The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a disruption to the global economy that will shape organizations for years to come. On the front lines, employees of essential organizations face uncertainty and fear as they work to deliver services and products to their customers. Employees of non-essential organizations work in isolation from home or face furloughs and the anxiety of unemployment. We all await the unknown end of the crisis.
Our goal as the Wheaton Center for Faith & Innovation is to participate in God’s redemption and restoration of a broken world. The COVID-19 crisis is a moment for action rather than despair. Light shines brighter in the midst of darkness, and in the face of fear and tribulation, love and peace become more radiant.
There is much to be done. Business leaders seek guidance on navigating investments, cash flows, HR, performance, and profitability (or lack thereof). Christian business leaders seek wisdom as they discern how to love their employees, serve their customers, and bear witness to Christ in these uncertain times.
CFI recently reached out to Christian business leaders with the following questions in mind:
- What are the current implications being felt by leaders within the CFI network?
- How are they navigating the disruption of the COVID-19 crisis to integrate faith and wisdom as they discern the way forward?
- What are prayers and concerns that are being felt by leaders around the world?
In our exploration of the Christian leaders’ responses, we discovered that the COVID-19 crisis presents an unprecedented opportunity for social innovation and cultural transformation. We are in the midst of a pivotal moment where the gospel of peace can be spread and positive innovations can emerge. As we examined the data, a central theme emerged again and again: love.
We also learned that senior leaders are innovating in dramatic ways to serve and meet the needs of their employees and customers. It is clear that even though some companies are furloughing employees and others are hiring, every organization has had to adjust its work in light of the changing situation.
Leaders discussed how their Christian faith guided them as they made changes to support employees and customers. Communication and prayer were themes that emerged across all of the conversations.
Leaders also noted the need to maintain both employee and customer trust throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Whether employees worked from home or the office, leaders reported taking more time for one- on-one check-ins. They actively increased focus on employees’ emotional well-being and many leaders reported praying for employees directly and indirectly.
Based on these emerging we realized that there is opportunity for Christians in business to drive processes that will transform and position organizations to address emerging needs among all stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and suppliers.
This process will reinforce long-term sustainability as such transformation addresses obstacles to strategy and execution. We believe this process, leading to transformation, starts with what we call spiritual engagement.
Spiritual Engagement encompasses behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and motivations for one’s practice of their faith.
Worship and Prayer
Meditation and Scripture
Research demonstrates that leaders with higher spiritual engagement are more often perceived to manifest both servant and authentic leadership. Spiritual engagement also enhances optimism and hope, which are essential attitudes for navigating crises.
The practices involved in spiritual engagement not only increase people’s love for God, but it also deepens their love for their “neighbors.” We define “neighbors” as all people, customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and all those in the direct and indirect reach of our companies.
As we renew our commitments to spiritual engagement, and pursue our work in love, we have new opportunities to innovate how we meet the needs of people within our sphere of influence.
As we examined the data, it was interesting that respondents talked a lot about Scripture and prayer but said little about fasting and rest or other spiritual practices. This absence signals both a problem and an opportunity. As our leaders continue to pray and meditate on Scripture, we recommend that they set aside time to fast, rest, connect, and give as well. These additional practices are essential to discovering the clarity, peace, and strength necessary to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
Christians who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ need to live in a manner worthy of that gospel. Jesus depicted this kind of life as being marked by the care of those in need. Christian leaders have a great opportunity in this season to be spiritually engaged as they innovate to meet the needs of the people entrusted to them to see the transformation that extends beyond COVID-19 recovery.
For more on this project see our COVID-19 resources page and check back next week for Part II of our COVID blog series.