Pastoral Implications: How Churches Can Help Members Recover a Sense of Vocation

Academic Paper / Produced by Individual TOW Project member
How churches can help

If the church recognises the need, and has the will to help its members recover a sense of vocation, how can it use its resources to assist with this task? In the final section of this thesis we examine how some pastoral resources might be utilized, under four headings:

  1. The everyday experience of people in their workplaces.
  2. Biblical and theological resources.
  3. Life planning resources.
  4. The faith community.


Most of the resources referred to in this study have been produced by professional theologians. But there are also many books and papers written about faith in the marketplace from the point of view of business people and other participants (eg. Diehl 1976; 1982; 1987; 1991; Banks 1983; 1993; Horrill 1995; Nash 1994). It is interesting to compare the different starting points and approaches of examples from these two sources. The former seem to be dominated by more academic and abstract theological reflections, while the latter tend to focus more on very practical ethical and faith issues. In fact, very few books provide a true meeting place between these two different sets of concerns. And the struggle of the few that do, illustrates how difficult it is. How difficult, but also how essential, for this separation between theology and practice is crippling the church and rendering it impotent. It is reinforcing the growing perception that religion is merely a private leisure-time activity that should no longer intrude into the public weekday arena.

At the same time, awareness has been growing among Christians of the need to be doing theology in community. Practitioners and theologians need to be working together in partnership, with each understanding and taking into account the concerns of the other. Richard Mouw calls for an end to ‘the Cold War between theologians and lay people (Mouw 1994a: 26).’ According to Mouw it is time for Consulting the Faithful (Mouw 1994b). There is a pressing need for scholars to start trusting lay people even if their theology is sometimes ‘tacky’, and to get reconnected with those expressions of popular religion which arise out of the deepest hopes and fears we all share. We need a better theology of everyday life: ‘I want a theology that connects with my own “popular religion” (Mouw 1994b: 42).’

Phipps (1966) and Kane (1975) also plead for the essential involvement of the laity in the process of theologising, out of their experience of industrial mission. Bosch (1991) says that the recognition of the ministry and mission of the whole people of God in the world must inevitably lead to this. This thinking is developed more fully in Amirtham (1986), Banks (1987), Fraser (1988) and Darragh (1995). Banks argues his case for the involvement of all Christians in the development of a theology of everyday life by emphasising four elements:

  1. Ordinary Christians can best identify their everyday concerns.
  2. Ordinary Christians already have some elements of an everyday theology.
  3. Everyday theology is a co-operative effort between ordinary Christians and professional theologians.
  4. A workable theology of everyday life requires practical testing by ordinary Christians (Banks 1987: 119-131).

For Banks, only a theology forged in the cut and thrust of everyday life will have vitality and relevance. And only by emphasising these elements can we ensure that whatever emerges will have a sharp cutting edge and become a genuine force for change:

if a Christian theology of everyday life allows its agenda to arise from the concrete dilemmas that ordinary people confront, if it builds on the best features of the rudimentary theology that some Christians have already developed, if it arises from discussion involving a wide range of people wrestling with a common problem, and if it is also tested by such people for its practical value, it will have much to offer. (Banks 1987: 131)

Joshuah Kudadjie from Ghana, highlights three ways in which the everyday experience of Christians is often shared with others in the church, beyond normal informal conversations. These include personal testimony in the context of worship or a prayer meeting, the content of prayer itself and the contributions made in small group discussions. Kudadjie suggests that ‘to harness these the professional theologian must go and learn from the people and do his or her theology with the people (Kudadjie 1986: 35)’. The opportunity for Christians to share the stories of their working lives and the issues raised for them there is an essential starting point. It probably happens best and most easily in the context of involvement in small groups, but also needs endorsing through reinforcement when the worshipping community gathers together. If a theology of everyday life and work is to grow then this needs to be encouraged by the stories of everyday life being told whenever Christians gather together.

The importance of churches establishing forums for discussion of work-related issues is also emphasized in a special Report presented to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (Archbishops’ Commission 1990: 183).

Specific examples of local churches encouraging such a process are found in Peck (1984: 161-171), Crabtree (1989), Stevens (1992: 105-111), and Diehl (1996). Harris (1992) and Pierce (1991) have also produced two books which explore the relationship between daily work and Christian calling built around the story telling approach. Another example of this approach based on biographical sketches of contemporary New Zealand Christian women is provided by Beulah Wood (1989).

Another approach is for small groups of people involved in similar professions to gather together to share and compare their experience and address common concerns. Such a process, embarked on by Public servants in Canberra, Australia, is described by Robert Banks (Banks 1983: 6-12). This approach is further developed by Banks, along with a related approach for exploring industrial issues developed by the Department of Mission at Selly Oak College in Birmingham, England, in a later book (Banks 1987: 100-104). In this latter book Banks suggests a number of other practical resources and methods that may be useful in pursuing such a process (Banks 1987: 109-118).

One useful resource for encouraging people to explore the faith-work connection in discussion with others is Linking Faith and Daily Life, a retreat and six week group study programme, designed for lay people by Robert Reber (Reber 1991). Included in the Participant’s Packet for this programme is Reber’s own story of exploring these issues with lay people and church leaders and the struggles involved and the questions raised (Reber 1991: 160-166). According to Reber the questions most often asked are

  • Why do I get the feeling of Sunday versus the rest of the week?
  • When and where do we get the information and time to deal with the real dilemmas in our work place?
  • Why do we spend so much time and energy in the church on things that don’t have much to do with what I face at work and at home?
  • How do I juggle all the demands of family, job, community and church?
  • Why do my faith and church life seem so distant so much of the time from the nagging problems of everyday? (Reber 1991: 161)

Seton Horrill, in his history of the Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) in New Zealand, highlights another source of work place stories which have not been collected or analysed yet. In the course of discussing the second of ITIM’s four primary objectives, ‘To promote the training of the Christian laity in relating their faith to their work situation’, Horrill notes that,

the chaplains’ statistical returns show hundreds of indepth conversations on faith/work concerns everyday ... ITIM through its chaplaincy team is making a vital contribution in “coal face” theology. However, this massive exposure and experience in faith and work dialogue has not been taken further than a one-toone encounter. Nor has it been the seed bed for growth into the formal Christian education programme of the Mission’s member churches. In fact I am not aware of any suggestions or attempts to do so. (Horrill 1995: 218)

Horrill asks, ‘Is there a future challenge for ITIM and the Church here? Such an initiative would certainly be earthed in the realities of workplace experience and could be a welcome and useful addition to more theoretical theological theses on work (Horrill 1995: 217-218)’. An analysis of the stories told to and by industrial chaplains would seem to provide a very worthwhile resource for exploring the everyday experience of people in at least a certain selection of workplaces.

It would also be foolish for us to ignore the stories of those who share the same workplaces with us, but who are not Christians. It was Studs Terkel’s (1974) who pioneered the biographical approach to describing life in the workplace. But this has also been done in New Zealand by Roy McLennan and David Gilberston in their book on Work in New Zealand (McLennan and Gilbertson 1984). The two books The Smith Women (Barrington 1981) and The Jones Men (Gray 1983) also contain snippets of different people’s experience. A more recent study of the workplace experience of working class people in New Zealand is New Zealand Working People 1890-1990 (Eldred-Grigg 1990). Another rapidly expanding source of workplace stories comes from the written reflections of New Zealand women in recent years. These offer what is becoming a very well documented account of women’s experience of daily work in Aotearoa-New Zealand during a period of rapidly changing work roles. They include Head and Shoulders (Myers 1986); Beyond Expectations (Clark 1986); Ladies a Plate (Park 1991), and Minding Children, Managing Men (May 1992). Women and Change (Bell 1985) also offers some revealing insights into the experience of women in New Zealand through a mixture of survey results, personal reflections and case studies.

Another exercise in story telling is required to recover an historical perspective on the connection between faith and daily work. Recently challenges from feminists and liberation theologians in particular have caused Christians to re-examine the biased way the history of the Church has been reported. Feminists have challenged us to begin to tell the untold stories of women and to re-examine our history from the perspective of women. Similarly, liberation theologians have challenged us to re-examine history from the point of view of the poor and oppressed and marginalised. This is because history is most often reported from the point of view of those who are relatively privileged and powerful, and theirs is a perspective that also leaves a significant part of the story untold. In the light of these, another important challenge is the retelling of the story of the people of God from the perspective of the laity and especially from the perspective of those people of God whose primary ministry has been in and to the world. This is because Church history is generally the story of those people who have most profoundly influenced the life of the Church. It is not the story of ordinary Christians living out their life in the workplace. It is dominated by the figures of leading clergy men (they have been mostly men!), theologians and missionaries. The stories of some kings and politicans are told, but generally only because of the way their lives have been involved with, or have impacted on, the life of the Church. Even the admirable and unique attempt of Neill and Weber (1963) to tell the story of The Layman in Christian History is still a very church-oriented perspective. We are left with the impression that it is a very few leading figures in each generation, mostly ordained, who have decided the future of Christianity. We fail to gain any sense of the significance of the everyday discipleship of ordinary Christians in preserving the essence of the Christian movement. If ordinary believers are to rediscover a sense of the importance of their role in deciding the future of Christianity, then this perspective needs to be regained. There are other stories of the Church, stories from the grassroots, which still remain to be told.


In this study we have already explored in some depth a number of biblical and theological themes that need to accompany any attempt to relate the issues of faith and daily work. We note below three of those which we have ready explored in some detail, plus two additional sets of biblical sources which may prove useful.

The Christian doctrine of vocation with particular reference to the calling of ordinary Christians and the implications of this calling for their daily work.

The history of the development of this doctrine can be fairly easily summarised by showing how views have oscillated between two extremes; work has nothing to do with our calling as Christians and work is our calling. An intermediate position is, our primary calling is to live as disciples of Jesus and daily work is part of that calling. Helping people to locate and discuss where they see their work fitting, both practically and ideally, in that continuum is a helpful exercise. Another similar approach developed by Moynagh (1995) distinguishes five different historical models for explaining God’s call in relation to work:

  1. Vocation is outside of work (e.g. medieval view).
  2. Vocation equals work (e.g. Luther and other Reformers).
  3. Vocation within work (e.g. Karl Barth).
  4. Vocation reforms work (e.g. ‘social gospel’ Christians).
  5. Vocation judges work (e.g. Jacques Ellul).

After briefly examing the strengths and weaknesses of each of these models Moynagh concludes each of them contains insights which should be held together for a rounded doctrine of vocation.

An example of a simple historical summary produced by the present writer can be found in Appendix 2: The Meaning and Purpose of Everyday Work for Christians Throughout History (other examples are Mackenzie 1996a and 1996b).

The Theology of Work.

