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Undergraduate ‘Calling’ ….

June 27, 2010

I’ve been reviewing different Christian College websites looking for their understanding and academic philosophy of career, calling and profession.

In 2001 Messiah College received a Lily foundation grant to better understand and explore the concept of vocation.  The third portion of that grant was dedicated to the integration of faith and vocation (which is interesting because in my mind vocation actually implies that faith is already integrated …. what is a ‘Vocare’ (or calling) without a Caller.) See more of that in Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life. Let me share with you a summary of the third goal of the Messiah College project taken from their website:

Goal #3: Integration of Faith and Vocation

The third goal of Christian Vocation—Integration of Faith and Vocation—promotes the understanding and integration of Christian vocation across the spectrum of liberal and applied studies throughout curricular and cocurricular programming. This goal corresponds to the third part of our definition of Christian vocation— gifts and guidance in preparation for life’s work—that is, being self-aware of one’s personal gifts and talents and having a relatively focused sense of how God wants these to be used for the benefit and improvement of people around the world… The following initiatives promote the understanding and integration of Christian vocation …

  • Educator Development… assists faculty, cocurricular educators, staff, and administrators to develop the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm necessary to implement the College’s renewed emphasis on Christian vocation.
  • Campus Culture… nurtures a community ethos grounded in shared vocational understanding. It assists students to make connections among their faith, studies, relationships, gifts, and career goals.
  • Career Exploration… facilitates student self-awareness of gifts and talents, the understanding of personal calling, and the exploration of work opportunities.

It is interesting to me that in terms of the ‘three tiered’ Professionals paradigm, the focus of most Christian College Education is focused on personal development and giftedness exploration. In the Career > Calling > Profession progression this is limited to the transition between Career and Calling. Much more could be done at the mentoring and leadership (Profession) levels with a more developed understanding of vocation.   However undergraduates often lack the life experience for such educational experience and application to take hold beyond the theoretical level.

So I guess that leaves the church to pick up where academic institutions leave off (if integration really ever was their responsibility to begin with!) What can be done to link the church to vocational education in more pragmatic and action oriented ways.    I’d love to hear what you might think about the possibilities that exist out there;  what are some stories that you have heard.

The church body that our family belongs to holds classes on Work and Faith as part of an applied theology Sunday School track for application oriented teaching.   We recently commissioned a couple who had thought through vocational issues and saw themselves as uniquely sent by the church into a foreign culture, away from our fellowship, we partnered to love them just as we would other financially cross cultural workers.   They (like every other member) were missionaries into the context that God had prepared for them, but that context happened in this case to be cross cultural away from our local church.  Which is a core of the understanding that we have in building and developing believers that care for and impact their communities and culture for the sake of the gospel.

The other piece of information worthwhile noting (in the Messiah context) is that there is also a sacred/secular split approach to ministry and calling present within the understanding of vocation …. at least the one presented at first on the website.  As a result of this assumption, it will be interesting to see how well ‘full’ a theology of work faith integration can be developed as a result of that assumption.   (See figure below for an illustration of the approach …. I wonder what happens to the possibility of calling outside of ‘ordained’ vocations.)

Click on image to see full concept diagram

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