So what can we do to help those within our churches to see the value of their work and callings, whether it is in a paid or non-paid vocation? Here are 4 practical suggestions for church leaders. Next time I’ll follow-up with 5 more suggestions.
- Celebrate vocations within our churches. Tom Nelson writes “Our local church is becoming more intentional about celebrating the broad diversity of vocations within our congregation. In our Sunday morning services, congregational members periodically give short and timely vocational testimonies, either live or via video, regarding their faith at work. At times the video testimonies will be shot on location at their particular workplaces.”
One way we have celebrated vocations in our church is by holding four men’s ministry sessions in which a total of fifteen men, serving in different callings and vocations, shared what it was like for them to do their work for the glory of God. We had sessions with those in the medical field, college professors working at a local university, senior leaders in large organizations, business owners, those in the insurance and financial services field and others. They shared how they are being salt and light in their workplaces.
The questions I asked our presenters were:
- What is your name and your primary vocation?
- Please share what it’s like to be a believer in your particular vocation?
- Do you feel that your vocation is something that the Lord has called you to?
- How do you approach your vocation differently than a non-believer in your organization might?
- Has your faith ever caused problems for you in the workplace?
- Have you ever been asked to do something in your role that you felt conflicted with your beliefs?
Below are a few reflections from these four sessions:
- Diversity of experiences. As one man, who was both a presenter and also attended each of the sessions stated, the experiences of each group of presenters were very different. For example, the first group included those from the medical field (doctors and a dentist). There was an openness expressed on how their faith came through. For example, the doctors expressed that they would often pray with their patients, invite them to Christian events or to church. The dentist, who is also a business owner, plays Christian music in the office, and sees leading his 12 employees as a ministry. On the other hand, senior leaders in large organizations were more limited on what they could express about their faith in the workplace, feeling as if they had to express “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” unless they knew that the recipient of the greeting was a believer, for example.
- A sense of calling. The vast majority of the presenters felt that their current jobs were a calling from the Lord. They clearly saw how what they did Monday through Friday in the workplace was serving the Lord. It was also wonderful to hear the men share their stories about how the Lord has directed their paths, and worked in their lives to bring them to the positions they are in now.
- Sometimes, living by faith in the workplace has consequences. One speaker, who is in sales, spoke about business he lost because he had the booklet The Story in his lobby. A client told him that he didn’t want to do business with someone who was so narrow-minded. After a phone call explaining how his faith helped him to provide better service and care for his clients, the relationship ended up OK, but the client still chose to take his business elsewhere.
Most of us spend much more time in our workplaces than we do with our families. Talking with others about how to do that in a way that pleases the Lord would seem to be time well spent. I would encourage you to hold similar sessions with both men and women in your churches.
- Preach a sermon series on callings and vocations, or connecting faith and work. I’ve seen some good examples of this, including Scott Sauls’ “Leave it Better: Faith, Vocation & The Mission of God” at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bryan Chapell’s “Mission at Work” at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois.
I realize that doing this would be an exception for pastors who preach through books of the Bible rather than topical sermon series. However, I feel that this issue is so important I would ask those pastors to consider making an exception and preaching a series about calling, vocation and work. Or perhaps this could be a good Sunday night series.
- Lead a Faith and Work Book Club. Start a faith and work book club with people from your church, and consider holding it at their workplace. Consider holding book clubs with stay-at-home Moms, using Courtney Reissig’s new book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, and others who are pursuing non-paid callings, such as volunteers.
- Ask individual people in your church about their work and callings. When you meet with members of your church be more intentional about asking about their vocations. This will help you to understand the significance of what they do throughout the week. Show them that you value what they do between Sundays.
In my church, Bob Smart, my senior pastor for more than 22 years, has for years taught a Spiritual Formation class, which helps the participants with their Identity IN Christ, their Calling TO Christ, Living Intentionally FOR Christ and Leaving a Legacy FROM Christ. The course is held one evening a week for six weeks.
What others suggestions do you have for church leaders to help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings? Next time we’ll look at 5 more suggestions.