Perhaps this would be better designated theologies of work, to recognize that a number of different biblical starting points have been used as foundations to build a theology of work on, as well as the same biblical starting points being used to develop different lines of thought. This variety of biblical resources leaves a number of options still unexplored and there is the possibility of coming up with some very creative combinations to address new work issues in a context of rapidly changing work patterns. A range of different approaches has been covered in this study. This presents a challenge when it comes to producing a popular presentation which does justice to this variety of perspectives. The most helpful schemes suggested by our study for more simplified introductions to these issues would include:

a. Bible Survey: An introduction to some of the key biblical texts upon which theologies of work have been built. Richardson (1952) provides a useful survey of the biblical material, which Westzott (1996: 17-47) and Ryken (1978: 119-179) both develop biblical themes in ways that provide a good resource for more popular exposition. When it comes to helping others catch a glimpse of the different ways different theologians have interpreted these texts, Graeme Smith’s summary of different approaches to the biblical data could be useful (See Appendix 1).

b. Theology: A view of work from the perspective of the great Christian themes of God, Creation, Humanity, Fall, Incarnation, The Cross, Resurrection, The Spirit, Redemption/Liberation and Eschatology. Much of the material explored in this study could be summarised and presented in such a format. Higginson (1994: 153-164) adopts this approach built around five themes - God the Trinity, Creation, Fall, Redemption and Eschatology. Westzott’s survey of the biblical view of work follows four distinct but closely connected paths - God as worker, men and women made in the image of God, the consequences of the Fall and Jesus and work (Westzott 1996: 17-47). Jonathan Boston has used a similar approach in preaching (Boston 1995).

c. The Trinity: The Trinitarian view of work and vocation developed by Gordon Preece (in Banks 1993: 160-170) lends itself to further development.

d. Themes: It is possible to pick up major themes developed by different theologies of work and use them as the basis for people exploring their own experience of work. These could either be developed singly at length, or together as a checklist against which a person could evaluate which elements have meaning for their present work. These themes could include:

  • work as co-creation
  • work as conservation
  • work as stewardship
  • work as duty
  • work as necessity
  • work as curse
  • work as calling
  • work as service
  • work as truth-telling
  • work as justice-making
  • work as peace-making
  • work as witness
  • work as redeeming
  • work as worship
  • work as anticipation

The Theology of the Laity, Ministry and Mission.

This could summarise and further develop the work of Kraemer and other sources referred to in Chapter 4. It could also use some of the titles referred to at the end of Chapter 5.42 as a basis for discussion. Another helpful approach is to use a person’s story which highlights some of these issues as a basis for reflection and discussion. The present writer has frequently used the story of Ted Peck in this way, by simply reading George Peck’s story of his father and inviting listeners to talk about their responses (Peck and Hoffmann 1984: 13-14 see also abbreviated version used as introduction to Chapter Four in this thesis).

Biblical narratives that revolve around daily work.

Most of the classical theologies of work fail to refer to workplace stories in scripture. A few refer fleetingly to references about Jesus the carpenter and Paul the tentmaker. Yet many other leading figures in the Bible story were not professional religious people, but people God spoke to and through in the midst of their everyday working lives. Clearly most believers were not required to leave their workplaces in order to follow God’s leading. Hence, many of the most useful sources to highlight workplace perspectives, issues and ethical dilemmas are to be found in the narrative portions of scripture. The stories of Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah and Esther are some obvious examples. But to explore these stories from a workplace perspective may involve bringing to them new questions and understanding them in new ways, because this is seldom the perspective from which they are normally explored in our teaching and preaching. Nehemiah for example, is extolled as the example of a prayerful person, a dynamic and effective leader and sometimes as justice-maker, but rarely is it made plain that these attributes belong to a man whose primary role was to manage a very difficult and demanding building project and whatever else he was had to be integrated within the pressures of his construction deadlines. The workplaces of Joseph, Daniel and Esther were all environments where foreign gods were worshipped and they were misunderstood representatives of a religious minority. Isn’t this how many Christians feel today? Bringing to life familiar biblical characters with a new sense of how their faith and daily work were integrated offers us a rich fund of important resources to be exploited more fully, and the possibility that they will become much more powerful models of faith at work for ordinary Christian people who can identify with their struggles.

One example, which is described by Parrott and Parrott (1995: 70-86) is a ten week course designed to help participants solve vocational dilemmas through gaining familiarity with the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. Each Old Testament narrative is examined in depth with some key questions in mind that are designed to extract some enduring vocational lessons, and then participants are invited to apply these lessons to their own career journeys. This method has been widely used by a group named Intercristo and has proved very effective.

Biblical images drawn from daily work.

Many pictures drawn from daily work are used analogously or metaphorically in the Bible to illustrate other realities. However, even in this process, such pictures can end up suggesting some strong messages about the nature of work and life in the workplace and its spiritual significance. In fact, the first glimpses of work we get in the Bible are pictures of God at work. And the Bible draws many of its descriptions of God from the world of human work. Robert Banks has explored a number of these images creatively in a way that connects with human work. Banks looks at the images of God as Shepherd/Pastoralist (Psalm 23:1-4; Isaiah 40:11), Potter/Craftworker (Jeremiah 18:1-4; Romans 9:19-21), Builder/Architect (Proverbs 8:27-31; Isaiah 28:16-17), Weaver/Clothier (Psalm 139:13-16), Gardener/Farmer (Genesis 2:8-9, 3: 8; John 15:1-2, 4-6, 8), and Muscian/Artist (Deuteronomy 31:19; Job 35:10; Zephaniah 3:14, 17). Banks is concerned that talk of God’s work generally has a more religious, less everyday, flavour than these images suggest. Also, that if each of these occupations reflects, literally or figuratively, some aspect of God, should we not begin to see them as extensions of God’s work in the world? And, if we begin to see them as such how would this change our attitude toward them? (Banks and Preece 1992: 21-31; Banks 1992). Another source of many images drawn from the workplace are biblical parables: most obviously, the parables of Jesus. Jesus was an acute observer of everyday life. His parables draw on a variety of images relating to daily work - from weddings, funerals and parties, to building construction, buying and selling etc. These are all stories of daily work which are used to illustrate faith principles. This is not to suggest that they all provide simple and straightforward examples of how the life of faith and daily work are connected. The history of interpretation warns us that it is easy to try and read far too much into parables. Nevertheless such a rich fund of illustrations drawn from everyday work must suggest some connections between faith and daily work.

Three books of inductive Bible studies for small groups which are useful for people wanting to explore a number of the themes introduced above are Banks and Preece (1989); Stevens and Schoberg (1989) and Patterson (1994). Other collections of small group studies which explore work-related themes include Coddington (1989); Coleman (1994); Cusack (1987); Grigor (1985), Sherman and Hendricks (1988) and Nelson (1994). Thomas Nelson publishers have also produced The Word in Life Study Bible (Nelson 1993) which includes numerous articles and indexes that explore work-related themes in scripture.


A person’s vocation is worked out in the context of a variety of different elements which interact. These include:

  1. A person’s unique makeup, personality and gifts.
  2. Sociological factors which limit or shape choices.
  3. The home and faith community which shapes a person’s early understanding.
  4. Bio-social development.
  5. Changing family circumstances.
  6. Career stage.
  7. Faith development.

During the course of this century a lot of study has been done on career development theories. The roots of this work can be traced to Frank Parsons who started the Vocation Bureau in Boston in 1908 to help workers choose jobs that matched their abilities and interests. Since then pioneers of career development have included differential psychologists, developmental psychologists, personality theorists, and sociologists. This work is surveyed in Career Choice and Development by Duane Brown, Linda Brooks and Associates (1990 and 1996) and summarised in Career and Life Planning (Edwards 1992: 89-97). Paul Stevens also provides a concise introduction to some of the different sources contributing to career development theory in his book A Passion for Work (Stevens 1993: 42-52). As Brown et al. conclude, ‘some theories have been more influential than others, but none have emerged as "finished products"... future theorising will ... involve collapsing current theories into more comprehensive theoretical statements (Brown 1990: 360)’. As we refer to some of the more easily accessible practical resources which explore the factors named above it is important to understand that these interact and any wholistic view of vocation will seek a comprehensive understanding of how these factors work together to shape a person’s life.

A person’s unique make-up, personality and gifts.

Most of the more popular life planning and career development tools that have been developed tend to use a mixture of the trait and factor, and personality approaches. Probably best known and most widely used is the work of Richard Bolles including What Color is Your Parachute? (1988 - updated every year), How to Create a Picture of Your Ideal Job or Next Career (1991b) and The Three Boxes of Life (1981). Bolles invites the job-hunter and/or life planner to participate in exercises designed to identify skills and abilities, preferences and values.

Richard Bolles is a Christian and in recent versions of What Color is Your Parachute? he has provided as an appendix an explanation of how to find your mission in life (eg Bolles 1988: 291-311, also published separately as Bolles 1991a). Although Bolles uses the word ‘mission’ he explains that ‘vocation’ and ‘calling’ are the historical synonyms. Bolles identifies three parts to a person’s Mission on Earth. The first two apply to all people. The third relates to a person’s uniqueness:

  1. To seek out and find in daily - even hourly - communication, the One from whom your mission is derived.
  2. To do what you can, moment by moment, to make this world a better place - following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you
  3. (a) To exercise that tallent... your greatest gift, which you most delight to use,
    (b) In the place(s) or setting(s) which God has cause to appeal to you the most.
    (c) And for those purposes which God needs to have done in the world. (Bolles 1988: 295-296)

Bolles quotes Frederick Buechner:

there are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work and the problem is to find the voice of God rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego, or self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work a) that you need most to do and b) the world most needs to have done ... The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Bolles 1988: 309)

This approach of Bolles fits with the thinking of Hardy (1990) and Volf (1990) that we have noted earlier, and with others who emphasise that discerning the gifts God has given us provides us with some very good pointers towards helping us discern how our vocation is best worked out. The aim of working through such a process is to help a person draw up a personal profile that captures a glimpse of the person God created them to be, along with a description of their life experiences.

Graham Tucker, who developed a programme for unemployed business people in Canada, was surprised at the high percentage who, even in their 50’s, had not yet decided what they wanted to be when they ‘grew up’. Tucker writes:

in the program we learned that the most effective way to arrive at a sense of life and career direction is first of all to clarify one’s self-identity, one’s gifts and strengths and one’s sense of vocation. Then a personal profile is drawn which states, "this is who I am and the kind of person I am, this is what I enjoy doing and am good at, and this is what I feel called to do with my life". By the time one has sorted out these criteria, the life and career direction usually becomes clear. (Tucker 1987: 142)

A lot of resources are now available to help a person construct such a personal profile. Helpful annotated bibliographies of some of these resources can be found in Jones (1991: 128-131), Nydam (1994: 1-42) and Ward (1981: 221-235). Another useful resource specifically designed to help a person construct a comprehensive personal profile using a variety of different tools is the Career and Life Planning course developed by Denise Edwards at the Bible College of New Zealand (Edwards 1992). Covey and Merrill describe a series of exercises designed to help a person prepare a personal mission statement in their book First Things First (Covey 1994: 307-321). And Boldt’s How To Find the Work You Love (1996) proposes that one’s true vocation is found by addressing four questions to do with Integrity (What speaks to me?), Service (What touches me?), Enjoyment (What turns me on?) and Excellence (What draws out my best?).

Sociological factors.

It has been claimed that once a person’s work is known, ‘we can broadly estimate the range of his income, the size of his family, where he lives, where he works, how he spends his leisure time, [and] what clubs he belongs to (quoted in Brown et al. 1990: 263)’. This suggests that more than just innate personal preference decides our circumstances and choices. It is clear that sociological factors also significantly impact career choices and may limit the range of choices that are considered. These sociological elements include

  • socio-economic status of parents
  • father’s career choice
  • mother’s career choice
  • culture
  • race
  • gender
  • geography
  • status attainment variables (what career at a certain prestige level is desirable)

Sociologists have explored status barriers to occupational mobility (Brown 1990: 358). This work does not imply that individuals are helpless against overwhelming inequities and rigidities, but only that very real restraints do operate. Those offering vocational guidance consequently need to emphasise that if such barriers are to be surmounted then individuals have to act energetically on their own behalf and need to learn coping strategies to help them deal with the resistance they will encounter (Brown 1990: 307).

The most profound example of this sort of movement in recent years is the increasing involvement of women in the work force and particularly the movement to take up jobs which have been traditionally exclusively identified with men. Another example is the push in New Zealand to see more maori involved in what have been traditionally pakeha dominated professions. Young people need both encouragement and preparation to face the challenges that pursuing such options involves.

Many of the more popular career and life planning courses are built on the ‘positive thinking’ approaches, such as ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ (PMA) philosophy of Napoleon Hill (1990; 1996), who coined the phrase ‘whatever the mind conceives and the heart believes, I can achieve’. These courses promote the idea ‘you can be whatever you want to be’. All you need is a positive mental attitude, a clear focus and plenty of determination. While this may support ‘The American Dream’, it is not true. On the one hand it can leave people for whom there are many options open, confused and panicking as they rack their brains to decide what they really want to do with their lives. They are told that the world is open, but they cannot decide in which direction to head. The decision appears critical because they quickly need to devote their full-time, attention and energy to its pursuit. But often the end is not clear and we do best understanding our natural talents and realising we will go further and waste less energy using them. The PMA approach also ignores sociological factors which limit and shape our choices. Of course, it does so deliberately to encourage people to break out of unnecessarily narrow mind sets which hold them captive, and to this extent it may prove helpful. But it may also encourage blindness to reality and set up the examples of exceptional people suggesting that this should be the norm we can all aspire to and follow. It is important that we be realistic about the sociological pressures we confront in working out our vocational choices. And people who are inspired to challenge the status quo will need special encouragement and support from our communities of faith.

The home and faith community which shapes a person’s early understanding.

Another very important set of influences are those that come from the faith community which shapes a person’s early understanding and home life. This is often complicated where family members have only a nominal association with a particular faith community, or where there is clearly a significant discrepancy between the values proclaimed in theory on Sunday and those lived out in practice on Monday. But where faith and home and work life are, to some extent anyway, integrated and undergirded by a particular theological understanding, this will be influential in a person’s life. Whether these influences are adopted, or adapted, or rejected, they need to be understood. Because both explicitly and implicitly, in theory and in practice, these influences will shape our understanding of vocation. And even if we are moving toward new understandings it is important to examine the place from where we have come and the road we have travelled and the various influences that have impacted on us. The more the dialogue and interaction between old and new understandings can be brought to consciousness and worked through to a resolution, the more likely it is that whatever vocational understanding results will be adopted and embedded deeply as part of a person’s core values. This can help to reduce what is otherwise experienced as an ongoing conflict between inherited values and new understandings. It can also help us to clarify and evaluate more carefully the vocational understandings we have grown up with, which otherwise often remain vague and unexamined.

Bio-social development, family circumstances and career stages.

These three factors are dealt with together because we want to look at ways they interact to shape the way a person’s vocation is lived out.

In recent years researchers have begun to identify the major developmental stages that people go through in some form or another (see Peterson 1989: 40-57). Among other things, these researchers have attempted to pinpoint specific transitions, often called ‘crises’, which reflect particularly difficult life tasks. More recently ‘adult’ stages of development have been specifically pinpointed (eg. Sheehy 1976; 1981; 1995). Edgar Schein in his book Career Dynamics (1978) provides a very useful summary of the major life-cycle issues that a person is usually confronted with and relates these to developments in a person’s working life and their vocational choices. Schein attempts to provide a synthesis of the work of many other theorists and along the way provides a brief introduction to their work (Schein 1978: 27-35).

Schein develops the concept of cycles and stages. According to Schein people should be thought of as existing in a world where there are always multiple issues and problems to be dealt with. He maintains that for most of us in Western society these issues can be divided into three basic categories: biological forces and the accompanying age-related social or cultural expectations that make up the bio-social cycle; the family cycle in which first our family of origin and then our spouse and children put various demands and constraints on us as well as providing opportunities for nurture and pleasure and growth; and a work/career cycle that involves early occupational images, education and training, a working life with many sub stages and ultimately retirement and/or new work or career issues.

Schein goes on to identify the major stages that are identified with each cycle and the general issues and specific tasks that are associated with each stage. What he ends up producing are three detailed check lists, one for each cycle, that can be used to help a person identify the specific issues they might find themselves working through at any particular stage and to locate these issues in an overall pattern of development. Schein makes plain that each cycle contains smooth, even stretches as well as bumpy, obstruction filled stretches. And each cycle is marked by milestones indicating where a person is and what they have accomplished, as well as choice points where a person must decide which way to head. A person may drift or stagnate, but there is basically no stopping or turning back. The movement of life is always forward, linked to the biological clock and cultural norms. Not that these factors are unchanging. In fact, one of the most dramatic examples of changing work patterns is the situation of women, who until very recently were generally forced to choose either family or career, because cultural norms demanded maximum involvement in one or the other during the decade from age 25 to 35. However, recent developments have made it possible for far more women to pursue both options, family and career. However, this also highlights the way these cycles overlap and interact and Schein portrays this diagramatically. Schein’s major hypothesis is that individual effectiveness is lowest when total difficulty of tasks is highest, but greater difficulty also produces greater opportunity for radical growth. (From Schein 1978: 24) The diagram pictures the three cycles in terms of peaks and valleys. A valley is a smooth, but routinely functioning section of the cycle; a peak signifies either an obstacle or a choice point and this poses a task which a person must deal with. As we have already noted, Schein provides a detailed identification of these tasks and choices for each cycle.

If the tasks involve the expenditure of a lot of emotional energy or confronting a crisis, it will make a lot of difference to the individual whether these are spaced out or come simultaneously. For example, if a person marries and takes a first job at the same time, as many university graduates do, he or she is taking on two major life tasks - one in the work/career cycle and one in the family cycle - both of which require significant investments of time and energy. These steps may also be accompanied by the need to set up home in a new city and make decisions about having children. If the investment of time and energy required is beyond what the individual can muster, they may cope by reducing involvement in one or the other cycle, creating a more stressful work or marriage situation, or by finding a new and radically different resolution of the work/family conflict. It is easy to see how a similar convergence of stressful factors from all three cycles might occur for a person working through mid-life issues, attempting to cope with an aging body, more realistic career expectations or a desire to change jobs, and adolescent children or children leaving home.

According to Schein, individuals cope differently with the tasks posed by the various life cycles according to their biological make-up, early childhood experiences, socialisation, accumulated experience up to that point and family relationships (Schein 1978: 24). It is not possible to predict with certainty how people will respond. People who have experienced difficulty making adjustments earlier in life may have a more difficult time adjusting later. Yet at the same time many people find in later stages of their lives that they have creative urges and talents they never exercised before. The opportunity to develop new areas of skill, new values and new personality traits is an important part of each life. Schein concludes: ‘we must develop systems of education and training for adults which not only enable people to accurately diagnose their opportunities for growth, but also teach coping skills which make it possible for them to take advantage of those opportunities once they arise (Schein 1978: 26)’.

It would seem to be people who are working through difficult transition times who are most open to re-examing the direction of their lives and the commitments and values that have shaped their choices. The issues come into sharper focus and can be seen more clearly at such times. Also such times arise because the status quo that has ruled the past is proving itself inadequate to decide the future. New commitments, new values and a different balance is required. It is important that Christian churches understand the sorts of issues that people at different stages are likely to be working through and that they make available resources to help provide encouragement and guidance to people who are negotiating demanding transition times. These can be very important times for reexaming vocational understandings and making new vocational choices. The most helpful popular introduction to these issues written from a Christian perspective is The Career Counselor (Parrott and Parrott 1995). William Bridges (1980; 1991; 1994) and Paul Stevens (1993a; 1993b) also provide useful insights and resources for managing work life transitions.

Faith Development

In addition to the recent research that Edgar Schein has pulled together relating to biosocial, family and career development cycles, there has also been another movement researching faith development. James Fowler has been prominent in pioneering this work, as we have already noted in Chapter 3.3. Fowler uses the concept of vocation as an integrating factor in his understanding of faith development. He maintains that a revived notion of vocation is just what is needed to give rise to a sense of partnership with the action of God that will serve as an integrating principle to orchestrate our changing adult life structures (Fowler 1984: 105).

Fowler’s concept of faith development is built on two processes, conversion and development, which taken together constitute, what he calls the ‘dance of faith development’ in our lives. Conversion involves radical and dramatic changes in our centres of value, power and master story (Fowler 1992: 16). Development involves a less radical, maturing evolving, similar to the biological process of maturation. Fowler clearly distinguishes between conversion and stage transition. Conversion is principally about the ‘contents’ of faith; where stage transition is about the ‘operations’ of faith (i.e. the operations of knowing, valuing, and committing).

Drawing on the developmental theories of Piaget, Kohlberg, Ericksen and others, Fowler proposes a six-staged progression for faith development which begins at around the second year of a child’s life, although he does recognise the significance of primal faith learned prior to this age. Fowler warns that his is a ‘descriptive’ rather than ‘prescriptive’ theory. While he does describe a generalised faith journey he does not wish to imply that a particular stage needs to be reached or attained. The goal of faith development is not to get everyone to reach the universalising stage of faith, his last stage. Adults equilibrate at various stages, and it is quite clear that people located at each stage can experience a fulfillment of faith. Fowler does not mean to imply that people described at one stage are in some way better or more advanced than those of previous stages. Throughout his writings he is at pains to clarify that each stage has its own integrity, strengths and weaknesses (Fowler 1987: 57). Fowler describes the goal of faith development as being for each person or group to open themselves, as radically as possible - within the structures of their present stage or transition - to synergy with spirit (his later work is more explicitly Christian than his earlier writing).

At the same time Fowler also makes plain that for each individual there are a number of significant changes that occur in the faith journey. The development of faith is not a gentle undemanding stroll through life, involving gradual imperceptible maturing, but a series of growth stages followed by radical upheavals in our faith operations. These unheavals that may result in a person moving to another stage of faith development do not necessarily involve a change in the content of one’s beliefs. However, it is clear that the transition between stages is a difficult and often painful process; ‘it frequently involves living with a deep sense of alienation for considerable periods (Fowler 1987: 57)’. People may spend long periods of time and energy ‘transitioning’. Because of the difficulty of the transition process, ‘it is understandable why we defend, shore up and cling to our constructions of the ultimate environment (faith) even when these prove constricting, self-destructive, or distorted (Fowler 1987: 57)’. In fact, Fowler suggests that many people revert to a previous stage rather than face the difficulty, or uncertainty, of the transition. Fowler’s denial that he understands stages of faith as a progression on to more advanced stages would seem to be strained by these remarks, especially as he also refers to people at less developed and more developed stages (Fowler 1987: 57).

Fowler also links his stages of faith with what he calls the optimal correlation with the seasons of our lives. He has done this by linking his work with that of Robert Kegan on stages of selfhood. The correlations he makes are as follows

  • Infancy Primal faith, incorporative self.
  • Preschool age Intuitive / projective faith, impulsive self.
  • Mid-childhood / Mythic-literal faith, imperial self.
  • Adolscence / Synthetic-conventional faith, interpersonal self.
  • Young adulthood / Individuative-reflective faith, institutional self.
  • Middle adulthood / Conjunctive faith, inter-individual self.
  • Middle adulthood and beyond / Universalising faith, God-grounded self.

Fowler maintains that when transition between stages is delayed beyond its normal optimum correlation with the season of a person’s life it becomes increasingly more difficult to make such a transition (Fowler 1987: 96-97).

However, it is important to emphasise again that the goal of pastoral care that employs developmental perspectives is not to try to propel or impel persons from one stage to another. Certainly people should be supported and encouraged to engage the issues of their lives and vocations in such a way that development will be a likely result. But development takes time. Transitions cannot and should not be rushed. Pastoral care will seek to involve people in disciplines and actions, in struggle and reflection, that will keep their faith and vocations responsive to the ongoing call of God. The aim is to help people extend the operations of a given stage to the full range of their experiences and interactions. Integration and reconfiguration of memories, beliefs and relationships in the light of the operations which a new stage makes possible are every bit as important as supporting, encouraging and pacing people in the move from one stage to another (Fowler 1987: 81).

Fowler also explores how this view of vocation and partnership with God can be enhanced for people at each stage of development (Fowler 1987: 79-99). He highlights the challenges for pastoral care at each stage as well as for preaching, Christian education and counselling. He challenges churches to learn to operate in a way that embraces people at different stages of faith so that no one development mode dominates in a way that makes people exploring other modes feel deviant. In order to do this however Fowler suggests that the church itself must have a stage level of aspiration of conjunctive faith. This encourages us to begin exploring the strengths, weaknesses and characteristics of churches of each adult modal development level (see Jamieson 1995: 38-41).

Fowler also explores the relationship between faith and the dynamics of change (Fowler 1987: 99-111). He acknowledges that challenges to our faith are often precipitated by other events: developmental events, reconstructive events or intrusive market events. As Fowler explores the nature of the changes such events give rise to, the breaking free from old connections or understandings, the disorientation, and the process of reconstruction and growing new understandings, we begin to see how the faith journey that Fowler describes is intertwined with the interaction of the bio-social, career and family development cycles that we noted in Schein’s description previously. Although they do not correspond exactly, they are clearly inter-related and further investigation of this relationship would seem to provide fertile ground for further study. Fowler’s Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian (1984) does begin this exploration for us. In particular, Fowler’s concluding section which isolates the crucial questions about vocation that are posed in young adulthood, middle adulthood and older adulthood. He talks about youth exploring the formation of a vocational dream, the purifying and deepening of vocation in mid-life, and the importance of older people acting as witnesses and guarantors of vocation. This latter concern is also explored by Wiebe as she probes to find ‘what God has in mind for the older adult (Wiebe 1995: 12)’. Fowler provides a useful description of the way our understanding of vocation needs reprocessing at different stages of development (Fowler 1984: 142-147).

It is essential that the pastoral resources of churches be made available to people who are working through such stages. Times of transition are full of new and important possibilities for growth and for the development of fresh understandings of faith and vocation. Yet most churches have not deliberately equipped themselves for such ministry in any purposeful way.

Parrott and Parrott (1995) devote seven chapters to some particular struggles and the specific responses these invite. These include

  • teenagers and career exploration
  • young adults and career decision-making
  • mid-career change
  • post-retirement adjustment
  • surviving a career crisis
  • women and career development
  • special populations and career development

The Parrotts recognise the important roles that pastors, counsellors and the faith community can play in offering support and guidance for people wrestling with vocational questions.

James F. Cobble also provides a popular introduction to some of these issues in his book Faith and Crisis in the Stages of Life (Cobble 1985). Cobble explores the relationship between faith and career, family life and aging by describing issues people typically face in each decade from their teens to their 70’s and beyond. Cobble is aware of Fowler’s work but takes an approach which could be more easily integrated as an additional faith development cycle within the overall scheme that Schein adopts to describe his biosocial, career and family cycle. Others are certain to consider this too simplistic, but it offers possibilities if not pushed too hard and too far. Whatever conclusions are reached about details, Cobble’s work again highlights the importance of the faith dimension in a person’s life interacting with other dimensions of life including daily work: ‘faith is not an abstract quality separated from the rest of life. It is directly related to life events. Life transitions play a prominent role in the development and expression of faith (Cobble 1985: 145)’.

Another recent attempt to explore the connection between faith and work is provided by Janet Hagberg. Hagberg has explored the process of faith development with Robert Guelich in The Critical Journey (Hagberg and Guelich 1995). Hagberg and Guelich, like Fowler, whose work they are aware of, also describe six stages of faith, but follow a slightly different pattern (a helpful comparison in diagramatic form is provided in Drane 1994: 202). Hagberg and Guelich develop the idea of faith as a journey: ‘the word journey suggests an image of travel with no instant goal, perhaps meandering, stopping along the way, learning as we go. In my experience, and listening to others’ journey stories this is an apt description of the journey of faith (Hagberg 1995: 173)’.

  • The stages identified by Hagberg and Guelich include

  • Stage One / The Recognition of God
  • Stage Two / The Life of Discipleship
  • Stage Three / The Productive Life
  • Stage Four / The Journey Inward - and The Wall
  • Stage Five / The Journey Outward
  • Stage Six / The Life of Love

Hagberg has subsequently explored in more depth the relationship between these faith stages and the experience of daily work in an article entitled ‘The Faith-Work Journey: Developing and Deepening the Connection Between Faith and Work’ (Hagberg 1993: 172-183). Hagberg sees faith and work as part of an organic whole: ‘where we are now on our faith journey determines how we behave at work, what our motives are, and how we live our vocational call,’ and ‘we can strengthen the connection between faith and work by consciously applying the skills and talents we use at work to promote our spiritual growth (Hagberg 1993: 172)’. Hagberg goes on to discuss each stage of faith and gives examples of the sort of connections a person living at this stage of faith is likely to make with his or her work, along with the advantages and disadvantages the stage offers. According to Hagberg’s scheme a person can recycle to any of the stages over and over again, and also be in more than one stage at the same time. Hagberg offers a more dynamic understanding of the faith-work connection that is less easy to tabulate than Cobble’s in terms of age groupings. It provides for twists and turns, as well as a linear progression, developing the idea that the faith journey is fluid and flexible, meandering, mysterious and unpredictable. We can move back and forth and all around. We can be in more than one stage at a time in different parts of our lives (Hagberg 1993: 181).

For Hagberg the primary usefulness of the stage model is to help people gain an understanding and appreciation of where they are on the faith journey and an appreciation of where others are whose lives seem to be posing different questions and coming out with different answers.

In his conclusion to Faith Development and Pastoral Care Fowler (1987) encourages churches to become environments of development expectation. He says we must begin to ‘draw on the rich process imagery our tradition offers in the themes of journey, pilgrimage, wilderness, ship wreck, struggle, rescue, growth from being milk eaters to being meat eaters, healing, the new being in Christ, and the promised land (Fowler 1987: 116)’. He suggests we need to offer more dynamic images of faith and calling in our preaching and teaching. Building on the work of William Willimon and John Westerhoff on liturgy and the life cycle (Westerhoff and Willimon 1980), Fowler urges churches to begin developing liturgical celebrations of rites of passage and to recognize and encourage the development of faith and vocation. Fowler suggests some specific ways in which the forming and renewal and regrounding of vocations can be celebrated by the community of faith for people at different ages and stages. Fowler also proposes that churches begin to offer periodic faith development inventories or checkups. These could be offered in a retreat or spiritual direction format for individuals or groups. Fowler even offers a worksheet for this latter exercise called ‘The Unfolding Tapestry of My Life’ (Fowler 1987: 122-125). This tool could be usefully employed alongside Schein’s checklists exploring bio-social, career and family development.

The Balanced Life

One of the most difficult practical challenges that people face in their daily work is maintaining a healthy balance. It is usually a case of how to juggle home and family responsibilities, plus voluntary and church work and leisure pursuits, around the demands of a career in a context where economic restructuring is pressing for more productivity, and often longer hours, from fewer employees. The questions this gives rise to are ‘how can I fulfill all these claims on my time? how do I clarify my priorities? what matters most and what must I let go?’. These are questions that a clear sense of vocation should help to answer.

These pressures have increased in recent times with the growth of a more aggressively competitive free-market environment. An international survey of 5,000 office workers in 16 countries, including New Zealand, confirms the common belief that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives (Press 1994). According to Anne Else (1996) people, and especially women, are being crushed by the economy. This is because the entrance of many more women into the paid work force, combined with the expectation that they are still responsible for most of the unpaid work as well, means they simply have too much work, and it is snowballing on both fronts, paid and unpaid. People are struggling to get their lives into better balance inside and outside the home.

The experience of many of these women has begun to be documented and makes fascinating reading, particularly in the way that it challenges traditional understandings of vocational roles, identity and the relationship between private and public lives. Several noticable trends have been documented. These include, a decline in religious beliefs and practices for women who have entered employment (De Vaus 1985), recognition that many women enter the workforce as reluctant conscriptees who would rather be at home with their families (Bastick 1990), and the withdrawal from the workforce of women who have pursued career options (but not out of economic necessity) and now find these much less attractive than they first thought (Albert 1992; Anderson 1994). But women are also deeply aware of other pressures, including the problem of reconciling and integrating public and private lives. Shelagh Cox explains:

in order to live well at home I did things and thought in a certain way. In order to do well in the outside world I became a different person. As long as I kept my two selves separate, I got by. But whatever means I developed for reconciling the two, there was a hidden complexity. The half of my life I was failing to acknowledge was present in the other. Sometimes its presence distracted or disturbed me and sometimes it nourished me. Aware as I was of this double existence, I could make little sense of it and felt I could do nothing about it. I wondered if other people fared better and, if so, how they managed it. (Cox 1987: vii)

A book that explores the re-weaving of women’s public and private lives by developing the idea of Christian vocation is Loving and Working by Rosemary Barciauskas and Debra Hull (Barciauskas and Hull 1989). Barciauskas and Hull note that even in evangelical and Roman Catholic circles the tide has turned. Women’s public vocation is no longer being denied. Yet such affirmations mean little if women’s traditional domestic responsibilities remain exactly the same - that is, if some of those responsibilities are not assumed by men and by society at large. They discuss ‘the shared human need we all have to live lives in which we are able to define our uniqueness through our work and affirm our connectedness through our intimate, nurturing relationships’ and conclude ‘when women are denied work and when men are denied intimacy, both women and men fail to achieve their full human potential and all of us are diminished’ (Barciauskas and Hull 1989: 159).

