CALLED TO BUSINESS
If every Christian business person saw themselves as a conduit of God’s grace, it would transform the world. This transformation is evident in the story of James and Carine Ruder of L&R Pallet Services in Denver. After almost losing their business, James started to ask how to serve God through his company. He realized that he needed to make the company about more than pallets. He went from seeing his employees as a commodity to seeing them as people to serve and support.
Now the company makes sure their employees have everything they need to flourish, such as clothing, transportation, and tax workshops — in addition to their paycheck. L&R went from a 300% turnover rate to 30% turnover. This is one of the many stories we tell in the Faith & Co. films, part of the Center for Faithful Business, or CFB.
In the School of Business, Government, and Economics, we’ve always seen business as a way to advance God’s purposes by stewarding creation and honoring people. This view that business is an incredible calling from God is why the CFB houses many resources to help Christian business people awaken their prophetic imagination and tap into their God-given abilities to be co-creators in God’s redemptive work.
We are proud of the work the Center for Faithful Business has done over the past two decades. I hope you enjoy this issue and take advantage of all the CFB has to offer you.
MICROSOFT DIRECTOR LEARNS TO SEE HIS WORK AS WORSHIP
Like many people last summer, Jeff Yan wanted to buy his wife a bike online — but not just any bike. As a self-confessed tech geek, Yan found himself drawn to the Superstrata, a single-frame, carbon fiber composite, 3-D printed bike, which has yet to be manufactured. After researching more about the company’s founder, Sonny Vu, Yan stumbled upon the Faith & Co. film, “There and Enough.”
“I started watching other videos and thought, ‘this is so inspiring.’ It resonates so well,” Yan said. He ended up not only reserving a Superstrata, but also signing up for the course, Business on Purpose.
Yan is the director of technology policy, privacy, and regulatory affairs at Microsoft and has spent most of his professional career in Canada, China, and Singapore, and is now based in Redmond. In his role, he is tasked with meeting with government leaders and regulators to influence policies that bridge the digital divide and help connect unconnected populations to the internet. Yan always wanted his work to glorify God and set a good example for others, but the Faith and Co. course helped him to see his work as a vehicle to serve people and steward creation.
“The course is challenging in that it requires one to pause and reflect on what we do day in and day out, and seek to turn those activities into acts of worship,” he said.
The course helped to connect Yan to other Christian business leaders in the community, and he recommends Faith and Co. to co-workers and people at his church. While he’s still waiting on the arrival of the Superstrata, he’s obtained a new outlook on business and theology in the meantime.
“The course gave me the space and structure to blend faith into the batter, rather than merely putting a layer of icing on the cake,” he said.
WHAT PRODUCING THE FAITH & CO FILMS TAUGHT ME ABOUT STORYTELLING
By Randall Franz, Professor of Management
As a professor, I love using case studies and news articles to spark discussion in class, but I’ve learned that using stories is very different from telling them! Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege to help produce 24 of the Faith & Co films. These mini-documentaries capture companies wrestling with the practical challenges of implementing scriptural principles in the workplace. As a social scientist, I’m trained to conduct research that tests hypotheses, collect data, and analyze the results using statistics — not tell stories! Working on these films was different from any other project I’ve ever done.
Here are four main lessons I’ve learned about how to tell great stories on film:
- Telling good stories requires finding good stories. Not every story makes a good film. In addition to a relatable and articulate subject, a good story needs struggle or conflict. The subject must face a risk or dilemma, and interesting visuals need to augment the storyline.
- Not everyone will want you to tell their story. Subjects will have to trust you enough to let you into their experience. Working with a talented group of storytellers is vital. Having a track record of films to show prospective subjects opened many doors for us. Kenman Wong, professor of business ethics, and the Untamed film crew did an amazing job curating the stories for season one, which made it easier to get people excited about working with us for all subsequent seasons.
- Capturing the story is about more than interviewing the subjects. Films are more than narrative; they are a visual and auditory medium. Sean Dimond and John Harrison, the Untamed filmmakers, are not only talented producers, videographers, and editors, but they also have a gift for showing the story through visuals and music.
- Converting hours of footage into minutes of film is an art. It’s been fascinating to see how the film takes shape from hearing the story during an early phone interview, to watching the on-camera interviews and filming the context, to then reading the transcripts and combining the elements to distill the essence of their experience in a way that is both accurate and truthful and draws the viewer into the story. Doing this well is magic.
At SBGE, we’re trying to change the way the world does business. I’m convinced that telling good stories has the power to inspire people more effectively than any textbook or research paper ever could.
FAITH AND BUSINESS: BEYOND ADD-ON MODELS
As Randy Franz explained in the piece above, not all stories were right for the Faith & Co. project. Kenman Wong, professor of business ethics, wrote a piece for the Christian Scholars Review which explains what types of stories Faith & Co. films passed up and why.
In this episode of the UpWords podcast, John Terrill, executive director of Upper House in Madison, Wisconsin (and former CIB director), talks to Randy Franz and Kenman Wong about Faith & Co. The three men, who have all taught Faith & Co. courses, discuss the backstory to the films, some of the most memorable episodes, and the broader faith-and-work movement.
Q&A WITH POLLARD SCHOLAR MARCUS BRAUER
Scholars from around the world apply for CFB’s Bill Pollard Faith and Business Research Fellowship each year. Selected scholars come to SPU for a short residency where they draw upon the Pollard Papers and other resources in SPU’s Faith and Work collection. Marcus Brauer, a 2019 Pollard Scholar, said that “the best academic experience of my life was at SPU. It was also a super personal and spiritual experience.”
