ (i.e. on Monday morning), how they see God working through them there, and then praying for them. Find out more about running a ‘This Time Tomorrow’ slot.
There are two words that are often used to describe worship in the New Testament: surrender and service. On a Sunday, we surrender in worship to the Lord of all, and during the week we serve him in our work. Both are worship, but many people don’t make the link as they sing well known songs and hymns on a Sunday morning. So, it’s good to help people connect to working life in the way we lead sung worship. Certain songs, like Tim Hughes’ ‘Everything’ or the great hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’ have a clear link to the everyday. You can download a list of similar songs and hymns below.
Simply introducing any song in a way that’s relevant to daily life is also encouraging. For example, those who feel compromised in some way by what’s happened during the week may find a song such as ‘Purify My Heart’ or the hymn ‘Just As I Am’ helpful in the process of cleansing if guided to do so by the meeting or worship leader.
Ideas of songs that connect our gathered worship to everyday lifeDownload
It’s not vital to pick a passage of scripture that obviously relates to work. Indeed, all of scripture speaks to our lives (and so to our work) in some way, and some churches will follow a set pattern of readings. But if you have the freedom to choose, the following passages easily relate to the workplace.
Daniel 1 & 2: Old Testament narrative describing the story of someone who lives faithfully to God with integrity in a pagan society.
Psalm 18: Wisdom literature reflecting the faithfulness of God to David as he goes about his daily work (albeit as a soldier and a King!).
Ruth 2: An account of Boaz, owner of a family business, who creates a godly workplace culture in the midst of severe national depravity in the time of the Judges, and of Ruth, a refugee who has to engage in gleaning work to survive and does so with dignity.
Ecclesiastes 2:17-26: A passage recognising the frustration and futility of work in a fallen world when not done to please God, but for selfish reward.
John 15: For those looking to be fruitful for God in their work, Jesus’ instruction about abiding in him as the new living vine – an opportunity to explore how we connect to God in and through our working day.
Colossians 3: A passage in one of Paul’s letters that covers individual holiness, family and household life and work, underlining that whatever we do (even if it is not our dream job) we can do it wholeheartedly and to the Lord.
Remembering Christ’s work on the cross is at the heart of our worship as we gather, yet this corporate act of remembrance can sometimes feel far removed from our daily lives. It’s worth highlighting from time to time that the work of the cross is effective in reconciling all things to God (Colossians 1:20), bringing peace to all things: both individuals and God’s wider creation. Our daily work is one way in which we can participate in that reconciliation as God’s people.
Jesus chose some everyday things to represent his work on the cross: bread and wine – both products of the work of our hands, forever now an intrinsic part of our corporate worship.
Many people feel under pressure at work. It’s good to pray for God’s help in times of stress or threat of redundancy. Alongside these pressures, though, there is also the purpose for which God has placed us where he has at work, and this is an opportunity to affirm and pray ‘Thy Kingdom come’ in and through working people to their colleagues and their workplaces.
It’s helpful to ask working people to lead these prayers and perhaps to refer to some of the specific issues and opportunities that emerge from asking the congregation about their occupations, pressures and purpose.
It’s also an opportunity perhaps to pray for those with a new job, or a significant challenge, recently made redundant, or approaching retirement.
You can find some ideas and opportunities for prayer here:
Tips for praying with work in mindDownload
In many traditions, the service ends with a form of sending out. This is a great opportunity to remind people of where they are being sent to – their workplaces, which are their places of mission as they work alongside many who need to hear of God’s love and in places that desperately need godly values and biblical workplace wisdom.
We might use a form of words like ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’, but this can become very familiar and lose its meaning. It’s good simply to remind people that they are being sent beyond the post-service cup of coffee or Sunday lunch back into the world as God’s people to serve him wherever he has placed them.