For Barciauskas and Hull the answer is to rediscover a view of vocation which provides for both loving and working. However, this is not just an individual, but a societal task. In the mostly ‘feminine’ private world of the home, the primary virtue is self-sacrificing care for others. In the mostly ‘masculine’ public world of work the ethic of individual achievement dominates. Both family and workplace changes are needed to integrate the virtues of individualism and self-sacrifice into a new society. These changes are not only social but spiritual. Only by more fully realising the Judeo-Christian ideal of Agape love will we be able to forge a future equally committed to loving relationships, family nurturance and humane, productive work. Barciauskas and Hull conclude:

in the end, we are faced with a task that is often a lonely one.....And yet these private tasks are being multiplied by the millions. If the sharing of these personal struggles can lead to solidarity among women and men, the re-creation of a balance of work and family life will be genuinely possible. Values of intimacy and connectedness can become public virtues. (Barciauskas and Hull 1989: 177)

Barciauskas and Hull explore how these principles can be worked out in marriages, in family life and developing new patterns of work.

Shelagh Cox (1987) develops the idea that men’s and women’s lives too, are separated. That men belong primarily to the public and women to the private sphere. But the dualism that undergirds this division is now being questioned by women who have found their identities bound up in a new analysis. Cox identifies four different ways the division between public and private spheres has been dealt with:

  1. allowing women to enter the public sphere.
  2. rethinking and remaking the private sphere.
  3. abolition of the private sphere.
  4. challenging the divisions between the public and the private.

The first two rest on the assumption that private and public worlds are fundamental and unalterable divisions. Cox favours the fourth approach. She proposes that we explore the border land between public and private life where inconsistencies in the ideology of separate spheres is revealed and where the contradiction in men’s and women’s lives can be identified. Rosemary Novitz, in the same book, looks at ‘Bridging the Gap’ between paid and unpaid work (Novitz 1987: 23-52). According to Novitz, the division between public and private worlds grew in the 19th century against the background of the development of capitalism, industrialisation and the increasing tendency for paid work to be located outside the home. The idea that men ‘go out’ to do paid work while women engage in unpaid work at home was brought to New Zealand by British settlers. And this still persists, for despite the fact that more men are becoming convinced that they should increase the time they spend in child care and domestic work, the burdens of trying to juggle time between the spheres of paid and unpaid work are still primarily borne by women. According to Anne Oakley, women have not been able to develop an alternative model of involvement in both paid and unpaid work which does not carry with it substantial penalties, traps and pitfalls:

for them [women], the problem since the present social structure was established in the 18th and 19th centuries, has always been to reconcile the conflicting demands of home and work in such a way that they appear to be conforming either to the feminine housewife model or to the male career model. An acceptable alternative pattern has yet to be established - either for women or for men. (Quoted in Novitz 1987: 51)

Women’s experience of the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and the realisation by many men that they do not, and will not, earn a ‘family wage’, lie behind increasing questioning of the inevitability of female domesticity. They also challenge traditional ways of organising employment and family life. As Novitz concludes:

many of us have developed individual strategies for combining paid and unpaid work that daily test our ingenuity and our energy. Through these strategies we try to accommodate demands on us as parents, and as the children of our parents, as well as employees, husbands, wives, lovers and friends. Changes to the way paid work is organised and the division of work between women and men (in the home and outside it) are necessary if we are ever to bridge more creatively the gaps between our private and public worlds. (Novitz 1987: 51-52)

Elizabeth McKenna is another writer who explores the complexities of women’s relationship with their work. She looks at questions of identity, success, money, meaning and balance. She then goes further than most other women writers to also explore the relationship between work and identity for men. According to McKenna powerful forces are at work changing circumstances for women and men that will take at least another generation for us to work through, and even then only as women and men are able to establish new patterns of partnership.

These writers highlight the search for something that will help to integrate and provide a sense of balance in lives that are made up of a variety of disparate activities. This is why something like the doctrine of vocation is so necessary. But the difficulty of combining paid and unpaid work, public and private lives, that we have already noted, makes plain that this is easier said than done.

And more complications are added through the work of Christena Nippert-Eng (1996). Nippert-Eng explores home and work issues from the perspective of a sociological study of boundary negotiation in everyday life. According to Nippert-Eng

Everyone actively and passively makes numerous decisions about whether and how they bring “work” into “home” and “home” into “work”. These decisions repeatedly push us toward either end of the integration/segmentation continuum, reflecting, reinforcing and challenging the boundaries we place around each realm. (Nippert-Eng 1996: 98)

The more we integrate, the more overlap is evident between ‘home’ and ‘work’. The more we segment, the larger the mutually exclusive territory of each realm becomes. This is expressed in the clothing we wear and the artifacts, such as photos and mementos, we associate with each place, the extent to which vacations and leisure activities include both home and work places and people, what we read and where it is read and where it is stored, and whether we discuss work matters at home or personal matters at work. The extent to which associates, artifacts and activities originating in one realm are found in the other is a good indication of the strength of our tendency towards integration or segmentation. Individuals opt for different degrees of integration and segmentation:

Through trial and error, spousal threats, children’s demands, extended family’s expectations, and the pleasing and disappointing of one’s self, colleagues and bosses, we each learn where to draw the lines around home and work, and who we when we’re in a certain place. (Nippert-Eng 1996: 100)

When we add to Nippert-Eng’s home and work categories the additional spheres of community, church, personal and leisure pursuits, and start pondering how we define our vocation in relation to each and all of these, numerous complicating questions arise. Do we see a single integrated vocation being worked out through a combination of these, or different callings being worked out in different spheres? Is each of equal significance or is it the strong pull of one calling that dictates the shape of the other aspects of our lives? Are the boundaries sharp between different spheres of activity or are they quite blurred? We are forced to clarify what we understand to be primary and secondary callings for us. Primary callings give overall shape to our lives. They usually operate in an integrating way, giving expression to what we understand to be the most important elements of our true vocation, in a fashion that is so much a part of us that it will almost inevitably spill over into all other aspects of our lives. At the same time, we may still choose to pursue other secondary callings in what may be a more segmented way.

There is no simple universal formula. The mix and extent of overlap is different for each person and also different at different stages of life. But it is important that in times of confusion and struggle we do consciously examine that mix, and that we understand the nature and degree of integration and segmentation that we have arrived at. Also that we evaluate the extent to which our primary and secondary callings, as we understand them, have led us to establish a healthy balance that reflects our true priorities at this particular stage of life. This is a process of vocational scrutiny that is likely to result in different decisions at different stages and that regularly needs re-examining and re-negotiating to maintain a good balance.

The aim of Robert Reber’s Linking Faith and Daily Life programme (Reber 1991) is to help women and men gain a glimpse of how the different aspects of their lives fit together in God’s purposes - particularly family, work and church. It invites participants to identify their life issues, explore the faith dimension, identify gifts, clarify their vision, choose their priorities, name the people and resources they need to assist and encourage them on their journey and consider options for continuing this exploration. There is a pressing need for more resources like this.


Hendrick Kraemer made plain in 1958 that it is impossible to seriously pursue a theology of the laity without also addressing questions of ecclesiology and structural issues (Kraemer 1958: 125-176). We have already noted how our theologising has outdistanced the practice of most churches. Now we devote attention to investigate how our conclusions might influence the shape of church life.

Changed Priorities.

Much of the time and energy in most churches is spent in internal administration and maintenance. When it becomes understood that one important priority of the church is to equip people in order that they might be released for ministry in the world, it seems unreasonable to expect the laity to invest much time and effort on maintaining church institutions which fail to support this purpose. To restore a healthy balance the church must move from an emphasis on the importance of ‘coming’ to the importance of ‘going’. This may mean growing a leaner church that places less maintenance demands on the laity and the creation of new structures that will support and equip and sustain people for following their vocations in their daily work. James Fowler maintains,

public churches try to free their members from many of the tasks of institutional maintenance and internal ministry for the sake of strengthening their vocations as Christians in the marketplace, the school, the law office, the legislative halls, the hospital and the corridors and committees of peace-making and ecological healing. (Fowler 1991: 159)

According to Loren Mead (1991) a new church is in the process of being born around us. We are being challenged to let go of the ‘Christendom Paradigm’ and begin reinventing the congregation for a new mission frontier. One very significant factor that will determine the shape of the future church is that it will take seriously the ministry of the laity (Mead 1991: 24).

At this point confusion arises because undoubtedly a new emphasis on the important role of the laity in the life of the church is being expressed. The difficulty is that most often this is a movement to get lay people more involved within the church. While this is to be applauded it may also lead unwittingly to the unfortunate consequence of devaluing the unique ministry of Christian women and men in the world. It may also result in less energy being devoted to encouraging and arousing lay responsibility for the world. Initially this writer thought there may be a significant difference between Protestant and Catholic approaches in this regard. Non-conformist churches with their emphasis on the priesthood of all believers appeared to emphasise the participation of the laity in church life but not in the life of the world. At the same time it appeared the Catholic church, which did not offer lay people the same opportunities in church, was emphasising strongly in its post-Vatican II theology the importance of the apostolate of the laity in the world. However, further examination since then suggests that despite theological statements to the contrary, each stream falls into the same trap as practical preoccupation with the church’s structures and processes undermine its ability to focus its gaze and training efforts outwards. This is reflected in the nature of both Protestant and Catholic lay training materials. They are almost all focussed on equipping people for ministries in the church or through church programmes. Some address issues related to home life, but very few make any more than a fleeting reference to life in the work place. In some evangelical training materials the work place is mentioned but is primarily viewed as an opportunity for contacting non-christians and sharing one’s faith in a narrowly evangelistic way.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that the American Catholic document ‘A Chicago Declaration of Christian Concern’ concludes:

we fear that almost obsessive preoccupation with the Church’s structures and processes has diverted its attention from the essential question: reform for what purpose? It would be one of the great ironies of history if the era of Vatican II which opened the windows of the Church to the world, were to close with a Church turned in upon herself. (Quoted in Diehl 1991: 180)

It would seem that the strong initiatives towards the development of a lay theology and provision of training for the laity through the WCC and its agencies in the 1940’s to 1960’s has experienced a similar fate, although some of these concerns are now reflected elsewhere in the drive to grow a ‘theology by the people’. But the conferences and publications sponsored by the Department on the Laity and the lay institutes started by this movement did not have the profound effect hoped for. Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the WCC has recently lamented;

‘ “the laity” has almost disappeared from ecumenical discussion. This is all the more striking because “laity” was an ecumenical keyword only a generation ago. Since then the passionate enthusiasm of the early ecumenical movement - which in several important respects saw itself as a lay movement - has somewhat abated. (Raiser 1993: 375)

Other leaders in the ecumenical movement have made similar statements (e.g. Mayland 1991: 38; Ruppell 1993: 392). David Gaines in his 1966 review of the history of the WCC expressed concern that the work of the Department on the Laity was generally far too theoretical and academic to address the sort of practical concerns that might otherwise provide momentum to the movement. According to Gaines, the reports from the Department in these years

bore few indications that a programme of real interest to rank-and-file laymen was in the shaping. They lacked the sure sense of what had relevance and at the same time practicability. Wanting were a genuine understanding of human need, a clear perception of the spiritual quickening of which average people in an encounter with God are capable, a down-to-earth stance in the actual involvement in the social process which gave inspiration and zest (Gaines 1966: 962)

Gaines also documents how the representation of lay people, especially women, remained well below the third of delegates the WCC intended to be allotted and that, inspite of the fine rhetoric about the importance of lay ministry and participation, it was the influence of ordained ministers that grew most rapidly in setting the agenda for the ecumenical movement (Gaines 1966: 1075-1077).

