Kelly Carr

Is Work Replacing the Church?

Kelly Carr
Is Work Replacing the Church?

by Laura Adkins

I am always ready for a new challenge. So, after working as an educator for over 10 years, I made a decision to teach myself to code and shift into a job in the corporate sector. I was feeling overworked, dissatisfied in some ways, and stagnated. Hearing my friends complain about their work in the corporate world, the issues all sounded similar. So I was curious to see if my experience would mirror theirs.

I started working at a tech company in Chicago about 10 months ago, and recently one of my friends, who is currently an educator, asked me about the biggest differences I’ve noticed. My immediate reply outlined not the differences but the similarities. People still complain about working hard and not being compensated for the amount of work they’re doing. I still notice turf wars, from “That’s something our group owns—don’t touch it!” to “We don’t own that, so it’s not our fault!” The attitude is the same, even though the content is different.

However, after a little more thought and analysis, the biggest difference seems to lie in the mission.

Finding Meaning in the Work

As an educator, the mission is multifaceted. In that role I felt responsible for leading learning of certain content, yes; but I also felt responsible for partnering with parents, coaches, administrators, and other community members in guiding and encouraging students to grow into responsible and productive members of society. This work is meaningful in and of itself.

The main goal in the corporate world is obvious as well, albeit perhaps a little less meaningful for most—increase profits, making the owners of the company more money. Some companies have products that make the lives of consumers easier in a variety of different ways, in which case employees can find some kind of meaning in the work itself as well.

The values sounded like many of the reasons
I love being a part of the Church.

That said, after starting my current role and even while interviewing for different roles at different companies, I noticed how important the companies’ values were during the interview process. For my current company, most of my final interview focused on ways in which I embodied or have demonstrated their core values in my previous positions. I was happy about this focus because I liked the company’s core values. I was excited about the company because I agreed with all of the values for which they advocate.

For those readers unfamiliar with the idea of core values, I can tell you that my company’s core values are extremely similar to those published by another large tech company, Linkedin.com. LinkedIn’s core values are as follows:

  • Members first
  • Relationships matter
  • Be open, honest, and constructive
  • Demand excellence
  • Take intelligent risks
  • Act like an owner

I recently heard a talk by one of the vice presidents at LinkedIn.com, and the way he discussed the core values of the company really surprised me. The shock came from the fact that, to me, his discourse sounded like many of the reasons that I love being a part of the Church. He talked about building community and cultivating a sense of belonging. He discussed having a diverse group of people all working together toward a common goal. Then he talked about the idea of LinkedIn’s employees feeling like they’re a part of something larger than themselves.

Now I do not have anything against LinkedIn.com. In fact I’ve heard that it’s a great place to work, and I know that I’ve used and will continue to use the tools they provide when job searching. I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with what he said. But, after hearing his talk, I began thinking about the growing disenfranchisement of young people with the Church, and I realized that this separation has presented companies with an incredible opportunity.

Filling a Void

When I was first hearing about people working in Silicon Valley at Google and Apple and other large companies, I would read articles about how some companies have laundry services and other conveniences for their employees; I thought about how nice it would be to have those services provided for me! Then a friend of mine made the observation that by providing meals, laundry, and social opportunities, really the employees never have any reason to leave. They will stay on the company’s campus and complete more work because the line between work and life will be so blurred that the employees will not need to—nor necessarily want to—leave.

With the importance of core values growing among companies, and after listening to the reasons that those values are important, I began to wonder whether these core values are trying to fill the void that many young people are missing from being part of a church community.

If we weren’t willing to do what it takes to be a winner, this company was not the place for us.

During my onboarding, the CEO and founder of my company told the story of the beginning and the growth of the company. At one moment, he looked at us and told us that everyone wants to be a winner, but not everyone wants to do the work that it takes to be a winner. “Look at Olympic athletes,” he continued. “When they are competing, they make it look so easy. But think of the years of training and competition they endure to reach that moment.” He ended this section of the talk by telling us that if we weren’t willing to do the work that it takes to be a winner, then this company was not the place for us.

I love my company. I find the work engaging, and I enjoy my colleagues. It can be intense at times, but I enjoy the fast pace, honestly. Yet after that meeting, I had a feeling of anxiety about remaining in my role. While I have no issue with working diligently and earning my compensation, I am not going to put my faith or my family behind my work. If I am going to die to myself, I’d like it to be for Christ—not my company.

Sometimes it’s easier to sacrifice my life for my work
than it is for the Lord.

One of my colleagues will be leaving the company soon because he can’t stand the “Kool-Aid culture” that he sees at the company. Truly I can see empathize with his position. The people who embody the core values and have “drunk the Kool-Aid” are the people who do well and advance at the company. It becomes a bit of a game, and it’s not surprising that the game either entirely engulfs a person or wears the person out. It’s difficult not to be engulfed when a person is surrounded by that culture at least 40 hours out of the week.

I am positive that if I were not part of a faith community, I would absolutely be one of the Kool-Aid people. It’s difficult enough for me not to get sucked into it, even though I know in my head and in my heart that my faith is way more important than my job and my company. Even though I believe in Christ and want to die to myself to be fully alive in Him, I still struggle with the things of this world that compete for my attention.

But I struggle with that fact because, actively, it’s easier to sacrifice my life for my work than it is for the Lord. I wonder—is it because the reward is more immediate? I am receiving good feedback from my manager. I earned a nice bonus. I am on track for a promotion in a few months. Whereas the work I am trying to do for the Kingdom of God often feels overlooked or just plain unnoticed. Even then, I am left with questions, “Is this thing that I’m doing even what God wants me to be doing?”

Desiring God’s Will

I pray a prayer written by Thomas Merton most mornings, and part of that prayer reflects this sentiment: “...and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.”

Thankfully the next line always lessens my anxiety: “But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” And where Merton wrote, “I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.” I sometimes substitute, “Teach me to do nothing apart from that desire.” Because I really do desire to follow God’s will for my life.

Yes, I want to do well at my job. And buying into the company’s culture and core values, at least to some degree, is a piece in that process; but ultimately I don’t want my hope to be in my career. I want to “boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2), because, as Paul continued, that hope will not disappoint us.

posted on April 20, 2018

 

Meet the Author:

Laura Adkins is an former educator turned technophile who currently works as an analyst at a software company. She is married to an awesome man named Terry, and they live in Chicago.

 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash