Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Often, Christians tend to want to separate their religion and their work. However, the above verse clearly states that we are created specifically to do God’s work and that could get a little difficult if religion always takes the back burner in one’s life. Whether you are a pastor, teacher, engineer, or even a university residence life director, God should always be present in your work.
Ohio native Naomi Brown came across Greenville University as a young adult in search of colleges. Brown had never heard of Greenville until she discovered GU’s website and was immediately drawn in. “I was looking at different colleges online and I came across Greenville’s website on a big list of institutions. As soon as I saw the website I knew this is where I want to go. I knew absolutely nothing about it and I didn’t know anyone who’d been here. People would ask me why I was going there and I would say, ‘Oh, I don’t really know. Just felt like the right fit.’” During her time at Greenville, Brown became involved in GU’s ResLIfe. Influenced by her freshman year RA (resident assistant), Brown became an RA herself the next year and immediately fell in love. “I just really started to love working in ResLife and by the time I was just a few months into my first year being an RA, I knew that I wanted to do this kind of work after college too,” Brown says. After college, Brown worked as an RD (resident director) for three years until her current position, Director of Residence Life, opened up and she snatched the opportunity.
Faith is an important part of ResLife work, especially at a Christian university. As an RA, one is looked up to by a myriad of people on campus as a leader and a person of strong faith. As an RD, not only does one influence the students on campus, but also the RA’s under the authority of the RD. Brown remembers her RD speaking into her life and having a major impact on her spiritual growth. “I think being an RA really allowed me to do a lot of good deconstruction of my faith. Getting to learn from other Christians who had very different perspectives than I did, getting to know other students, and also taking on the role of RA and being the caretaker for a space forces you to see things from a different perspective.”
Even moving out of her RA/RD positions into the ResLife director position, Brown still finds ways to incorporate her faith into her daily work life. “I think the way that I work is very driven from the things that I value and from my philosophy.” The leaders in ResLife and the students on campus are all part of a community and it is so important to be intentional within that community of how people interact with others. Brown mentions that something as simple as making sure someone has the right furniture can be a spiritual act. Along with the everyday tasks of being in ResLife, there are also many bigger issues one may have to deal with. Having deep conversations and connecting with a person is a part of the bigger issues and can really show the work of the Holy Spirit. “I see my faith as being the underlining thing from which I build off the work that I do, even if it just seems kind of mundane stuff.”
Although the job comes with many benefits, it does not lack its hardships at times. Over the years, Brown has dealt with many crises from mental health emergencies to family losses to assault. Dealing with all these issues can really take a toll on one’s mental health but Brown mentions that it is her responsibility to make sure the students feel safe and that they have the support they need. Another challenge when intermixing faith and work is how to do that even when interacting with people who have a different set of beliefs from you. Brown comments, “Something that I really value about the education that I got at Greenville is an openness to different ideas. I heard many times at Greenville, and in a lot of my classes, is that ‘and’ is the holy conjunction. So instead of being ‘either-or’, ‘and’ is the holiest approach that we can take. I think that has really influenced how I approach things so that I don’t go into conversations assuming that I have the answers and the other person doesn’t but that we could both learn from different perspectives.”
Trying to mix faith and work can be a hard goal to successfully achieve sometimes. Brown says, “I think that if you try to add [faith] on at the top of things, it always feels really fake and kind of cheesy Christian. I think to really integrate your faith with your work is to start at that foundation, so it’s not trying to put the Christian sprinkle on the thing that you already want to do, it’s thinking through like ‘Well, why do I do what I do?’” Being a Christian is something that defines who a person is and should not be separated from what they do. The Bible says to do everything to the glory of God whether that be literally ministering to others or simply incorporating your faith into your job.
Media by Cord Buchanan.