Faith integration came to Christeen Rico well before she saw a connection to work. At first, she says, integration related to her feeling a disconnect within friend groups, with a conviction that she should be all of who she is in each relationship. It was still some time before she was able to address a lingering tension in her work life. Now she leads a Christian fellowship group for one of the most ubiquitous companies in the world. She talked about her story with a Common Good editor in August.
Your work experience is all “secular.” How did you come to the faith and work conversation?
It starts with my growing up in a Christ-following family, believing the gospel since the age of seven. I went to NYU for college and was exposed to all kinds of new things, including studying abroad and new cultures. It gave me space to start asking God more questions and really reflect on what I really believe. In particular, when it comes to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, what does that look like, wherever I am, with whoever I’m with, to obey these things?
Even well into my career at a consulting firm and then at a global tech company, I was still subscribing to the idea that secular work was not important. I started to ask questions that I never asked before, like, What does God have to say about careers? What does the Bible have to say about business? I was just Google searching.
I was listening to a podcast on my commute to work, and I heard about the Faith at Work Summit. I looked at the website, and I was like, “I’m not alone.”
Tell me about the Christian fellowship you help run.
A lot of large corporations, starting in the '60s with Xerox, invest in workplace affinity groups. The idea is to create space for community and belonging amongst co-workers, usually centered around an aspect of identity, often gender or race. At the tech firm where I work, the Christian fellowship is one of the formal diversity networks within our company, which is under our broader umbrella of inclusion and diversity initiatives in the company.
You’re in a conversation with a person like that about integrating faith and work. Where do you start?
Remain conscious of who God is, who he says you are and why you do what you do in light of that. It’s a lot of intentional work to try to stay conscious of those. Faith at work is for me also three things: It’s growing in the likeness of Jesus in and through character, competency, and relationships. So I would say pursue cultivating christlike character each moment of every day as you remain conscious of who God is, who he says you are and why you do what you do, and then just try to do that every day, every moment of every day.
Often in the faith and work discussion, it’s hard to know exactly how somebody more or less stuck in the middle of an organization applies some of these things.
Just because you may not have formal authority in a certain organization absolutely does not mean you do not have influence. I actually think that is the common misconception, which is why Christians deactivate and are not engaged in the workplace.
The reality is there are more employees in a large organization than there are CEOs, and the reality is if you think about a company like mine — with close to 140,000 employees worldwide — even if there’s just one percent Christian representation in an organization, that is a significant number. So just imagine if those Christians were in different parts of the organization living out christlike character, christlike competencies, and christlike relationships. The culture and the place and the output of the work are going to be transformed.
Are there ways that people in big workplaces can formalize (or should) informal things they could be doing to better encourage and equip each other?
If you do find a Christian brother or sister in your workplace, pray together. Have lunch together. Just start somewhere. See what ideas might go from there. It’s that consistency and meeting and praying together is key. Then you can begin to think about at what point you might want to start a more formal structure in the company.