What’s in a Name?

August 11, 2015

So, what does it mean that you’re a Christian retirement community?” Working in the office of a Christian retirement community, we get this question frequently, though the tone varies. Some inquirers are skeptical, others are excited, and a few are just plain curious.

It’s a good question. And it’s a nice break from the other usual ones– How much does it cost to live here? How long is your waiting list? Is that a real windmill? Do I have to be Dutch to live here?

It’s also a question we have asked ourselves repeatedly since opening. What does it mean that we have the name “Christian” engraved on our entry signs? Does it really make a difference in our day-to-day operations? Does being a Christian facility actually affect how we maintain the landscaping or what housekeeping procedures we implement?

Well, yes, it does. Sure, we’re not searching Scripture for a verse about Bingo prize guidelines or dining room menu ideas. But the decision to publicly bear the name of Christ does create a different level of accountability and it does impact the motivations behind our decisions— even the seemingly minor ones (such as those Bingo prizes).

To be honest, it’d be a lot easier if we could keep the “Christian” aspect of our business out of our name or at least contained in a few key places— prayers before meetings, hymn sings on Sundays, and the like. Those things aren’t bad. Not at all. But if the name “Christian” doesn’t penetrate deep into our guiding philosophy, then is it really worth the extra space it takes up on all our signage and brochures? After all, we could be just as Christian without having it in our name.

But we have taken up that name. Being Christian is fundamental to what our company strives to be as we follow our mission to “honor God by serving others with love and compassion.” Of course, it’s far easier to say this than to enact it. What does it actually look like to have Christian philosophy permeating our company?

For us, it means that we must view each resident in our care as a unique image bearer of God. Residents aren’t burdens with a checklist of needs. Rather, they (like us) are individuals fashioned by the hand of God. Therefore, we are called to treat them with dignity and respect— not begrudgingly because some government agency tells us we must, but joyfully because in serving them we really are serving the Lord. Proclaiming ourselves as a Christian company alters our motivation for service.

Being a Christian company also affects how we view our staff. Just as residents are unique individuals, so too our employees have different talents and needs. In order for our Christian philosophy to impact our staffing, we must work to understand and value each employee’s contribution to the whole mission of the company. And along the way, we’ll all make mistakes; that’s inevitable in a sinful world. But how we handle those issues can set us apart. We are accountable to a higher law and to a far greater Judge. When our employees (even the non-Christian ones) sin, it is an affront to God, so we can’t simply ignore it. However, when discipline needs to happen, we strive to use grace and mercy, for we too have been shown great mercy and grace. Bearing the name “Christian” changes our accountability.

The name impacts not only our motivation and accountability but also carries its own reward. There is a unique joy in proclaiming that name publicly. Though it repels some, that name also draws others who share our desire. We have the blessing of watching older brothers and sisters encouraging one another as the Final Day draws near. We’ve had residents tell us that they pray for the staff— by name— in their morning prayer group. We’ve had individuals apply for jobs because they long for an openly Christian environment in which they can serve. And we’ve seen residents’ and employees’ selfless acts of tenderness and love that can come only from a Spirit-empowered life. In this way, the name “Christian” in our company can act as a beacon.

And for those in the company who personally bear that name, it is a humbling and encouraging reminder of the One whom we are ultimately serving.

Admittedly, we’re a work in progress. We aren’t always as mindful of the name “Christian” as we should be. But by God’s grace, we strive daily to honor the Name which we bear before a watching world.

About the Author
  • Sarah Roth graduated from Dordt in 2011 and currently works in the office at Meadowbrook Village Christian Retirement Community in Escondido, CA.

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  1. Mark & Sarah: Thanks for sharing this piece on inallthings.org Having spent time at Meadowbrook, I have a sense that you do strive to honor the name of Christ. One of the markers that I’ve noticed there is the striving for excellence and a high standard of performance that happens there–no shoddy work honors Christ. I also particularly appreciate that you mention, in humility, that you know that you can’t do it perfectly, yet you don’t shy away from the name and that type of transparency creates accountability in the striving. Organizationally, we’re all a work in progress (including your alma mater)–and we know that we’ll remain in the striving until Christ comes again.

  2. Thanks for a well-written article! The only thing that would have made it better would be for me to read it in Sarah’s handwriting. Still my favorite, Sarah!