God on the job: Church attendance affects attitudes in the workplace

But only if the person is a frequent attender, a study finds.

By Terry Goodrich

A congregation’s beliefs about work attitudes and practices affect a churchgoer’s job satisfaction — but how much depends in part on whether that person is a frequent attender, not merely an occasional participant.

That finding is included in a recent study by Baylor University sociologists funded by the National Science Foundation.

Researchers asked a random sample of full-time employees if they attended a place of worship, and if so, 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.

The analysis of data — “Workplace-Bridging Religious Capital: Connecting Congregations to Work Outcomes” — is published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

Drilling down

“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, associate professor of sociology at Baylor. “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.”

Researchers’ analysis was based on the National Survey of Work, Entrepreneurship and Religion, a 2010 Web-based survey of 1,022 full-time 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 congregations that promote integration of faith with work are more likely to describe themselves as entrepreneurial. However, attendance seems to impede entrepreneurship — perhaps because time and energy spent in entrepreneurial endeavors leaves less time for church attendance.

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.

“Religious participation is an active part of life for millions of Americans, and it is relevant in other domains,” the study concluded.

Co-authors were Baylor researchers Jenna Griebel Rogers, a doctoral candidate in sociology; Mitchell J. Neubert, an associate professor who holds the Hazel and Harry Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business; and Kevin D. Dougherty, associate professor of sociology.