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How to Evangelize in the Workplace

Encouraging others to share their faith stories

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Society’s emphasis on the separation of church from state has been grossly extrapolated to everything. The basic principle is that the church shall not impinge on things other than religious matters. The actual historical reason for the idea of separating church and state, put simply, has everything to do with the entanglement of England’s government affairs and the Church of England in the 18th century. Our nation’s founders thought this entanglement imprudent and improper to establishing and maintaining a thriving nation, holding that religious faith was the vital source for civil virtues.

Also, historically speaking, the extrapolation of the separation of church from state also made the church’s separation from the workplace pervasive. In my research, I have found that (at least over the last two decades) companies have recognized they hire whole people whose faith and spirituality are valuable in their lives and work, which positively affect an organization’s performance, for those that recognize and accommodate religion.

With this realization, deacons in the Catholic Church have a special role to play in encouraging Catholics to (more) overtly live the Faith and, particularly, to evangelize the Faith in the workplace.

What a blessed vocation being a deacon is by being ordained into holy orders. Deacons’ highly empathetic identification with parishioners about family, work and day-to-day responsibilities gives them a special capacity to help Catholics connect the faith and work. What a lovely shared context between deacons and the faithful!

With work as a prime common ground among people, here I am referring to labor, toil and the “stuff” people do in the jobs of their chosen professions. Just think about when someone meets another for the first time. Some part of the conversation (probably early on) would be an answer to the question, “Where do you work, and what do you do?” People who have known each other for a long time will talk about their jobs and how things are going.



“The political community exists, consequently, for the sake of the common good, in which it finds its full justification and significance, and the source of its inherent legitimacy. … It is clear, therefore, that the political community and public authority are founded on human nature and hence belong to the order designed by God.”

Gaudium et spes, No. 74


Although society has traditionally deemed work as an arena where religion has no place, it does have a place. The Bible uses the terms often and refers to the concepts of work/workers, working/works, labor/laborers, laboring/labors, toil/toilers, toiling/toils more than 800 times. The point, then, is that religion and work go together — even necessarily so, as many organizations have recently found. The issue is how deacons may help Catholics address religion in the workplace and not alienate or anger others.

So, when it comes to going forth and making disciples, the common ground of the workplace presents an acceptable opportunity for Catholics to evangelize. But there are two vital matters about which deacons must advise Catholics to keep in mind and to mindfully apply: parameters and habits.


As a matter of “free speech,” evangelization falls into the category of “ordinary” speech, which is the least protected category under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. All speech can be limited by time, manner and place that a government or organization stipulates in laws, ordinances and policies. In this way, evangelizing at work would be acceptable when it occurs naturally in conversations, does not deter fellow employees from their work and does not impinge on others’ rights through, for example, proselytizing or overt religious/spiritual practices.

Legal and regulatory guidance — and protections — are defined in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (and as amended) and in documents from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings in this area provide important, additional guidance.

Also important is knowing an organization’s values and culture — that is, historical context, traditions, and workplace environment — policies and structures for and about religious expression, and training about having a respectful workplace, avoiding harassment, promoting diversity and other topics. Some organizations have special places in their facilities for religious and spiritual practices.

Interpersonally, employees must be sensitive to others and situations while also being mindful of the legal and organizational parameters that bear on evangelizing appropriately in a workplace. This point leads to the next vital matter, which is personal habits for evangelizing in the workplace.


Many Catholics are willing to evangelize. Vinea Research and DeSales Media published results of their 2022 survey of 3,137 Catholics on Catholic discipleship. Findings showed that a majority of devout Catholics have a disposition for evangelizing and are interested in obtaining resources that will enable them to do so well and with humility, charity and compassion. With that attitude, parishioners, then, might look to a deacon and ask, “How can I evangelize at work?”

Deacons can encourage the faithful to adopt a genuinely humble, charitable, compassionate and positive perspective for evangelization. Here I humbly offer the following prescription deacons may use for Catholics to evangelize at work:

Pray about your role in Jesus’ commission to go and make disciples, and discern well how you can best evangelize (one-on-one, small groups, events, writing or another medium).

Be yourself in Christ (extrovert, introvert or ambivert) and how you prefer to be with people. Evangelization is not just for extroverts! God needs us all for who we are!

Meet people where they are, not for where you think they are or ought to be.

Do all things borne of love. Listen well and nonjudgmentally. Show genuine joy, concern, sorrow, pain or wonder with or for others, letting the language of the faith be natural on your lips.

Know the Faith well (you don’t have to be an expert, but be a witness) and be willing to foster understanding. Keep learning about the Faith, too. If you don’t know an answer, offer to get it or join the person in the search for it.

Your only agenda is to share your witness — tell your stories — about Christ in your life. Put the focus on God, not yourself. Refrain from debate about personal principles or precepts. Foster a sense of belonging, which leads to belief and then to behaviors of Catholic Christians.

Remember that evangelizing and someone’s conversion takes time. Accompany someone in his or her journey with charity, faith and hope.

To Make Disciples

As Catholic workers in the Lord’s vineyard, we primarily need to be excellent workers who do work to give glory to God. A Catholic worker can evangelize in the workplace and be respectful, charitable and considerate.

Deacons can encourage parishioners to know the Catholic Faith and defend it the best they can, and when they cannot, offer to get the right information and then share it. Catholics need to know the legal and organizational parameters as well. Being obedient to the rules and being genuinely motivated by love can work in one’s favor.

Someone can be religious and focused on her or his career and work. Evangelizing may not be easy. “But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pt 3:14-15).

PETER SMUDDE, an oblate in the Order of St. Benedict, is in formation for the diaconate and is professor and associate director of the School of Communication at Illinois State University. His 36-year career has spanned both industry and academia.

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