More recently Joan Delaney (1996) in an article on the four ecumenical institutes makes plain that they no longer target the training of lay people in the way the original institutes sought to. For example, ‘While Bossey’s original emphasis was on the laity, the Institute now concerns itself primarily with the ecumenical formation of church leaders (Delaney 1996: 83)’. Delaney also quotes from a report on ‘The Ecumenical Institute of Bossey’ prepared by Jacques Nicole in 1992 that ‘the churches tend to send a majority of ordained people or theological students to the various seminars or Graduate School’, although it is encouraging to note that, ‘perhaps to offset its heavy emphasis on ordained leadership, the Institute recently began exploring plans for an Ecumenical School for Lay Leadership Training’ (Delaney 1996: 83).

It is also interesting to see how the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) movement has developed in many places away from its original concern to provide theological education for the laity, towards providing an alternative in-service programme of theological education for clergy and lay people moving towards ordination. Where this has occurred it runs the danger of becoming dominated by church concerns and perspectives. Kinsler recognises that such developments invite some hard questions (Kinsler 1983: 18). Certainly courses listed in the Prospectus of the Extension Studies Department of the Bible College of New Zealand reflect the shape of a traditional seminary programme rather than a serious attempt to address the everyday concerns of lay people. The Brethren BILD programme which also focusses on lay training would seem to have a similar, fairly traditional, church-focussed bias, in spite of its origins. Also a number of attempts by evangelicals overseas to provide lay training of a theological nature seem to bear more resemblance to traditional church and seminary perspectives and styles than uniquely lay and workplace-focussed approaches e.g. Regent College in Vancouver (Banks 1987: 161) and the London Institute for the Study of Contemporary Christianity (Stone 1989a; 1989b). Obviously there is a very strong tendency in the church for attempts to move outwards and downwards to become overwhelmed by internal and hierarchical concerns, inspite of other intentions.

At the same time, there is a widespread awareness of the problem and a desire to redress the imbalance. We have already noted numerous strong statements about the need for the church to marshall its resources in a way that does express the priority of preparing and supporting the laity for life in the world and workplace. It is recognised that if congregations are to affirm, equip and support the laity for ministry in and to the world then theologians, church leaders and lay members must operate as partners in making this happen and it must be made a priority.

However, at this stage the rhetoric has still not been translated into practice. Nor have most of the promising theological pronouncements been heard, much less understood, by most lay people or even local church leaders for that matter. In New Zealand the Christian Education departments of most denominations have shrunk in recent years and none of the theological institutions are making a priority of lay training. It is hard to see where the energy and enthusiasm required to launch these new initiatives will come from at this stage.

So where do we go from here?

One interesting line of questioning would be to examine more closely ‘where are the blocks?’ What needs to be overcome for a change in focus and priorities and the allocation of resources to occur? Is it clerical domination and preoccupation with the church as an institution? Is it that theologising has been left to professional academics? Is it that faith has become so spiritualised and privatised it cannot be related to life in the public realm anymore? Is it that the church is struggling and, preoccupied with its own survival, is afraid to use its resources in an outward-looking way?

One recent New Zealand example which raises these questions is the attempt by some Anglican dioceses to implement a model for ‘Total Ministry’, based on principles that come from a programme implemented in Nevada and northern Michigan. This programme recognises the important ministry of Christians both inside and outside the church. It also makes plain that training, encouragement and support are required for both roles. Yet one gets the uncomfortable feeling that, in practice, concern for the former will exclude much meaningful focus on the latter. Fear has been expressed that this programme is being primarily driven by the need for more lay involvement in parishes that are struggling to support ordained clergy. Reverend Jenny Dawson has said ‘Unfortunately, we have sold Total Ministry short because generally it has been adopted in parishes which are desperate (Dawson 1997a: 16)’. It will be tragic if a programme that potentially offers so much to enhance the vocations of Christians in their daily work ends up like so many others only focussing on time and effort invested in growing and maintaining churches.

The crucial role of pastoral leadership.

James Fowler, building on the work of Roozen, McKinney and Carroll (1984), maintains that

in the development and continuing vitality of public church communities the role of effective and committed pastoral leadership is fundamental. Pastors, priests and other professional leaders in the community cannot create a public church commitment by themselves: the studies make this very clear. But it is clearly a necessary ... condition for the forming and sustaining of a public church community that there be imaginative and generative pastoral leadership... We also found, as did Roozen, McKinney and Carroll, that the pastoral leadership and patterns of lay leadership that joined with it must balance the channelling of energy they commit to the empowering and supporting of the laity in their public locations, with an equal attention to the nurturing and supporting of persons in their personal pilgrimages of faith. (Fowler 1987: 114)

William Diehl develops a similar theme:

the key to bringing the workplace into the worship place is the pastor. If he or she has to have tight control over everything, it will not happen. There are two reasons why the pastor should not totally try to control: very few pastors have the breadth of knowledge of workplace issues to be able to design educational programmes of relevance. Secondly, lay leadership must be involved in both the planning and presentation of programmes in order to give them credibility in the eyes of the rest of the congregation. The pastor must be willing to let people experiment with ways to bring the workplace into the worship place. The pastor’s role then becomes one of affirming and supporting the efforts of the members of the congregation, providing them with good biblical and theological help, and ensuring that the congregational worship experience will nurture and inspire the people. (Diehl 1993: 158)

Diehl expands on this description of ‘The Pastor’s Role’ in Ministry in Daily Life: A Practical Guide for Congreations (Diehl 1996: 61-71). Further explanations of what a more facilitative model of leadership involves are offered by R. Paul Stevens and Paul Collins in The Equipping Pastor (1993) and by Laughlan Sofield and Donald H. Kuhn in The Collaborative Leader (1995) which describes the sort of partnership between church leaders and laity which works best to facilitate ministry in the world. Another very helpful perspective is provided by Steve Jacobsen who writes as a pastor seeking to help pastors connect spirituality to the everyday work of their parishoners (Jacobsen 1997). Jacobsen’s book concludes with a helpful appendix that lists ‘Twenty-Five Ways to Serve People Who Work’ (see Appendix 3 in this thesis).

Loren Mead (1996) maintains that one of the five most significant challenges the church faces in this generation is to transfer the ownership of the church. According to Mead, ‘In America the church is owned by its clergy (Mead 1996: 1)’. Mead describes the characteristics and bad consequences of this ‘clericalism’ (1996: 5-14). For Mead this ‘clericalism’ should not be replaced by ‘anticlericalism’, but rather there must be

‘a new dialogue between clergy and laity, a dialogue in which neither seeks to lord it over the other, neither defers to the other, but both give their best to the relationship ... It will be a relationship in which those we now call laity will see themselves as fully functioning colleagues, standing on their own feet and assured of the authenticity of their witness and work. (Mead 1996: 14-15)

Mead concludes, ‘the task of the next generations will be to shift the power and ownership structures of the churches to allow lay people to fulfil their apostolic ministries and, in so doing, free the clergy to be the catalysts of religious authority (Mead 1996: 15)’. Lesslie Newbigin maintains that, if congregations are to become places where members are trained, supported and nourished for their priestly ministry in the world, traditional training patterns for pastors have to change. Ministerial training with a much stronger orientation toward the missionary calling is essential (Newbigin 1989: 230-231).

Of course these are not new calls. Many voices were raised in the 1960’s and early 1970’s calling for changes in models of church leadership that would better facilitate the ministry of the laity, in Britain (Wickham 1957; Blatherwick 1959; Robinson et al. 1963; Gibbs and Morton 1964; 1971), in America (Trueblood 1952; 1961; 1967; Ayres 1962; Harkness 1962; O’Connor 1963; 1968; Haney 1972; 1973; 1974; 1978; Bucy 1978), in Europe (Weber 1963; Symanowski 1966) and in Japan and other lands (Braun 1971). But the concerns announced by the Evanstown Assembly of the WCC (WCC 1954) and later developed by Kraemer (1958) and these other writers appear to have been overwhelmed by other, internal, church concerns. Only now is similar pressure for change building.

This is apparent in the titles of recent books. For example The Hour of the Laity (Coughlan 1989), The Calling of the Laity (Dozier 1988), The Authority of the Laity (Dozier 1982), The Liberation of the Laity (Rowthorn 1986), The New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God (Ogden 1990), The Forgotten Factor: The Story of Lay People in the Church (Barnes 1991), All God’s People are Ministers (Page 1993), The Emerging Laity (Whitehead 1988), Liberating the Laity (Stevens 1985), Ministry of the Laity (Anderson and Jones 1986), The Lay-Centered Church (Doohan 1984), The Lay Ministry Revolution (Hall and Morsch 1995), Laity Stirring the Church (Leckey 1987), The Empowering Church (Crabtree 1989), The Open Church (Rutz 1992), Church Without Walls (Petersen 1992), The Laity in Ministry: The Whole People of God for the Whole World (Peck and Hoffman eds. 1984), Christians in the Marketplace (Hybels 1993), Set My People Free: A Lay Challenge to the Churches (Etchells 1995), Confident and Competent: A Challenge for the Lay Church (Droel and Pierce 1987), Where In The World Are You?: Connecting Faith and Daily Life (Everist and Vos 1996), God’s Partners: Lay Christians At Work (Menking and Wendland 1993), Ministry in Daily Life (Diehl 1996) and The Lay Driven Church (Steinbron 1997). Only time will tell us whether these voices are heeded this time around.

