Finding the ministry-business balance Print
Written by Heather Adams   
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 03:46 PM America/New_York

How to keep both prayer and productivity top of mind

Heather Adams

Coming from a corporate human resources background, productivity was the name of the game. But when I first came to Christian retail, I quickly realized I was going to have to become comfortable operating under a whole new set of rules. The day I initially inquired about buying the store, one of the employees—a regular line employee—took me on a personally guided tour of the entire facility and then stood and prayed with me before I left. I knew I was in a different world—and I craved that.

We still have to hit payroll. We have to pay the rent. And we have dozens of vendors to pay every day. However, there is a more significant calling than making the bills and trying to turn a profit. This is our mission field as much as (if not more than) it is our career. For those whom God called to own and manage a Christian retail store, that is a given, but what about for your employees?

It is critical for your employees to know that they have the freedom to do what needs to be done spiritually for that customer at that moment, even if it puts you “behind” in whatever your plan may have been for the day (Prov. 16:3). Some may say we do this for the benefit that it brings of having a lasting customer. But if you’ve ever done this with someone, you know that sometimes, that is the only reason they came in, and they may never buy anything from you. That’s not why we do it. We are in this for the long haul. The eternal rewards of being able to bring someone to Christ, to help them see God’s love through a difficult time or to show them how to not be afraid of asking questions about the Bible are far greater than any reward we could receive here on earth.

But since some things do have to get done in a timely fashion, how do we balance the spiritual needs of the customers against our surmounting stack of tasks?

1. Establish ground rules upon hiring. Let prospective employees know in the interview that “this is what we do.” Chances are, if they know who they are applying with, this might have even been one of the draws for them to apply. Let them know that they are not required to stop and pray with customers. If they enter a topic that is over their head or beyond their feeling of comfort, let them know to excuse themselves and get someone else to help. But if the Spirit stirs within them and they feel the tugging to pray with the customer or just stand and talk about things for a while, we allow them the freedom to do that. Upon hire, allow him/her to shadow one of your seasoned employees to see “how we do it” so the conversation does not go on too long.

2. Give regular praise and feedback. When you see someone stop to work with a customer and it seems to be taking longer than it normally would, walk by and observe. What are they talking about? Does your employee need a “rescue”? Are they really just chatting for way too long and need to move it along? You won’t know if you don’t observe. Also recognize how quickly they get back to their regular tasks each day as well.

3. Offer correction as needed. When you do have an employee who is giving advice or is simply chatting rather than listening and praying, or maybe they’re “off the mark,” take the time in private to correct them. Be specific so they do not repeat the issue just as you would do with any other part of their job.

4. Set clear expectations regularly. Expectations of what needs to be accomplished should be presented at the beginning of the day or shift. Often, when your staff realizes what pressing things need to be achieved that day, they will do less chatting and learn to listen better to get to the heart of what the issue is, and move into prayer as needed with customers in a more timely fashion.

5. Pray with customers thoroughly, yet succinctly. Talk about the different ways to do this. Before a frontliner goes out on the sales floor, discuss with the employee that it’s important to always stick to Scripture, be mindful of sensitive topics and pray with more than one person if the customer is of the opposite gender. Just like you wouldn’t want someone trying to sell a Bible who has never been trained to your standards, you would not want an employee on your sales floor praying with a customer if you haven’t “quality checked” them!

What a blessed job we have! We get to share God’s love with the sick, the hurting and the seeking every day. Use every opportunity you can to bring people closer to God, even if it throws off the plan for the day. Remember, His ways are higher than our ways, and He can move mountains to help those who are faithful to His will. Take the time to do what He is asking you to do, and the rest will still get done—it is amazing to see!

Heather Adams is the owner of The Greatest Gift and Scripture Supply. The store has served the Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico area for more than 65 years.