Oil companies hire chaplains. HR Departments expand their offerings.

 

Last weekend’s “end of the world” scare did not bring Chesapeake Energy and GE Oil and Gas to their knees.

They got there a lot earlier, having already brought on board chaplains as full-time and/or contractual employees in order to give human resources departments a wider range of options to meet the needs of their employees.

While not overtly pushing religion, a chaplain can act as a confidential counselor and life coach in allowing employees to work through difficult and challenging issues, everything from a sudden illness or a death in the family, to drug addiction and depression. The chaplain can act as the designated person for employees to turn to at the workplace for support and advice about personal matters, as a value-added alternative to the standard employee assistance program (usually a toll-free phone number workers can call in a crisis).

One group providing chaplain services on a contract basis is Dallas-based Marketplace Chaplains USA, which has about 2,500 trained nondenominational chaplains who serve more than 450 companies at 2,300 locations in 43 states in the US and in four other countries. It has clients across the industrial and commercial landscape. Its oil and gas customers include G.E. Oil & Gas and J-W Energy.

Other contract providers of chaplain services include Chaplain Associates of Georgia, and Corporate Chaplains of America, based in North Carolina, and Texas-based Chaplains Work.

Oklahoma-based oil giant Chesapeake Energy has gone a step farther. It hired a full-time, on-site corporate chaplain in September 2010. Chaplain Robin Wood reports that in his first eight months on the job he has met with almost 540 Chesapeake Energy employees, including non-Christians.

Now, while religion and the personal struggles of workers are delicate areas to negotiate in the secular corporate workspace of modern America, a number of companies, including in the oil and gas industry, are looking to see if the chaplain/counselor model can make for a less stressed (and therefore more productive) workforce.

It’s not the end of the world.

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Photo by Joe Houghton, used under a Creative Commons license.
Stuart Hampton

British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover's since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin's "The Prize." You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.

Read more articles by Stuart Hampton.

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