When copies of the Men of Integrity devotional and SEVEN magazine began showing up in the lunchrooms of Robertson Bright Inc., a provider of electrical and communications services based in Mississauga, Ontario, an employee complained to Jason Braam, the company’s Director of Human Resources and Safety.
“He came into my office quite upset over the religion-in-the-workplace thing,” says Braam. “I had a discussion with him and settled him down a little bit. Later, I actually had an opportunity when he was struggling with something else to pray with him.”
It was Braam himself who had put out these materials as part of a brand-new Promise Keepers Canada initiative called [email protected] Launched in 2016 and still under development, it provides training and resources to Christian business leaders who want to disciple their employees. RBI—which has about 200 employees in Mississauga, Calgary, Las Vegas, and Fairfield in northern California—was one of the first to introduce the program.
“We’ve been with the [email protected] program for a little more than a year,” Braam says. “We learned about the program, had some exposure through the coaching training sessions, and felt as leaders that it aligned with us as an organization. I feel that it’s just our responsibility to show up and be His hands and feet.”
Promise Keepers Canada President Kirk Giles says [email protected] grew out of the realization that in general, the number of men who go to church is declining. “For us as an organization that’s focused on reaching men,” he says, “we had to come to grips with the question of how do you reach more men if your primary partner is losing men? So not in any way to replace what we’re trying to do with local churches, we started to think more intentionally about how do we go about marketplace ministry as Promise Keepers Canada.”
Recent studies underscore this decline. One found that in 2011, 26 per cent of Canadian men had no religious affiliation. That’s up from just five per cent in 1971. And this year, another study found that men comprise 61 per cent of Canadians who call themselves non-believers, and that “a disproportionate number” of them are under the age of 55.
“There are a lot of great ministries that are targeted towards marketplace business leaders, and they’re doing good work. But most of those ministries are focused on the personal development of the leader. Our focus,” Giles says, “is a little bit different. The whole DNA of Promise Keepers Canada is built on discipleship. And when Jesus says ‘Go and make disciples’ in Matthew 28, the concept there is an intentionality about creating more followers of Jesus wherever you are, and whatever you are doing.”
If it winds up in the trash, OK. If it winds up touching one person and makes an impact, then it’s been worth it.
[email protected] has two components. The first offers leadership training that is spread out over an hour a month for four months. “It involves,” Giles says, “helping the business begin to put some foundational elements into the DNA of their company, so that this idea of being intentional about faith just becomes part of how they think and operate as leaders.” Having monthly sessions, he adds, “allows us to keep walking with them and see how they are doing in starting to implement some of these elements in their business.”
The second component is for companies such as RBI that decide to go further with the program. In exchange for an annual membership fee, they get ongoing coaching plus access to a variety of Promise Keepers resources that they can use to help them reach out to their employees. Companies are also helped to connect with other ministries that have resources that are geared more toward their female employees.
Only RBI and one other company are at that membership level, but there are currently nine more that are transitioning toward membership.
One of the big obstacles, says Giles, in getting a Christian business leader to sign on to [email protected] is fear of what it could do “to his company, to his finances, to his reputation, to all kinds of things. Because of the multicultural climate that we live in, he’s afraid of giving favouritism to one faith over another. Even just helping a guy to get over that initial fear sometimes can take multiple meetings and conversations. It’s a spiritual issue for him to be able to get to a place of really surrendering his company to Jesus.”
We want to be effective in this ministry, and so that means we’re really walking with and discipling these leaders to do this work for their companies.
Even those that do sign on are very careful and gradual in its implementation. “We’re trying to do this right across the organization, but it’s completely behind the scenes. I’m not plunking the publications on anybody’s desk,” Braam says. “I think if you would ask anybody that’s not on our leadership team about [email protected], nobody would really know what you were talking about—which I’m fine with. If it winds up in the trash, OK. If it winds up touching one person and makes an impact, then it’s been worth it.”
RBI also ran [email protected] past its lawyers with a view toward developing an anti-discrimination policy for the company—a step that he recommends other businesses take that are also interested in getting onboard.
Giles is confident that [email protected] is “resonating” with these leaders, but, like Braam, he too recognizes that the only way it can really have an impact is to grow it slowly.
“We’re not trying to get to 500 businesses within the next two years or anything like that,” he says. “We want to be effective in this ministry, and so that means we’re really walking with and discipling these leaders to do this work for their companies. It’s pretty labour-intensive. But we think the long-term benefit is much greater when you do that.”