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Calling: A Journal for Leaders Who Nurture Vocation
Volume I – Number 2
By Stephen Lewis, Coordinator, Pastoral Leadership Search Effort (PLSE)
A few questions come to mind as we consider why FTE attends to congregations as agents of God in the necessary work of cultivating the next generation of church leaders. We have found these questions difficult to answer, especially for congregations invested in vocation. Perhaps the difficulty lies in the challenges that potential answers pose to us: such answers affect every member of a congregation, rather than a select few. They challenge implicit assumptions about vocation and the congregation’s role in vocation. And they also illuminate some of the systemic realities that congregations face in cultivating a culture of call. We invite you to explore the following questions with your conversation partners in your congregation.
- Among the many components necessary to create a culture of call, the following are essential: continuous and healthy conversations on the topic of vocation; a sense of mission by the church and members; support and encouragement from the pastor or ministers, members of the congregation, and families of those who will benefit from a vocational culture; and meaningful formation opportunities. After considering these components, what barriers, if any, do you see facing your congregation in establishing a culture of call?
- Congregational cultures that explicitly talk about and invite people to explore their sense of calling or purpose in life oftentimes create tension among families. Frequently this tension has roots in familial expectations regarding a loved one’s vocational choices. What does your congregation do to support members, especially young people, whose parents may not approve of their vocational choices or sense of calling, especially when such choices include a possible call to Christian ministry?
- Does your congregation affirm the vocational choice or sense of calling articulated by a given member, especially a young person? What does your congregation do when it disagrees with a member’s sense of calling, particularly a perceived call to ministry? How does your congregation determine who has desirable gifts for ministry and who does not? Does the congregation’s discernment process take into consideration personal preferences, biases, and prejudices? Does your congregation redirect and affirm those members who think they should be ministers but really should consider a vocation other than ministry? If so, how?
- The underlying assumption among congregations is that God calls people to their purpose in life. And some Christians spend their entire life trying to discern their vocation or sense of calling. But the Incarnation suggests that God does not go about this important work alone. Rather, God in humanity or God in partnership with humanity, namely the church, invites women and men, boys and girls, to explore and discern the question: What will I do with my life in service to God, the church, and the world? If the church – that is, Christian congregations – does not partner with God in inviting Christians into meaningful and purposeful vocations, especially ministry, then who will?