Stephanie Cunningham cultivates opportunities to discuss big ideas in the Big Apple. As events and operations manager for the Center for Faith & Work, which is part of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, she plans and executes a variety of gatherings that aim to generate conversation about the intersection of faith and career. Cunningham, a former 40 Under 40 honoree, shares what it means to produce events that bring a truly ancient subject to life.
Give us the 30,000-ft. view of events at the Center for Faith & Work.
CFW has a range of events, fellowships and intensives. We operate on a ministry year calendar, so most events happen from September to May. We do one larger event with up to 300 attendees each month, and then a bunch of smaller workshops. We also do an annual conference called the Faith & Work Conference, and that’s a big part of my job. We’re not very formulaic in the way we do things. We’re still in R&D, figuring out what people need and how best to get the integration of faith and work across. Every year we try to innovate, building upon what we’ve learned.
Tell us about some of your past iterations.
For our conference [in 2015], we focused on community, and the theme was “Beyond Collaboration: Discovering the Communal Nature of Calling.” We were trying to have a conference that didn’t feel like a conference. We only [permitted] 400 attendees and [they sat] at round tables so we could have a communal experience. There were five main talks, and we let people journal individually afterward and then answer questions around the table to process together. We wanted each person to really get to know someone, not just gather business cards.
What are some highlights of the upcoming 2016 conference?
The theme is “The Fear and Wonder of Technology.” Technology is a part of creation—God created us to create, and this is what we’ve created. We want to talk about how the gospel can inform the way we interact with technology. Historically, the Church has been on the forefront of culture, but this is one area where we’re lagging behind. The format will be more of a traditional conference than last year, and I’m focusing on making sure the speakers [Dr. Tim Keller, Rev. David Kim, Alissa Wilkinson] and content are excellent.
What resources do you personally use to do your job more effectively?
I’m a big list person and use Google Docs alongside my team. The website CaterCow is an awesome resource I use for catering for smaller events when I want to [serve] something different and not just order the same old sandwiches. I also use AllSeated, which is good for venue floor plans.
How do you maintain a healthy boundary between work and your personal faith while working for a faith-based organization?
I’m really lucky to be on the team that I am. Our church has robust theology training, so we are always talking about deeper theological concepts. We also feel strongly that we should practice what we preach, so we implement what we talk about. During my workday, I have opportunities to grow in my faith. We take time to have robust conversations about faith, and I’ve grown since I’ve worked here because I’m given the time to have those conversations. I don’t ever feel like I have to squeeze my faith in somewhere during my day because I am able to verbally process with my co-workers.
What is your best advice for others to find the same balance?
That is a challenging question for me, especially right now as a new mother who has very little time. But our tagline [at CFW] is “integrate the inseparable,” and part of that is becoming whole persons. Faith and work isn’t about evangelizing at work; it’s about integrating that part of who you are into your work, becoming fully present, fully whole in all that you do, and listening to the spirit for work decisions as much as life decisions.