A Sponsoring Community

This concept is drawn from James Fowler who borrows the idea of a sponsor from the early church, where a convert and candidate for baptism had a sponsor to guide him or her through the one-two-three year process of conversion and formation in the catechumenate. A sponsor is one who has gone before us and who knows the terrain: ‘The sponsor and sponsoring community have maps and models to offer pilgrims. Theyknow how to walk alongside, to encourage, and to help pace the movement of the pilgrim (Fowler 1987: 115)’. A faith community can offer support for people in times of crisis and change. It can also offer people images to understand what they are undergoing and help them avoid panic or premature foreclosing of a developmental tradition. It offers biblical and theological resources in the form of stories and images which can help people make sense of what they are going through in the light of the Christian memory and hope. It provides disciplines and guidance in prayer and in the contemplative study of scripture. Evelyn and James Whitehead describe how a healthy community of faith shapes the vocations of its members by inviting them to pursue a shared dream shaped by the kingdom of God: ‘our personal hopes meet God’s dream in the context of a particular community. When the dream of a community is lively, it helps us link our lives and hopes to God’s dream of a world healed of its poverty, violence and injustice (Whitehead and Whitehead 1992: 83)’. This happens through the influence of preaching, teaching, liturgy and testimony in the congregational setting, through the more intimate sharing of lives in a small group setting, through seminars and guided retreats and through more personal mentoring and informal relationships. All these are ways the church can give expression to its role as a sponsoring community. Of course, it is easy for such sponsorship to focus less on the world of work and more on personal pilgrimages of faith. We have already noted in Chapter 5.41 that this is a tendency which must be resisted quite intentionally. It is interesting to note the development in Fowler’s thinking in this regard, as his later works (1991; 1997) move beyond the personal faith development emphasis that dominates his earlier writings to a call for faith communities to become ‘public churches’; ‘Public churches work at shaping a pattern [formation] for children, youth and adults, that aims toward combining Christian commitment with vocation in public (Fowler 1991: 162)’. For Fowler this ‘public’ focus is expressed in social ministry and political and economic involvement rather than the specific faith and work concerns that we are discussing. However in many ways what is required is the development of faith communities with a similar orientation. Fowler describes three such churches and examines some key principles and processes that have worked to produce these ‘public churches’ (Fowler 1991: 162-170). According to Fowler, any reorientation of a church along these lines is a long-term project (seven to fifteen years), requires expanding lay participation in leadership, demands clear and powerful symbolic statements of identity and purpose, and inevitably involves conflict and struggle (Fowler 1991: 167-169). This suggests that the establishment of faith communities that are seriously committed to assist members to explore the connection between faith and their work is likely to be equally demanding and difficult and long-term. It is as much about the establishment of a prevailing climate and ethos that routinely gives expression and support to these concerns as it is about the more intensive mentoring of individuals or the programming of special events that highlight faith and work issues. Sponsorship through know how to walk alongside, to encourage, and to help pace the movement of the pilgrim (Fowler 1987: 115)’. A faith community can offer support for people in times of crisis and change. It can also offer people images to understand what they are undergoing and help them avoid panic or premature foreclosing of a developmental tradition. It offers biblical and theological resources in the form of stories and images which can help people make sense of what they are going through in the light of the Christian memory and hope. It provides disciplines and guidance in prayer and in the contemplative study of scripture. Evelyn and James Whitehead describe how a healthy community of faith shapes the vocations of its members by inviting them to pursue a shared dream shaped by the kingdom of God: ‘our personal hopes meet God’s dream in the context of a particular community. When the dream of a community is lively, it helps us link our lives and hopes to God’s dream of a world healed of its poverty, violence and injustice (Whitehead and Whitehead 1992: 83)’. This happens through the influence of preaching, teaching, liturgy and testimony in the congregational setting, through the more intimate sharing of lives in a small group setting, through seminars and guided retreats and through more personal mentoring and informal relationships. All these are ways the church can give expression to its role as a sponsoring community. Of course, it is easy for such sponsorship to focus less on the world of work and more on personal pilgrimages of faith. We have already noted in Chapter 5.41 that this is a tendency which must be resisted quite intentionally. It is interesting to note the development in Fowler’s thinking in this regard, as his later works (1991; 1997) move beyond the personal faith development emphasis that dominates his earlier writings to a call for faith communities to become ‘public churches’; ‘Public churches work at shaping a pattern [formation] for children, youth and adults, that aims toward combining Christian commitment with vocation in public (Fowler 1991: 162)’. For Fowler this ‘public’ focus is expressed in social ministry and political and economic involvement rather than the specific faith and work concerns that we are discussing. However in many ways what is required is the development of faith communities with a similar orientation. Fowler describes three such churches and examines some key principles and processes that have worked to produce these ‘public churches’ (Fowler 1991: 162-170). According to Fowler, any reorientation of a church along these lines is a long-term project (seven to fifteen years), requires expanding lay participation in leadership, demands clear and powerful symbolic statements of identity and purpose, and inevitably involves conflict and struggle (Fowler 1991: 167-169). This suggests that the establishment of faith communities that are seriously committed to assist members to explore the connection between faith and their work is likely to be equally demanding and difficult and long-term. It is as much about the establishment of a prevailing climate and ethos that routinely gives expression and support to these concerns as it is about the more intensive mentoring of individuals or the programming of special events that highlight faith and work issues. Sponsorship through know how to walk alongside, to encourage, and to help pace the movement of the pilgrim (Fowler 1987: 115)’. A faith community can offer support for people in times of crisis and change. It can also offer people images to understand what they are undergoing and help them avoid panic or premature foreclosing of a developmental tradition. It offers biblical and theological resources in the form of stories and images which can help people make sense of what they are going through in the light of the Christian memory and hope. It provides disciplines and guidance in prayer and in the contemplative study of scripture. Evelyn and James Whitehead describe how a healthy community of faith shapes the vocations of its members by inviting them to pursue a shared dream shaped by the kingdom of God: ‘our personal hopes meet God’s dream in the context of a particular community. When the dream of a community is lively, it helps us link our lives and hopes to God’s dream of a world healed of its poverty, violence and injustice (Whitehead and Whitehead 1992: 83)’. This happens through the influence of preaching, teaching, liturgy and testimony in the congregational setting, through the more intimate sharing of lives in a small group setting, through seminars and guided retreats and through more personal mentoring and informal relationships. All these are ways the church can give expression to its role as a sponsoring community. Of course, it is easy for such sponsorship to focus less on the world of work and more on personal pilgrimages of faith. We have already noted in Chapter 5.41 that this is a tendency which must be resisted quite intentionally. It is interesting to note the development in Fowler’s thinking in this regard, as his later works (1991; 1997) move beyond the personal faith development emphasis that dominates his earlier writings to a call for faith communities to become ‘public churches’; ‘Public churches work at shaping a pattern [formation] for children, youth and adults, that aims toward combining Christian commitment with vocation in public (Fowler 1991: 162)’. For Fowler this ‘public’ focus is expressed in social ministry and political and economic involvement rather than the specific faith and work concerns that we are discussing. However in many ways what is required is the development of faith communities with a similar orientation. Fowler describes three such churches and examines some key principles and processes that have worked to produce these ‘public churches’ (Fowler 1991: 162-170). According to Fowler, any reorientation of a church along these lines is a long-term project (seven to fifteen years), requires expanding lay participation in leadership, demands clear and powerful symbolic statements of identity and purpose, and inevitably involves conflict and struggle (Fowler 1991: 167-169). This suggests that the establishment of faith communities that are seriously committed to assist members to explore the connection between faith and their work is likely to be equally demanding and difficult and long-term. It is as much about the establishment of a prevailing climate and ethos that routinely gives expression and support to these concerns as it is about the more intensive mentoring of individuals or the programming of special events that highlight faith and work issues. Sponsorship through the personal mentoring of individuals or small groups in a way that deliberately seeks to address daily work and market place issues will operate best in a setting where the whole climate of church life is supportive and reflects these concerns.


a. Testimony, Prayers, Litanies, Readings and Hymns.

The most personal way of encouraging people to bring aspects of their working lives into worship is by inviting them to tell their own stories, write their own hymns and prayers, and construct liturgies around their own concerns and aspirations. The creativity that such opportunities give rise to often amazes.

The most comprehensive anthology of worship resources that relate to daily work is Work in Worship compiled by Cameron Butland (1985). This includes prayers, litanies, readings: biblical and non-biblical, sentences, hymns and songs, suggested service plans and even a daily manual of prayers and readings for personal use. Of course, many other collections of prayers and service orders also contain some similar resources. Something similar to Joy Cowley’s two collections of contemporary Psalms (Cowley and Coles 1989; 1996), with a stronger emphasis on work themes, but still distinctively earthed in Aotearoa, would be an excellent resource.

In And For The World: Bringing The Contemporary Into Christian Worship (Brown 1992) asserts that the church’s worship should reflect the church’s purpose and engage with everyday realities in a redemptive way. Although not specifically focussed on daily work, some of the principles explored in this book are relevant to our quest.

We also note here the importance of music in Christian education. Long after people have forgotten the words of a sermon they may still be found singing a hymn or popular song. The connection of words with music helps to maximise the chance that messages will be retained. So why do we not put more effort into communicating our theology through songs?

b. Celebrating Vocational Rites of Passage.

We have already noted elsewhere (Chapter 5.3 section 5 ) the suggestion of James Fowler (1987), following William Willimon and John Westerhoff (1980), that we begin to develop liturgical celebrations of rites of passage in the life cycle and in the development of faith and vocation. Fowler sees confirmation as a time for recognising a young person’s assumption of responsibility for baptismal vows made earlier by parents. It should be

an occasion for celebrating the young person’s new intentionality in deepening her relationship with God in Christ, and embracing full membership in the people of God, and in building on the awakening and shaping of vocation in and beyond the community. The covenant community, in response, should confirm its trust and support of the youth in his quest for deepened faith in the forming of vocation and should confirm its anticipation of celebration when the young adult is ready in the community to declare how he is finding a purpose for his life that is part of the purposes of God. (Fowler 1987: 117)

Fowler also suggests there should be a time for young adults in their 20s or 30s to share with the congregation their vocational directions as a culmination and completion of the promises of their confirmation. And similarly we should consider developing liturgical celebrations of the regrounding and renewal of vocation as part of a person’s completing a midlife transition or as they begin retirement (Fowler 1987: 117).

c. Ordination to Daily Work

Elizabeth O’Connor devotes the eighth chapter or her story of the Church of the Saviour in Washington D.C. (O’Connor 1963: 101-107) to describing how that community implemented their understanding of the ministry of the laity by introducing a service of ordination to daily work. It is used as part of Sunday worship and challenges participants to see their work grow out of their worship and their worship grow out of their work. It is built on the assumption that everyone is called to be a minister and the service explains how this calling is to be expressed through our daily work. This act of ordination means that the individual’s sense of call is confirmed by their own Christian community. So often the only ministries that are recognised by a congregation with any act of prayer or ordination are those related to leadership functions within the church.

