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[Blog] Full-On Faith at Work

blog Jan 05, 2022

            When Bobby Parks arrived in Dallas for his new job at a homebuilding firm, not a nail or hammer could be found in his tool bag. His was packed with a Bible, gifts of mercy, passion for service and a big old heart for evangelism.

            He put the tools to work immediately as he and his new co-workers kept vigil at Medical City Children’s Hospital, where the young daughter of fellow employee Bill Johnson and his wife, Jennifer, was undergoing leukemia treatment. By the time Bobby met 3-year-old Ellie, she already endured two stem cell transplants, chemotherapy and radiation.

            As the uniquely titled Chief Ministry Officer at the JH Family of Companies, Parks visited the cancer ward several times a week, where he walked with the Johnsons through their hills and valleys, praying, reading the Bible, discussing treatment options and listening to stories about Ellie’s escapades. Other employees and company vendors also came, bringing fuel for the body and entertainment gift cards to help fill the days.

            “When people love they’re going to walk with others,” says Parks, who officiated Ellie’s funeral four months after he arrived. At the service he talked about her impact and the promise of eternity, asking those in attendance to raise their hand if Ellie altered their view of heaven. Most hands shot straight up. Moments later, at least 10 people also put their faith in Jesus during the gospel-centric service.

            “That was a big, defining moment for the family to see that her life had an impact on everyone’s eternal perspective but then, for some people, it was a deciding factor for them to give their lives to the Lord,” Parks remembers.

            Those days with the Johnsons were long and sacred; Parks’unusual role at the company, integrating everyday faith in a way that may seem surprisingly overt, to some, is not measured by a 9-to-5 timestamp or a tidy cubicle. Five years in, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Faith first

            As a high-schooler, Parks planned to go into business, but after accepting Christ at 18, he wrestled with staying on his original trajectory or jumping into ministry.

            “Deep down I knew that God would somehow use both passions,” he says. Two years after earning a bachelor’s in Business Administration at Oral Roberts University, he entered the ministry as director of missions and outreach at ORU.

            The position took him to 40 nations, where he trained missionaries. Eight years later, Parks met John and Tracy Houston, who launched their Dallas construction company, John Houston Custom Homes, in 2004 around their dining room table—where discussions about Jesus were as prevalent as sheetrock and roofing. The business has since grown to 300 employees across six specialized firms: homebuilding, mortgages, insurance, title, land development and environmental consulting, all under the umbrella of the JH Family of Companies.

            From the start, the Houstons created a working environment centered on a foundation of faith first. As the company portfolio and employees expanded, they remained committed to finding a way to keep faith foremost.

            In 2016, Parks joined the Houston family’s team to lead its employee care, discipleship, missions and outreach efforts. “We’ve changed titles and we’ve morphed a lot throughout the way to try to figure it out,” Parks says. “There’s not a lot of roadmaps for this position.”

 

Everyday mission

            While Parks’ role at the JH Family is distinctive in its scope and emphasis, workplace ministry is not entirely new.

            Corporate chaplains have been around for decades. Corporate giants Tyson Foods, Ford, General Motors and Coca-Cola have all employed chaplains to meet the spiritual needs of their vast workforces. Smaller companies are also able to engage such services by using ministries specializing in chaplain services. Two of the largest, Marketplace Chaplains and Corporate Chaplains of America, serve more than 1.5 million employees through nearly 2,000 spiritual advisers.

            For Parks, the spiritual well-being of his co-workers goes well beyond basic chaplain services. His four-person department, known as the Reach Team, includes a chaplain who handles pastoral care, but their vision is wider.

            “We’re not just reactionary to needs,” Parks says. There is a heavy emphasis on discipleship and equipping employees to show the love of Jesus in every aspect of their lives. They offer small group Life Teams, outreaches, mission trips, retreats, Bible studies and leadership development, all with a goal toward community service.

            The company is involved in dozens of collaborative projects locally and abroad, including Brave Like Ellie (www.bravelikeellie.org), a foundation launched by the Johnsons in memory of their daughter. The JH Family partners with the nonprofit, which provides specialized Brave Like Ellie Boxes to other families coping with pediatric cancer.

            “We’ve seen God bring beauty from ashes in that family, and our staff are finding a way to join them in their journey of bringing hope and courage and bravery to other families,” says Parks.

            The Reach Team’s mission is to encourage faith expressions beyond Sunday mornings by equipping employees to live out their faith at work, creating opportunities for action.

            “I get to mobilize missionaries every day in the workplace, in their cubicle, in their office,” Parks says.

            “Their title might be accountant, their title might be HR specialist, yet they have the same Holy Spirit inside of them and we believe that they’re called to full-time ministry.”