water slide, best workplace,

Flourishing – A 2020 Best Christian Workplace


“Remember, what you do matters; the work has never been easy; it’s not supposed to be easy, but it is SIGNIFICANT in God’s Kingdom.”

John Stumbo, Christian Missionary Alliance

We believe each of our employees is in ministry – whether they are houseparents, or maintenance staff, teachers, or cooks. When a family chooses to work and live at Cookson Hills they are becoming part of a much larger story that God has been writing for over sixty years. For this reason, we strive to hire and keep ministry-minded employees who will continue the kingdom work that takes place in our homes, in our school, and around our campus.  

For many years, we have asked employees to complete an annual survey to gauge employee satisfaction. However, two years ago, we decided to seek outside help in determining the overall health of Cookson Hills as a Christian workplace. We partnered with an organization called Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI) to undergo a self-evaluation of our health. We sought the input of all employees and received feedback on nine key factors that drive employee engagement and satisfaction. Through the survey process, we gained valuable insights. As a result, our leaders were able to implement key changes to improve overall employee engagement levels. After our second annual survey, we achieved BCWI’s certification as a “Best Christian Workplace for 2020.”

silly teachers, best workplace
In the fall of 2019, the teachers were able to attend the Christian Educators Conference in Wichita, KS. This time of training also allowed the teachers to collaborate and grow closer as coworkers and friends.

Who is Cookson Hills?

As far as Christian organizations that BCWI works with, Cookson Hills is unique. That is to say, we don’t fit into a nice and neat category.

Are we a school? Yes.

Are we a non-profit organization? Yes.

Are we a ministry? Yes.

Are we a human services organization? Yes.

Do we live and work at the same place? Yes.

We answer “yes” to ALL of those questions. Therefore, this enhances the need for listening to our employees, hearing their concerns and feedback, and actively seeking to create a Best Christian Workplace.

prayer, best workplace
For the close of the annual marriage retreat, teachers, support staff, and children surround the houseparents to pray for them. They pray for strength, wisdom, and patience each day as they lead the kids in their home.

What a difference a year makes

After taking our initial survey, our leadership team identified several key areas to address. They exhibited humility by truly listening to employees, seriously considering all comments, making necessary changes, and explaining why other changes were not made. Everyone in a leadership position rolled up their sleeves and got to work, demonstrating their passion and dedication to the mission of Cookson Hills. Consequently, they addressed concerns related to Christian fellowship, compensation, communication, and teamwork. The results were clear with a resounding improvement in our employee engagement scores on our second annual survey. 

laughing, best workplace
As families compete in fun games for Cowboy Jamboree, support staff enjoy conversation while watching all the action.

So what makes Cookson Hills a “Best Christian Workplace?”

Key items as identified by Cookson Hills employees 

Cookson Hills is a community with a Christ-centered environment and a family-centered workplace. In other words, we strive toward a common goal with a common faith. 

Staff members feel God has called them to work in this ministry. 

Our leadership prays for us and models integrity, honesty, humility, and wisdom.

We provide a safe place for children. This gives us the opportunity to impact their lives so they may have a relationship with Christ. 

It is a blessing to have Christian co-workers that follow Christ as a model of social interaction. 

We have a wonderful Christian school on our campus. As a result, the students get to learn about and see first-hand a Biblical worldview.

I’m allowed and encouraged to proclaim God’s plan for salvation and hope.

My work is contributing to the mission of helping children and families, therefore, it has significance. More importantly, it points hearts toward Jesus and children to the Father’s love. 

We seek to honor God in all we do. In other words, we have a common bond in the Lord. We serve His children, pray for and help each other often. 

The people working at Cookson Hills are mission-minded and truly have a heart to serve God by helping those in need.

Awards assembly parade, Best workplace
Because of unusual events, the 2020 Awards Assembly looked a little different. Teachers, Maintenance Techs, Social workers, basically everyone on staff, decorated their vehicle and joined in a parade to celebrate the accomplishments of the students. The Education Director stood on the back of a pickup truck with a megaphone. She stopped at each house and named off each student’s achievements as cars honked, drums rolled, and people shouted in support of each student.

BCWI now characterizes Cookson Hills as a flourishing culture for employees and their families. While this title is great, the best part of these results is what it means for our students. We know when our employees are fully engaged, the students in our homes will receive the best care we can provide. That’s what God calls us to and that’s our mission.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Rachel Wages, former Executive Assistant, is from Montgomery, Alabama. She loves her fabulous family, drinking coffee with friends, and traveling to new places so she can catch glimpses of God's amazing creation.