Workplace Groups: Should People from Other Faiths be Part of your CWG?
This might seem to be a question with an obvious answer. Surely, only Christians should be a part of a CWG? But to see it this way is to ignore the whole purpose of Christ's mission. To get a better understanding of how your group should approach this discussion, a number of things will need to be considered.
What is the purpose of your CWG?
At TWUK we advocate that the purpose of a CWG is to benefit the organisation and to seek formal recognition as a staff group. For us, the two go hand-in-hand. Being a benefit to the organisation in whatever form that takes, allows us to demonstrate the love of God in everyday situations (God is not just for church on a Sunday or in our own quiet times – see Luke 10:25-37); and gaining formal recognition means that the group's activities are a legitimate part of the organisation.
Staff groups are only likely to gain recognition if they are 'open', i.e. accessible to all staff, irrespective of background, position or faith, which means you can't 'stop' someone from joining. More positively, it is important to encourage staff to come to CWG activities, not keep them out. TWUK does not therefore recommend that CWGs should expect members of the group to sign up to a statement of faith This may discourage those seeking to find out more about Jesus from coming along to meetings.
The group is however, a Christian Workplace Group, and therefore it is perfectly legitimate to expect leaders to demonstrate a Christian lifestyle, be active members of a local church, and to sign up to a code of belief that may include, for example, the Nicene Creed. Other members don't have to do this and of course their views can be heard, but all important decisions on what the group does and what it communicates must come from this leadership.
At what stage of development is the CWG?
If you are in the early stage of group development, then it's highly unlikely that you have received formal recognition. In this case, it's probably best to initially concentrate on inviting other Christians and to develop a focus on prayer and seeking God's will on how you will operate. But when you've done this and are ready to seek formal recognition, make sure your group is open to all, rather than becoming an exclusive 'club'.
How do you ensure that the CWG remains true to its aims and objectives?
It's worth remembering that the God we serve is all inclusive. He loves all the world, and he has sent us as disciples to everyone. A CWG that has non-believers has a great opportunity to witness that God loves them irrespective of what they may have done or believe.
To make sure the group doesn't lose its focus on serving God, it is important that you are clear about the aims and objectives of the CWG and how as Christians these objectives are met by Christians in their everyday living both outside and inside the workplace. This ethos can be reflected in the activities of the group, but in particular through regular prayer meetings. Our forthcoming booklet on ‘Starting a Christian Workplace Group’ contains a number of suggestions.
What about having members that practise other faiths?
It is interesting to note that Jesus accepted followers of all nations and beliefs. It was through his compassion, teaching and own example, that he drew followers into a relationship with Him. So how might that play out within a CWG?
In the first instance, it's unlikely that strong followers of other faiths would join a Christian group. If they do it's either because there is something about the group that intrigues them (the presence of the Holy Spirit), or because they want to evangelise its members. If it's the latter, then they are going to struggle as long as the group is strong in its beliefs and the reason why God wants the group to exist, clearly articulated through its aims and objectives..
So welcome people of other faiths, but remind them what the group stands for and the beliefs, aims and objectives, that members of the group automatically endorse by being a member of the group.
Should the CWG join the organisations multi-faith forum?
It's important that CWGs are always in a position to witness and demonstrate God's love to all. If the organisation insists on you joining a multi-faith forum to be heard, then what's the problem with that? A multi-faith forum is usually meant to be a platform for an organisation to provide an opportunity for employees to meet others from their particular faith backgrounds and for other employees within the organisation to learn about and explore faith within a safe environment. By joining the forum you are not accepting what others believe, simply recognising that beliefs and faith are important to the well-being of staff.
If you do join a forum, make sure you take part. Make sure you are gracious and courteous in responding to issues raised by people of other faiths. Be like the apostle Paul and try to understand why they believe. Then pray and act in ways that allow you to demonstrate the ever loving presence of our Heavenly Father.
Hopefully the above answers the question posed at the outset. Jesus never excluded anyone from any faith - and that is just as true today - so neither should we.
Remember that our God is powerful and will give us strength in every situation, in all that we do through the Holy Spirit. Let's be confident that God is able to work through all of us, including CWGs.
We would love to hear back from you any comments or experiences you have had on this subject.