Sharon L. Pyant is “like a kid in a candy store” when she puts her chaplain’s badge on for her weekly visits to two Kansas City, Missouri-area businesses. “I have this whole mission field where I get to share individually with people and be there to support them in their time of need,” she says.
While chaplain services have long been welcomed in the institutional world—from the military and first responders to prisons and hospitals—their presence in the marketplace has until recently been relatively small. But Sharon is part of a growing number finding opportunities for low-key ministry in the workplace, where employers recognize their value in supporting a healthy working environment.
Befriending employees at the two companies she visits—she serves a third remote-work business virtually—she offers a listening ear and a word of encouragement to those with needs, points any requiring specialized help to further resources, and when invited to prays for specific concerns.
“Helping people to put life in perspective is really meaningful,” explains Sharon. “That’s why I do what I do, because people are hurting, and when they are, you just need to be there to help them know that God is with them, this is today. It’s not forever; this is for the moment.”
Sharon recalls supporting one employee over several months when his son was hospitalized for transplant surgery. “I would call him and pray with him, and just try to help him understand things are in God’s hands, that God is good, He’s faithful, continue to trust Him,” she says. “He is so thankful that I could walk with him through that entire time because he was so afraid of losing his son. To be able to be there for him meant everything to me.”
“Helping people to put life in perspective is really meaningful. That’s why I do what I do, because people are hurting, and when they are, you just need to be there to help them know that God is with them.” —Sharon L. Pyant, marketplace chaplain with Foursquare Chaplains International
Serving with Foursquare Chaplains International (FCI), Sharon was assigned to locations in need of chaplains through Marketplace Chaplains, which is based in Plano, Texas. Sharon is sensitive about meeting people where they are, whether they have another faith or none. She looks for points of connection, asking about family or pets if she sees photos in the employee’s workspace.
“You have to catch the fish before you can clean it,” she explains regarding her gentle approach. “There are times when people try to clean the fish—share Jesus before they understand the need of the person—and then it slips away, so then you lose that fish. It’s more meaningful that I get to their heart with Jesus than just their head. So, if I come in and I’m just talking all about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and I don’t actually get them to the place where they can absorb who He is, then I have not served that person well.”
A great-grandmother and former senior executive assistant to the president of Metropolitan Community College, Longview Campus, in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Sharon pursued chaplaincy training after retiring in 2020. A longtime associate pastor at Seed of Faith International (Raytown Foursquare Church) in Raytown, Mo. (senior pastor, Herman Scales), Sharon first felt nudged toward chaplaincy work after the 2011 tornado that hit Joplin, Mo. “I saw all the devastation, and it just broke my heart,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I would love to be able to pray with someone and help them.’”
Alison Hall, director of sales and customer success at printing and mailing company Lineage Connect, one of Sharon’s clients, says that the company is grateful for the way chaplains have helped leaders and employees “to find a source of encouragement and support.” Some people do not feel comfortable seeking help from their leaders or human resources, so having another option for care is beneficial.
“The chaplains are sensitive to those who want to talk, and they wave and move on to those who are busy or may not want to talk,” Alison says. “They are visible and available but not intrusive. This option allows the employee to feel supported and encouraged but not intruded upon or forced to hear about church or Jesus.”
Around a dozen of Foursquare’s 360 endorsed chaplains currently serve in marketplace situations, with several more candidates due to follow, according to Jason Reynolds, FCI’s director. To meet the growing interest in chaplaincy opportunities, FCI has partnered with Life Pacific University to develop a new certificate of chaplaincy course. To learn more, go to foursquare.org/chaplains.