Brauer is an associate professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO), an MBA professor at Estácio de Sá University, the digital content curator at YDUQS, and the father of three young children. We talked with him over email about the residency’s impact upon his understanding of faith and work.
How did the fellowship shape your thinking around the integration of faith and work?
Brauer: Through the scholarship, I had access to brilliant professors, the world’s best library on the subject of faith and work, and the pleasure of talking with Bill Pollard by phone and studying his incredible texts. It was an intense two weeks of many conversations, beautiful walks, and lots of data collection. The knowledge moved from my head to my heart and then to my hands. Pollard’s testimonies made me believe that work can be an instrument to bring the love of Christ to the most diverse people. All work is sacred, my boss is God, and faith and work in practice means doing your job for the love of God and your neighbor.
You mentioned when presenting your paper that Bill Pollard has become an inspiration to you. How so?
Brauer: Bill Pollard was courageous in maintaining and defending in practice the honor of God as the first goal of the company, and then the love of the employees, then the customers, and finally the profit. The pressure to prioritize profit was high, but Pollard’s focus was greater. His humility was evident in many ways. He washed the hospital floor and insisted that every executive do the same once a year, and he listened to his advisors and admitted his mistakes.
Your paper, “Workplace Spirituality and the Tension Between Profit and People: The ServiceMaster Case,” was one of two 2020 award winners. Can you summarize your findings from your paper?
Brauer: Having revenues greater than expenses is something fundamental for families, companies, and countries. Profit is important for all stakeholders. It is an indicator of the organization’s health. If the company invests part of the profits in the employees, who are the main people in the organization, and treats them in a respectful and inclusive way, as ServiceMaster did in Pollard’s management, the work environment and the quality of service tends to improve. When customers feel respected and satisfied their loyalty leads to growing profits.
How are you using the knowledge from your fellowship currently?
Brauer: I am sharing my knowledge in scientific conferences, in classes for undergraduates and executives, in some church talks, and on social media. I continue to train myself about faith and work and hope to create some courses on the subject. I know that many Christian workers still make the mistake of treating work as secular and church as sacred. All work is sacred. As Dorothy Sayers said, “No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth.”
SPU HOUSES PREMIERE COLLECTION ON FAITH AND WORK
Did you know that SPU houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in the world related to faith and work? SPU’s Work and Faith Collection in the library includes more than 2,000 items for scholars and laypersons to discover. Most of the items are in print, but electronic books are increasingly being added to the collection.
The collection started in 2008 when Pete Hammond, who led work and faith initiatives for InterVarsity for more than 40 years, donated books and personal papers to the University. He also provided an endowment to purchase continual additions. In 2013, Bill Pollard of Service Master donated his personal papers to the collection.
Anyone is welcome to come to the library and browse the collection, located in the Graduate/Faculty Study Room on the third floor. Alumni may borrow up to 25 items at a time if they have an SPU Library card and items can also be checked out digitally.
For more information, contact Janet Hauck, SPU’s Business and Social Sciences Librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-281-2788.
FRIENDS OF CFB
SPU’s Executive Advisory Board (EAB) consists of local business and civic leaders who serve SBGE students a myriad of ways. Friends of the CFB is an EAB subcommittee which has supported the center for several years through helping shape the three- to five-year vision, preparing a strategic plan for Faith & Co., and (most recently) participating in the selection process for CFB’s new director.
“We’re all very interested in the combination of work and faith and how the two can produce meaningful exchanges in people’s lives,” said Larry Van Ness, a recently retired banker with Washington Trust Bank. Fellow friend of CFB, Kim Wilson, said that realizing her work was meaningful to God transformed her career. Wilson is the founder of Good King Snacking Cacao, which partners directly with cacao farming communities. “CFB’s materials and films have the ability to awaken thousands of other believers in the marketplace who may not yet recognize God’s presence there,” Wilson said. “It’s a privilege to be a tiny part of this work.”
15TH ANNUAL SOCIAL VENTURE PLAN COMPETITION
Students representing several universities, judges, and community members gathered virtually for SPU’s 15th annual Social Venture Plan Competition on April 14, 2021. About 70 students in 20 teams competed for several cash prizes.
Souk, an online marketplace benefitting Moroccan artisans, was chosen as the $5,000 Herbert B. Jones Grand Prize winner by the combined votes of 61 judges representing the business, nonprofit, academic, and professional communities. Watch this team’s video pitch. Souk was named after the Arabic word for market.
The Student Community, an app that helps build virtual campus community during the pandemic, came in second, winning the $3,000 runner-up award and the $1,000 COVID-19 Impact Prize.
Over the course of the day, more than 700 people voted for their favorite project, giving the Donald B. Summers People’s Choice award to The Shore, a coffee shop that would donate the proceeds from every 10th cup of coffee to help educate incarcerated women.
MBA PROGRAM MOVES ONLINE
If you want to become a leader who uses business to serve the common good, consider SPU’s MBA program. The program is now fully online, meaning that whether you live in Seattle, San Francisco, or Bangalore, you will receive a high-quality, personal, ethics-focused, AACSB-accredited business education. The program will not only prepare you to excel in business, but it will also equip you to honor God, serve people, and steward creation. If you want to use business to advance human flourishing, request more information today.