Elsewhere, Jim Stockard describes the profound effect that such a ‘commissioning’ ceremony had on him and can have on others as they help to integrate the worshipping and vocational aspects of our lives (in Peck 1984: 71-79). Stockard also helpfully identifies five important aspects of the commissioning process and five blocks to commissioning. Another example of such a commissioning service is provided by Graham Tucker in his book The Faith-Work Connection (Tucker 1987: 212-213).

d. Special Services

Some congregations have a practice of devoting worship on a specific Sunday to ministry in one’s occupation. Frequently people are asked to come to church dressed as they would be at work. All the elements of the service develop this theme. Even the Offertory can be used for this purpose by inviting people to come prepared to make an offering of symbols of their work. Such things as tools, computers, stethoscopes, chalk, books and domestic utensils may be included in that offering. Of course such gestures in themselves do not get into the issues of the workplace and how our faith connects with them. But at least they provide some recognition of the connection between worship and ministry and daily work.

William Diehl suggests larger churches could feature different categories of work on different Sundays and then encourage people belonging to those categories to meet midweek with the aim of helping each other become more intentional and effective in their Christian ministries in the workplace. He invites us to imagine how profoundly the church’s mission could be advanced by such a major committment to affirm, support and equip the laity for their ministry in the world (Diehl 1993: 153).

e. Preaching.

Preaching is an obvious place for linking faith and daily life. And the themes we have developed earlier including vocation, the theology of work, ministry, mission, the apostolate of the laity, God’s work and our work, all need to be preached. Also those biblical narratives that revolve around daily work (Chapter 5.24) and biblical images that are drawn from the world of daily work (Chapter 5.25). A rich load of biblical and theological resources still waits to be mined. Two very useful resource books for preachers and study group leaders are Nelson (1993) and Banks and Stevens (1997).

William Diehl has some suggestions to make about preaching that will connect more strongly with people’s lived experience in the work place (Diehl 1996: 22-23). Steve Jacobsen also makes some helpful suggestions about designing a strategy for preaching about work (Jacobsen 1997: 29-40).

f. Benedictions and Dismissals.

Even brief references to the world of work, introduced creatively and with conviction, can provide encouragement and inspire greater confidence for Christians who venture back out into their week day worlds. Books of prayers, such as David Adams’ Power Lines: Celtic Prayers About Work (1992), can provide inspiration.

g. Other Tools.

William Diehl highlights the use of a number of other tools for affirming everyday ministry including banners, bulletins, the parish directory, bulletin boards, newsletters, signs and recognition events (Diehl 1996: 27-32). Crabtree (1991) and Jacobsen (1997) make other helpful suggestions.

Spiritual Formation

Traditional approaches to Spiritual Formation with their patterns of prayer, daily offices and retreats are difficult for most contemporary working people to relate to. But this is not because they have been replaced by more helpful models of spirituality. Most contemporary approaches to making Christian disciples tend to emphasise the importance of growing intellectual understanding of the faith, but seem weak on developing the spiritual formation of the whole person. This is strange at a time when widespread interest in alternative spirituality is evident among the wider population in New Zealand. New Age literature is common in most bookstores and newspapers and magazines promote a host of different spiritual self-development courses and experiences. This is a diverse grassroots movement made up of many different streams and not associated with any dominant institutional forms. By and large it is also a movement that has few links with established Christian churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Where are the Christian models and mentors for a lay spirituality that will feed and sustain a person’s faith in the workplace as we move toward the 21st century?

Within the Church there is a growing awareness of the need to be deepening the spiritual experience of people beyond just the intellectual dimension. There is also a growing awareness of the need to be carrying out this exploration by drawing on the traditions of different streams of the church. The rapid growth and ecumenical roots of Spiritual Growth Ministries in New Zealand is evidence of this. But this is still a movement that has yet to give expression to a form of the spiritual life that the majority of ordinary Christian people can take with them into the world of everyday work. There remains an unsatisfied hunger, often accompanied by a frustration or even desperation, for a living expression that will help bridge the gap that exists between a person’s experience of the spiritual life that is celebrated in church on Sunday and the spiritual life that is designed to be lived in Monday’s world. With economic restructuring placing pressure on many people to work even harder and longer, discovering such a spirituality becomes important not only to enrich a life, but even for survival. But also to provide the foundations for a virtuous life in the midst of a world that is struggling to retain the sort of ethical commitment that is required to enable us to function as a community.

Fortunately some Christians are beginning to explore these issues. On the one hand there are some pilgrims who are steeped in the spiritual traditions of the church who are making moves toward the marketplace (e.g. Green 1981, 1988; Huggett 1993; Dreyer 1994). On the other hand, there are those whose experience in the marketplace is pushing them to explore more deeply the spiritual traditions of the church. The books of William Diehl illustrate this (Diehl 1976, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1996). We can only hope that these two quests will give rise to a meeting that will inspire a much more creative partnership in the search for a more meaningful everyday spirituality. Of course there are also historical resources for us to draw on in this search for an everyday spirituality. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (Lawrence [1693] 1989) and Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life (Francis [1619] 1962) are two classic Catholic books. We note with regret that many Protestant Christians are unaware of the down-to-earth spirituality of their forebears. The Reformers did not only rediscover the vocation of the laity in theory, but also sought to cultivate and nurture it in practice. One of the earliest examples is Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray For Master Peter, The Barber (in Doberstein 1964: 437-460). Alister McGrath introduces us to some other early Protestant sources in his book Roots That Refresh: A Celebration of Reformation Spirituality (McGrath 1991).

Thomas Moore and Fredric and Mary Ann Brussat have authored recent works designed to encourage the development of a more thorough-going everyday spirituality (Moore 1992, 1996; Brussat and Brussat 1994, 1996). Also one issue of Weavings Magazine has been devoted to contributors exploring ways in which our work is our participation in the activity of God (Weavings 1993). However, it is John Haughey who most deliberately seeks to introduce us to a ‘Spirituality of Everyday Work’, even to the extent of introducing us to a method that individuals or small groups can adopt to promote attentiveness to God in our work circumstances in a way that encourages more discernment and more considered responses from us (Haughey 1989: 138-157).

In preparation for his book In Search of Faithfulness (1987) William Diehl surveyed almost two hundred Christian CEOs in the U.S.A. His aim was to identify what made some of these people more effective and integrated Christians than others. He discovered that the decisive factor was the individual’s sense of vocation. Those CEOs with a sense of vocation consistently scored higher on all the indices of Christian faithfulness, for example, prayer and meditation, involvement in the church, personal maturity, financial generosity, and seeking justice in the workplace. However, like Diehl himself, these people did not possess any dramatic sense of God’s call. For Diehl ‘faithfulness is acknowledging God’s graceful relationship with us by striving to grow more Christlike in our daily lives (Diehl 1987: 20)’. Diehl concludes his book by examining the barriers to faithfulness. He says it will come as no surprise that in the world of business, as well as in many other sectors of society today, there is no encouragement for people to grow more Christlike in their daily lives. But what is surprising and shocking is the way in which the church has erected so many barriers to faith development among the people of God.

Diehl concludes ‘surely the church cannot be against its people growing more Christlike in their daily lives. Yet the responses in this study indicate that not only is there little support coming from churches for this development in the faith, but also that there are powerful forces at work within the churches which sever the connection between faith and daily life (Diehl 1987: 112)’. According to Diehl it was apparent from his interviews that much faith development occurs apart from the institutional church. It is selfinitiated. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And Diehl offers a number of practical suggestions about ways the church can work to recover its role in the spiritual formation of the laity. Diehl ends his book with this challenge:

what has happened to Christianity as found in mainstream Protestant churches today? The answer is clear. By not connecting the teachings of the faith to the experiences of the faithful, our churches have become increasingly irrelevant in the shaping of American life and culture. Yet the faithful are out there. Faithfulness can be found and the marks of the faithful can be observed. What glorious potential still awaits the Christian church if it can truly affirm, equip, and support all its members for all their ministries in all the world. (Diehl 1987: 123)


We have traced the evolution of the concept of vocation from a highly spiritualised interpretation to a secularised view. The Protestant Reformers sought to elevate the status of the daily work of believers by identifying it as a spiritual exercise and an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, through their re-interpretation of vocation. The sudden emergence of a variety of theologies of work in the second half of the twentieth century suggests a similar process of re-interpretation is underway now. The concept of vocation is only one element in this new quest. It is a quest to connect worship, discipleship, ministry and mission with the everyday life and work of ordinary believers. The focus on work is because it is here links with the life of faith are most difficult. The world of daily work, particularly the market place and factory floor, feel separated and remote from church. Worship, discipleship, ministry and mission are what the church promotes as most important. Yet these categories are seldom applied to the daily work of ordinary Christians. We could understand this if there was a clear gap between sacred and secular aspects of life. But this is not the Christian perspective. In fact, as we have seen, worship, discipleship, ministry and mission are designed to be expressed through the ordinary events of everyday life. And perhaps most importantly through daily work because it consumes so much of most people’s lives. And the trend is for work to consume more rather than less time. Therefore the church either helps its members to make more connections between their faith and everyday work or it conveys the message that most of what we do counts for nothing in God’s economy. If only church related activities count and these are relegated more and more to the private and leisure parts of our lives, we will fail to encourage and equip the largest ministry and mission force the church has, which is the people the God who penetrate almost every aspect of life of the world every day in the course of their work.

Through the sort of developments we have traced in the doctrines of vocation, ministry and mission and the theology of work we have good theoretical foundations on which to build a more positive and assertive approach to faith and work. If these are to be made more freely available to most Christians and understood by them, it will need to be in more simplified and popular forms. It will also need to connect theology and ethics and spirituality in a down-to-earth way. And in a way that also connects with people’s current experience of work - the real points of struggle and pain and confusion. For this to happen more opportunities for people to encounter one another and share their stories is essential. And Christian leaders will need to listen carefully to understand the issues these stories are bringing to light. It is also essential for us to recognise those choice points or transition times in people’s lives when they are most open to seek outside assistance and learn new lessons. It is at these moments that vocations are re-examined and intensified or re-designed. It is at these moments that the resources of the church are most needed and must be more readily accessible. Childhood and adolescence, graduation, and mid-life and retirement are examples of some more obvious stages of openness. Christian Education and Spiritual Formation are essentially about growing vocations. About helping people discern who they are in God and how their work can be related to God’s work. Nothing matters more than this. It is from this perspective we must examine the shape of church life. Are the resources of the church being mobilised in a way that maximises the opportunity for its members both individually and corporately to discern their vocations?

A struggle is going on in the church. Some want it to provide a form of Christian escapism which enables them to leave the struggles of the world behind them for a while. They do not want Monday invading Sunday. Church provides an opportunity to escape to another place which makes Monday more bearable. But others seek encouragement for a much more significant engagement between the church and the surrounding culture. They know that if Christians are to move with more freedom and relevance into the world we must also be open to let the needs of the world enter more freely into the life of the church. It can still be in a context of celebration and solidarity and hope, but it will also be touched with pain and grief and struggle. Escapism or engagement? Most of us want it both ways. Certainly no effective connection of faith and work concerns will take place without a more serious committment to engagement and any rediscovery of true Christian vocation cannot point in any other direction.