Communicating the Gospel in Corporate Germany
Andrea Isa Baare-Nair (MAICS '93) works in Bonn, Germany for the European Union's largest telecommunications corporation. Deutsche Telekom--the parent company of T-Mobile--has over 180,000 employees in Germany alone, for a total of 250,000 worldwide, and Baare-Nair has served in Telekom's highly specialized Information and Communication Technology Department for several years. Her most valuable role in the industry, however, is actually unpaid: Baare-Nair volunteers as the chaplain of a small group of employees called Christians at Telekom, aiding in the communication of a message much more important than the contents of the average phone call.
As a graduate of Fuller's Intercultural Studies program, Baare-Nair originally explored the possibility of working for the German Protestant State Church, but finding work proved difficult for someone with theological training attained solely in the U.S. Now her Fuller degree--as well as a ThM from Western Theological Seminary and continuing doctoral work at Asbury Theological Seminary--is being put to good use in this less traditional ministry position, and it is here that she has found her calling. "I am very passionate about this entire area of ministry because the German Protestant State Church leaves it uncovered," she says. "Many German Christians," she feels, "do not know how to connect what they hear in church on Sunday with their workplace during the other six days."
As chaplain of Christians at Telekom, Baare-Nair has the opportunity to minister to both Christian and non-Christian coworkers in many significant ways, including leading a biweekly Bible study on faith and work in an attempt to bridge the "Sunday-Monday gap." Listening, however, is often her most important form of ministry. "A major part of my ministry is giving people time to talk," Baare-Nair explains. "That ranges from conversations about happy family life and everyday events to grief counseling."
Of particular importance to many employees right now is the economy, since many German companies, including Telekom, have been downsizing. As individuals fear job loss, it is important that they know someone cares for both their financial and emotional needs. Similarly, Baare-Nair helps fellow employees process difficult family circumstances like death and divorce. "A colleague lost his mother to cancer very recently," Baare-Nair offers as an example. Shortly thereafter, doctors put his daughter-in-law in an artificial coma for ten days for the high-risk delivery of his first grandchild. "I was very touched that this colleague felt the freedom to keep me regularly informed on what had been happening and to simply sit down and talk."
Through her chaplaincy work, one of the specific ways Baare-Nair hopes to see faith impact the workplace is in the area of servant leadership. In German corporations, she believes, too often "people are treated as assets and resources rather than as human beings." She sees the potential for Christians to change the character of German business by showing genuine love and respect for individuals regardless of their position.
Baare-Nair's office has responded positively to the presence of the Christians at Telekom group, despite cultural obstacles. Germany, she says, is a post-Christian nation: "People who confess that they are Christians are often viewed with suspicion," Baare-Nair observes, "since Christianity is associated with stereotypes of unrealistic people who are not in tune with the world." Often by simply listening to coworkers' stories, group members are challenging these assumptions and offering a Christianity of bold love in the midst of brokenness. In the future Baare-Nair also hopes to become more involved in the Diversity Department at Telekom, representing one of several faiths present in multicultural Germany.
Baare-Nair credits Fuller with encouraging her to pursue lay ministry in the business world. "The Fuller heritage and friendships with exceptional Fuller graduates gave me the courage to explore being a corporate chaplain, do my doctorate, and to not give up in light of an often unfriendly, post-Christian context," she says. "I am proud that I keep on discovering how much my thinking, current work, and leadership have been influenced by the Fuller experience."