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What happens when employees bring their religion to the workplace?

A congregation’s beliefs about work attitudes and practices affect a churchgoer on the job — but how much depends in part on how involved that person is in the congregation, not merely on occasional attendance, according to a study by Baylor University sociologists funded by the National Science Foundation. The analysis of data — “Workplace-Bridging Religious Capital: Connecting Congregations to Work Outcomes” — is published online since April 11, 2014 in the journal Sociology of Religion.

Church-going is not enough to affect job satisfaction and commitment, Baylor study finds.
Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

“We already knew that about 60 percent of American adults are affiliated with congregations, but we wanted to delve into whether that carries over from weekend worship services to the work day,” said Jerry Z. Park, Ph.D., according to a June 20, 2014 news release, "Church-going is not enough to affect job satisfaction and commitment, Baylor study finds." Park is an associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “It turns out it does make some difference in their attitudes at work. That means it has a potential ‘payoff’ not only for employers, but for employees themselves.”

Do workers integrate their faith into their workplace?

Researchers asked a random sample of full-time employees if they attended a place of worship. And if so, they were then asked whether their congregation emphasized integrating their faith in the workplace through “sacrificial love” to their co-workers, sensing God’s presence at work among others.

What seemed to make the difference, researchers found, was frequent attendance at a church that stressed a merge of faith and work. Simply being at such a congregation – or just attending any church – did not result in greater work satisfaction or dedication.

Researchers’ analysis was based on the National Survey of Work, Entrepreneurship and Religion, a 2010 Web-based survey of 1,022 fulltime workers. Their findings concentrated on three areas:

• Job satisfaction: Full-time workers who regularly attend a congregation that emphasizes integrating their faith at work report higher job satisfaction.

• Job commitment: Full-time workers who regularly attend a congregation that emphasizes integrating their faith at work report higher commitment to their place of employment.

• Entrepreneurship: People who are actively involved in in congregations that promote integration of faith with work are more likely to describe themselves as entrepreneurial, Park said. However, attendance seems to impede entrepreneurship — perhaps because time and energy spent in entrepreneurial endeavors leaves less time for church attendance.

How attitudes about religion influence satisfaction in the workplace

How religion affects job satisfaction, commitment to one’s job and entrepreneurship was measured by researchers using a 15-item Congregational Faith at Work Scale, Park said. That scale includes such items as whether respondents sense God’s presence while they work, whether they view their work as having eternal significance, whether they view co-workers as being made in the image of God, whether they believe they should demonstrate “sacrificial love” toward co-workers and whether they believe God wants them to develop their abilities and talents at work.

Workplace attitudes such as job commitment also were evaluated by a variety of items that asked how much participants felt like “part of the family” at their organization, how efficiently they get proposed actions through “bureaucratic red tape” and whether they “went to bat” for good ideas of co-workers.

Is employment viewed as service to a higher power?

Max Weber, an early social theorist, argued that Protestants who lived strict, simple lives — such as the Calvinists of the 16th and 17th centuries — viewed their worldly employment as service to God, so religion added significance to labor. Success in business was viewed as confirmation of salvation.

“Religious participation is an active part of life for millions of Americans, and it is relevant in other domains,” the study concluded. Viewers might want to know what the definition of the word 'sacrifice' means to modern people. In ancient times the word brought fear to many in the days of human and/or animal sacrifice.

For others the word 'sacrifice' could mean giving up eating a certain food at a specific time or not eating that particular food at all. For others, sacrifice means something else than the prehistoric and ancient meaning of giving up your best and brightest to an imagined supernatural being or natural geographic structure, such as a volcano, which some ancients believed to be in control of existence, perhaps stemming from the days when the father of the household had to power of life and death over the children any any one else in that household.

Co-authors of the study were researchers Jenna Griebel Rogers, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Baylor; Mitchell J. Neubert, Ph.D., associate professor and holder of The Hazel and Harry Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business; and Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. Another noteworthy study is "Socioeconomic Status and Beliefs about God's Influence in Everyday Life."

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