At my job, I have a coworker obsessed with The Office. It’s her favorite show.
She’s watching the series from beginning to end for the first time. Of this, I’m really jealous. Each day, she arrives and shares what new episode she watched the night before and who her new favorite characters are week to week as if it’s 2010 and NBC comedy is still in its prime.
I’m thankful for her because three years after its season finale aired, it’s reminded me what a gold mine it is. Between Pam and Jim’s legendary relationship and Dwight’s pranks, the show is timeless.
One character in particular always stood out: the puritanical, judgmental cat lady Angela.
Over the years, Angela became one of my favorites because of her character development over the series from to a mean prude to someone you felt sorry for once you realized she couldn’t even live up to her own standard of perfection.
In this way, Angela also encompassed TV’s favorite resident Christian stereotype, high-neck sweaters and all.
This stereotype, revisited time and time again by characters like Angela, begs the question, can you be the resident Christian in your office without being a jerk? Probably, but here are a few guidelines to follow to keep your chill as a Christian and not be seen as the token weirdo.
I’ve participated in many small groups where we turn to prayer requests toward the end and “help with reaching my coworkers” is often a request shared with anxiety. It’s a well-meaning request and God calls us to seize every opportunity he puts before us for ministry or sharing the reason for your hope but the subtext with these prayer requests is often, “I work among heathens. How do I stand it?”
A lot of people dream of being able to pray with their boss about a task or romanticize the idea of going into ministry or missions because they assume the work would be easier among believers. If you ask any pastor who has been on the job for more than a couple of months or a missionary, you will quickly learn that that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
People are people.
We all inherently want to be heard, understood and valued. We all need the grace of God. And we all just want to provide for ourselves and our families.
With these very basic tenets of truth in mind, you can start to relax about “reaching your coworkers.”
One of the worst and more common mistakes Christians can make by trying too hard to connect with their coworkers is subconsciously create an “us vs. them” dichotomy. You don’t need to shrink away when your coworker talks about their tinder date staying later than they expected. And you don’t need to name-drop your friend Jesus at every opportunity. Unless you’re asked outright, chances are they don’t need or want to know what you think about what they choose to share openly about their weekend activities.
A pastor I knew would often tell me, “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” Over the years, I’ve found this to be true time and time again. People are naturally more inclined to take your advice if they feel heard but more than that, if they know you’re an active and vested person in your life.
With colleagues, this may only go so far.
God calls you to minister, not become BFFs with weird Dave who eats pickles at his desk or Sharon who can’t seem to cover her mouth when she sneezes no matter how many times you’ve brought a box of Kleenex to her desk from the back room. At the same time, being callous, rude or downright apathetic toward the people you work with isn’t cool. Even if you just consider your job a pit-stop to your ultimate career goal. You’d be surprised what purpose the Lord may have in store by putting someone in your proximity for a season in your life.
Ask questions about their weekend, build inside jokes, serve your coworkers by picking up coffee or lunch for them when their day is too busy. Learn the names of their kids and ask about special events or vacations that you know are upcoming.
At the very least, even people who don’t know Jesus do these things. They build connection. They actively care. The question you get to figure out with Christ after you have developed a relationship with your coworkers is, how are you actively called to speak redemption in and over their lives? That might just mean sharing your story over coffee someday when they begin asking more questions.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our colleagues (or other people in our lives) is to just shut up and pray. People aren’t a formula to figure out. If God calls you to move in someone’s life, act with wisdom and make sure you have earned a place in their life to speak about things as weighty as faith and religion by actually building a relationship with them to begin with.
This doesn’t mean you can’t mention you are going to church or serving over the weekend, or share that you’re hosting bible study at your place. Just keep in mind that no one wants to be invited to church by the guy who doesn’t even say hi in the hallways. And no one wants to feel like a project. God calls us to love. Make sure you’re genuine about it.
Otherwise, you’ll end up like Angela. She eventually became more likable. But it took a season or two.