The Christian Group at Gentoo
Christian workplace groups come in all shapes and sizes and earlier this year we were pleased to make contact with a small group which meets within Gentoo, a north east based social enterprise which is active in the social housing sector in Sunderland.
The group originated following some organisational changes which resulted in its co-founders, Pam Walton and Dan Tyrens, working together as part of the same team. After a few conversations, they realised that they each knew of other Christians in the organisation and this planted the idea of an informal group to bring these people together.
Before the first meeting, the plan to start the group was discussed with the relevant executive director. She posed constructive questions, but was supportive, which was testimony to the organisation’s genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and to empowering staff to bring their whole selves to work.
The group was not directly advertised. Instead, Pam and Dan personally contacted those Christians known to them, who all responded positively. The group has now been going for over 18 months, and after losing some members due to retirement and people leaving the organisation for new jobs, there are currently 5 members. Meetings are held every 4 weeks during a lunch period. For the first few occasions, time was given for individuals to share some milestones from their personal faith journeys, if they wished. This was useful in helping everyone to appreciate the different experiences and expressions of faith.
Meetings continue to be relaxed and informal, providing opportunity for prayer, sharing, mutual support and encouragement, and discussion of any relevant topical issues or challenges. Members drop in as they are able, for all or part of the meeting, though inevitably diary commitments mean it’s rare that everyone is able to get together in one place at one time.
In order to try and ensure that everyone still feels connected, Pam or Dan try to circulate a “faith thought” via email: a bible verse, faith related question, challenge or encouragement. Although initially done on a weekly basis, these are now roughly quarterly, which is proving more achievable.
Members of the group were given the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the organisation’s Diversity Manifesto. As a result, some of their honest statements were included in the organisation’s Value Difference DVD, which has been used as a constructive training tool. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3n8mIoq9ps
Small groups have an important part to play in expressing our faith, and supporting Christians in the workplace. Such groups deserve our prayers and encouragement.
Further information about this group can be obtained from Pam Walton at Pam.Walton@gentoogroup.com who would be pleased to hear from similar groups in the north east region or the wider housing sector.