Last week I was in Houston visiting some of our ministry partners. The highlight of the trip was a visit I took to Southwest Electrical Energy Group, a company that gives much of its profits away to non-profits like Campus Renewal Ministries (CRM).
Last year they gave a sizable matching gift to CRM’s work at the University of Texas. This year they increased their matching gift!
I enjoyed my opportunity to visit their workplace, speak to their employees about CRM, and see how God is at work in and through the executives and employees. It was a perfect example of business as mission.
I always tell missional community leaders that if they can live on mission in their dorm, their classes, and their clubs on campus then they will naturally do the same wherever they live, work, or play after college. I witnessed this firsthand as I spent time with the folks at Southwest Electrical Energy Group and their CEO, a UT grad.
At 9:30 AM an announcement rang through the halls, “Attention employees: It is now time for our monthly celebration and breakfast. Please join us in the warehouse.” The meeting was opened with a simple prayer. Then there was a brief company update and celebration with applause on how the company had grown in the previous month. Those who had birthdays and anniversaries that month we called forward and acknowledged, and then they gave an “employee of the month” award.
Finally, I was introduced as a one of the many non-profits their company supports and was given ten minutes to tell about the nature of our ministry and to thank them for their contributions to our work. They asked me to pray for their company and to thank God for the breakfast they were about to eat, and then we shared a meal together.
What an environment! They cultivated community by celebrating success, honoring hard workers and long marriages, sharing a meal, and being reminded that part of their hard work goes to support non-profits like ours.
I was a little nervous, wondering how those who are not Christian would feel about the prayers and my sharing about campus ministry. As I spent time with them, however, it became apparent to me that everyone is cared for an respected, no matter their beliefs. Not all of the non-profits they support are Christian. They realize that the owners of the company are Christian and like to tithe their profits to other organizations, but no one feels discriminated against.
The company formed a foundation called Good News Outreach. Their board is filled by employees who rotate on and off the board every few years. The board is entrusted with the responsibility of distributing a portion of the companies profits to worthy organizations. Part of the way the CEO of the company makes his marketplace a mission is by giving generously and by allowing his employees to be part of it by finding organizations they believe are making a difference in the world.
I noticed on the company’s website that they have over $17 million in sales annually! What a responsibility the board has to distribute some of its profits to others. Everyone in the company is aware that this is a major part of their company’s vision. There is a tangible sense that they are working to benefit others and best of all, the employees are invited into the process of finding groups worthy of their generosity.
Marketplace as Missions
The best part of my day was meeting one of the employees after my short presentation. He was a younger guy, and said he was about to go back to college and would like to work with CRM to get something going on his campus.
I asked him about his faith background. He said he just became a believer and was baptized three months ago. I asked him more about his story, and he said it was an older coworker in the company who ministered to him for months and led him to faith in Jesus. He spoke so highly of this coworker, saying he deeply admired his life, his faith, and the way he treated him.
It was so easy for me to say, “Remember when I talked about missional communities at UT? This is exactly what we’re teaching students to do. We want them to learn to be missionaries on campus so they can come work for a place like this and meet a coworker like you. The friend who led you to Jesus is exactly the type of guy God wants to make you here at this company and on your campus when you go back to school.”
We talk about this stuff on campus all the time. It was a joy to see it outside of the campus setting in such a remarkable way.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.