Chaplains Become Big Business

By Heckler-Feltz, Cheryl | National Catholic Reporter, August 13, 1993 | Go to article overview

Chaplains Become Big Business


Heckler-Feltz, Cheryl, National Catholic Reporter


NEW YORK -- In the annals of collective bargaining, chaplains have never ranked up there with salary increases and more vacation time. But now employees and their managers are increasingly seeing chaplains as a bottom-line benefit.

By increasing its force of industrial chaplains, corporate America is taking an unusual step to improve productivity among employees, according to several experts involved in training and supplying chaplains.

Chaplains are proving themselves extremely valuable in factories and office buildings, offering immediate counseling in the face of bad news, seeing employees through marital or family disputes and, in at least one case, disarming a worker who planned to shoot his line manager.

General Motors, Carolina Telephone and Telegraph and shipping company Allied Systems are three of more than 50 American corporations now employing full-time chaplains. In addition, the United Auto Workers Union now sponsors at least part-time chaplains in every plant where its members are employed, even where the corporation isn't paying for one. And hundreds of other companies use part-time or volunteer chaplains as well.

"It's been a gradual realization that the workplace absorbs an enormous amount of time for individual workers," said Jim Townsend, associate general secretary of the Division of Chaplains and Related Ministries of the United Methodist Church. "Going to see a chaplain during the day isn't possible, and companies are seeing the value of having one on site."

"In the workplace, our greatest service t6 employees is to be available -- right now," said Rev. Rodney Brown, a United Methodist minister who is director of employment counseling at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., in Winston-Salem, N.C. In 1949 the company created what is now the nation's oldest full-time workplace ministry.

Brown said the greatest stresses hitting employees are family issues, followed by alcohol and drug addiction. Number three is job security related to layoffs and corporate takeovers. "It was ranked seventh in 1967, when I first joined the company," he said.

Chaplains representing all major denominations have traditionally served in the U. …

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