Why is work so frustrating? Does God care about my career? How can I find my calling?
These are just some of the questions Christians may ask when it comes to work.
Katherine Leary Alsdorf is the Founder of Redeemer Center for Faith & Work in New York City and she recently visited Sydney as the guest of the City to City conference.
Although she never set out to be a CEO, Katherine has been at the helm of a number of Silicone Valley high-tech companies. “I think the highlight was taking a company that was not functioning very well internally and trying to create an entirely new culture, where everyone’s gifts were being put to use and people were working well together and getting a lot of joy and pride creating a product that was really going to be of use to our customers.”
After she became a Christian, Katherine spent a long time trying to figure out what she should be doing distinctively as a Christian leader in the workplace. “In the beginning, I really just wanted to not do anything horribly embarrassing to God, so I worked on the little superficial things like my language. But over time, work was a crucible that shaped me, that drew me more to God. I think the challenges were often, “How do I love the people who work with me?”, especially when the pressure was on. At some point, I started the practice of just showing up about an hour earlier and walking from desk to desk and praying for each person, all 125 people in the company.”
Katherine has had some wonderful highs and some excruciating lows in her career, including incidents of extreme sexism in the 1970s, long periods of unemployment and having to lay off all her staff after the internet bubble burst. She knows the pitfalls of having too much of her sense of identity tied up with her work. Katherine admits that it was a big change going from the high-tech industry in Silicone Valley to working for a church.
Katherine has spent the last ten years at Redeemer Center for Faith and Work training other Christians to positively impact the culture of their workplaces. She’s excited that plans for a similar centre are underfoot for Sydney. “God wants us out there because he has a picture of what our society could be and should be that is so much more glorious than what we experience on a day to day basis.”
Katherine believes that the Christian view of work, to serve others, not ourselves, can actually lead to a much healthier, happier and productive workplace.
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Katherine Leary Alsdorf is the co-author, with Tim Keller of Every Good Endeavour: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. Visit Redeemer Center for Faith and Work website