In April 2013, my dad retired after 44 years with his company.
Dad’s team hosted a retirement reception for him and Mom had spent months planning his retirement party for that weekend. Friends and family gathered to celebrate this wonderful man.
My brother and I attended the company reception with Mom, who wore an emerald green dress, one of Dad’s favorites. Never, not once, has Dad thought a single woman in the room was prettier than my mom. That day, he glowed with pride for her and she glowed with pride for him.
Lots of Dad’s co-workers over his career spoke about him, telling stories and maybe some tall tales and lots about Dad’s love of Auburn. Some stories were from his early days and some more recent but each person speaking grinned ear to ear talking about my dad. It was a delight to witness.
There were a few of Dad’s co-workers our family knew well because we had all attended the same church. I suspect that’s the reason I remember their comments more than any of the others.
One of those family friends and co-workers spoke of his relationship with Dad both in the office and at church this way…
“He is the same man in the conference room at work as he is in the Sunday School room at church.”
And I cried.
The Ministry of Candy Bars…
Dad’s greatest achievement in his career was his development and implementation of “Target Zero,” a program promoting worksite safety. The idea was born at a safety committee meeting, of which Dad was the committee chair. An employee mentioned he didn’t understand why the goal was five or less onsite accidents when they really should be shooting for none. Dad agreed.
And so Dad became known as the Father of Target Zero.
At his retirement reception, Dad said he believed every wife or husband or brother or daughter should send their loved one off to work with the expectation they would return home safely after their shift. That was his reason for championing the idea and developing the program that began with a Zero candy bar as a reward for no accidents.
Dad said, “It’s amazing what people will do for a simple reward.”
The program started in the areas where Dad had influence and grew from there. Eventually, the program was adopted by the entire corporation.
According to a recent company article about the program, it has reduced work-related accidents by a third each year. In a company currently employing over 32,000 people across multiple states, that’s…well, that’s math and I am horrible at math but…a whole ton of (actual unit of measure) of people saved from harm in an onsite accident.
Dad cared so much about the people who worked at his company, about their safety, about going home alive and well, he created a program that changed corporate policy.
Until that day, the day of his retirement celebration, I never understood how my Dad had taken his devotion to Jesus, his belief in a God who loved us sacrificially and a Savior who willingly became the sacrifice, and developed a life-saving company program.
I was so proud. Still am.
And when my dad meets his Father in Heaven someday, he will be greeted with arms wide open as God says to him, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I just hope heaven has some sort of DVR system set up so we can rewind that moment for all of us to see when we get there.
The Job Description for Ministry…
As you’re reading through all of that, maybe you’re thinking, that’ll never be me. I would never be able to change corporate policy.
You might be able to change someone’s day though.
God tells us we are all made in His image, teaching us again and again and again to love God and love others. Love your neighbors, love your enemies, love your husband, your wife, your children. Love the people who are a different race than you. Love the people who cannot return the love. Love the widow and the orphan. Love them in service, by honoring them above yourself, and as an act of worship to our Savior.
“Feed my lambs…Shepherd my sheep…Feed my sheep.”
That’s our job description.
Love. Feed. Love. Shepherd. Love. Feed.
There’s nothing in there about being an influencer or having the right title or a degree requirement. You don’t need a platform or a front parking spot with your name on it or an expense account. Jesus didn’t even make any stipulations about financial security or an amount of free time or being on the right floor.
The people God used in scripture to build His Kingdom were just a bunch of people in a big ole mess.
A prostitute, a foreign widow, an orphan hiding her true identity, an overlooked wife of a traitor.
So if our position, our background, our office size don’t matter, then we have to decide if we are willing to take the job.
Are we willing to love people, offer them the bread of life, honor them above ourselves?
Are you willing to be the same person sitting in the office as you are sitting in a pew?
The Gratitude for the Ministry…
I am grateful to have had my dad as an example of how a job and a ministry are one in the same.
Even though it took me years to fully understand it.
I can look back now at the crew family picnics, the stacks of gift cards for Christmas, the years of traveling he did for training events and see how much he cared for the people he worked with in word and deed. I’m certain he wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but he allowed his life, his job, to be used as a ministry for the Kingdom.
Just what a good and faithful servant would do.
But even if you don’t have someone in your life or have never had someone in your life to lead you by example, we have scripture. God gave us His instruction book. He gave us story after story after story of people living their own every day, walking around, ordinary life and how He used them to help build His Kingdom.
Are you willing to allow God to use your job as His ministry?