Contract Chaplains Aid Employee Productivity; Spiritual Counselors Add a Religious Elementto Assistance Programs,but at Workers' Request

Article excerpt


The Rev. Gerald Rodgers got the call in the middle of the night. It was Kitty Hayden, the normally energetic receptionist who greeted him most days as he arrived at work.

Mrs. Hayden needed comfort because her mother was terminally ill and afraid, so the receptionist asked for Mr. Rodgers by name. He is a contract chaplain hired by her employer, McLane Cos. in Falmouth, Va.

"They lived 45 minutes away," Mr. Rodgers said, recalling the evening last year, "but I got dressed in the middle of the night and went over to spend some time with Kitty's mom."

These days, he is always sure to ask Mrs. Hayden how she is doing; her mother died shortly after his visit."Every day he's here, I talk to him," Mrs. Hayden said. "He's such a comfort."

Mr. Rodgers is part of a growing network of chaplains who are contracted out to companies seeking to add a religious component to their employee assistance programs, or EAPs.

Mr. Rodgers, who also works as the minister of a Protestant church in Fredericksburg, is employed by Marketplace Ministries, a Dallas company with more than 1,300 chaplains nationwide.

He oversees four other chaplains there.

These chaplains offer spiritually based counseling and guidance to workers dealing with everything from divorce and depression to illness or death.

Mr. Rodgers works at McLane three days a week and serves other corporate clients the rest of the week.

He declined to say how much he is paid.

Marketplace Ministries spokes-man Art Stricklin said the average chaplain earns between $12 and $20 per hour.

Mr. Rodgers is a ubiquitous presence at McLane, making the rounds through the warehouses and chatting with many of the 700 workers.

"The neat thing about what we do is that we get to build relationships with people before they have a crisis," said Mr. Rodgers, a soft-spoken Kentucky native who has worked at McLane since 1994. "Everyone who has worked here for a length of time knows us."

Mr. Rodgers and other corporate chaplains said they believe the workplace is a good place to counsel people, many of whom do not have close relationships with a pastor. These chaplains, however, walk a fine line, ministering to workers while trying to avoid offending an employee's spiritual sensibilities or breaking religious harassment laws.

Employers including McLane said they believe chaplaincy - providing workers with spiritual guidance and limiting their stress - makes them more productive. …