DALLAS – Doug Underhill is an outside consultant for McKinney Aerospace in Texas, but he's not slashing or streamlining production. He's paid to talk to employees about their personal affairs, feelings and spirituality. Underhill is a chaplain from an organization called Marketplace Ministries (search).
Gil Strickland (search) founded the company in 1984 with one chaplain — himself. Nineteen years later Strickland has expanded his service to 35 states and 343 cities with 1,200 chaplains on staff. Strickland, a former special assistant to evangelist Billy Graham (search), got the idea of on-staff spiritual advice from his 37-year career as a U.S. Army chaplain.
"We took the military model of chaplaincy and just moved it over to the corporate world," he told Fox News.
Marketplace Ministries believes that employees bring personal problems to the workplace and would like to talk about them; a service that is beneficial to both employee and employer.
David Kitchings, president of McKinney Aerospace, said the program has helped his company.
"Once they (employees) talk about that and get it out into the open, it's a lot easier for them to go back about their day."
Beau Davis, an employee of McKinney Aerospace, agreed.
"You just leave the problems behind because all they are for you is baggage and you focus on the job at hand."
Critics of the program say that bringing a chaplain into the workplace sends the message that employees work for a Christian company and should conform to the management's beliefs. Supporters of the program say they're not trying to spread a religion or convert anyone and add that the program is completely voluntary.
"I don't wear a cross around my neck to make you feel uncomfortable because you don't have one. I simply go in there as a fellow human being," Strickland said.
Business problems are still handed by management. Underhill said his job is to simply give people someone to come to with problems that the workplace isn't set up to handle.
"The biggest thing is, it helps that employees feel appreciated. Because that's why we do this."
With or without spiritual consultants, Americans are spending more time in the workplace than anywhere else, and a little caring can go a long way.