Taking Faith into Account: How Organizational Culture shapes Faith-Based Ministries

 Ray Chung, Human Resources Professional at HOPE International

Ray Chung, Human Resources Professional at HOPE International

These articles are meant to strengthen the capacity of all faith-based organizations to live out their faith-based missions. If you are already a Sacred Sector participant, log into the Participant Portal to access the toolbox resources. If your organization is interested in becoming a Sacred Sector participant, click here.

When it comes to taking on comprehensive issues such as poverty, homelessness and human trafficking, it’s easy to choose one of three courses: emphasize the need for individual responsibility and ingenuity, rely on the saving power of government or give up hope of ever remedying such pandemic problems. We often fail to consider that in addition to individuals and government, there exists a civil society of schools, churches, businesses and faith-based organizations that can tap into both the innovative, personalized solutions developed locally and the financial/political influence of local, federal and state government. Faith-based organizations are particularly equipped to thrive as the connectors between local solutions and government impact.

Yet in order to produce successful solutions, faith-based organizations must evaluate how their sacred mission shapes their internal practices and policies. HOPE International is a Sacred Sector participant and faith-based organization whose global impact is rooted in its distinctly faith-based organizational culture. By consistently integrating its Christian identity throughout its organizational practices, HOPE International demonstrates how faith-based organizations can live our their sacred mission both internally and globally.  

Organizational Practices

HOPE International is a truly global organization, with established ministries or partnerships across Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. HOPE believes in a holistic approach to promoting human flourishing. Through its ministry, it provides saving services, loans, biblically based business training and discipleship for clients. HOPE employs two models for its work: savings group programs, which, in partnership with the local church, enable participants to collectively save their money so they can take out loans from the group later on, and microfinance institutions, which are financial institutions that empower men and women to provide for their families and invest in business by providing small loans and a safe place to save.

At the center of HOPE’s work is its sacred mission to “invest in the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities as we proclaim and live the Gospel.” This mission influences not only its external ministry, but also its internal practices.

To help faith-based organizations live out their sacred mission, Sacred Sector provides participants such as HOPE International access to resources such as the Nondiscrimination Laws Organizational Practice Toolbox. The toolbox says:

Think critically about how religious beliefs make a difference in your organization’s day-to-day operations. Additionally, ensure that conversations with staff about the organization’s faith-shaped values and practices extend beyond the initial onboarding process. The focus should be not on adopting policies to avoid lawsuits, but rather on creating clarity and consistency internally so that the FBO remains or becomes an authentic expression of its religious identity in the world.

HOPE International takes seriously its commitment to embodying its statement of faith in its internal practices. Ray Chung, Human Resources Professional at HOPE International, explained that HOPE considers faith throughout an employee’s life-cycle, beginning with staffing requirements. HOPE believes hiring Christians is essential to its mission: “If we bring in someone who is not a believer, how does that play out in an organization whose primary mission is to engage in impact in the name of Jesus?” asked Chung.

“We want people who are passionate disciple makers,” Chung continued. “We want people who are pastoral. This is our mission with clients. If the touchpoint between clients and the Gospel is staff members, those staff members need to share our key beliefs. [...] We are clear about the fact that we hire Christ-followers.”

At HOPE, every potential employee goes through a rigorous selection process, including an interview with HOPE’s President and CEO, Peter Greer. This ensures that new employees contribute to HOPE’s faith-based culture.

After being hired, employees experience onboarding. They are trained in technical skills and competency, but also become integrated into HOPE’s Christ-centered community. Following onboarding, employees undergo performance management. In this phase, HOPE makes sure employees receive continual feedback, are given new work opportunities and have a one-on-one annual review.

As a human resources professional, Chung is involved in cultivating, investing in and nurturing HOPE’s faith-based culture. He asks, “What does it mean to maintain a healthy, robust, Christ-centered culture that points people to Christ?” HOPE incorporates prayer into every phase of its work, and thoughtfully considers how its Christ-centered identity impacts its culture through its human resources practices in recruitment, compensation and training. All things considered, HOPE International exemplifies how faith-based organizations’ religious identity can shape all aspects of its organizational culture. To learn more about the organizational practices of faith-based organizations, see the Nondiscrimination Laws Organizational Practice Toolbox.

Conclusion

Faith-based organizations are important actors in civil society that are especially equipped to provide innovative solutions to deeply-embedded issues through government and local partnerships. Yet to effectively live out its sacred mission in its work and ministry, a faith-based organization must also carefully consider how its religious beliefs influence its internal practices. By taking its faith identity into account throughout the many aspects of its organizational culture, HOPE International shows how intentional internal operations produce a thriving ministry. As Chung said, “We believe that because of Christ’s loving sacrifice on the cross, we are called to pour out our lives and align our lives with the Gospel. This is the central organizing mission of HOPE International. We believe in the Holy Spirit’s guiding power in every aspect of our lives, including our vocational lives.”

If you are not a Sacred Sector participant and would like access to resources on public policy, organizational practices and public positioning for faith-based organizations, sign up to become a Sacred Sector participant here.

Kathryn Mae Post is an intern with the Center for Public Justice (CPJ). She contributes to two different initiatives at CPJ: Sacred Sector and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA). She is graduating from Calvin College in May of 2018 with a BA in both political science and English.