More Sample Assignments across the Seminary Curriculum

Seminary Curriculum / Produced by TOW Project

Here are sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice across the curriculum.

Course Modules in OT - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Old Testament.

Economic Wisdom Project Exegetical Paper

Ask students to take one of the twelve elements or one of the four central themes of the Economic Wisdom Project and write a short exegetical paper tracing the element or theme through scripture. This could be done with the Bible as a whole, either testament, or one biblical genre or book. Naturally, the Theology of Work Bible Commentary would be one good resource for students to begin with, as would the new Faith and Work Study Bible from Zondervan. Some questions for students to consider:

  1. What are the main points the biblical witness puts forth regarding this element?
  2. Is the testimony about this element consistent, or are varying opinions given about it in different parts of scripture?
  3. What are some of the reasons for varying opinions (if they exist)? Historical development? Cultural context or setting? Compare and contrast the opinions. The assignment could actually be given in this form: i.e. “Compare and contrast the view of stewardship in the parables and in Paul’s letters / the view of integrity in Psalms and Proverbs.”

Work in the Prophetic Books

Ask students to look at one of the prophetic books in whole or in part

  • Where is work mentioned in the book or excerpt?
  • What kind of work is praised? Why?
  • Are any kinds of work condemned? Why?
  • What implications do the answers of these questions have for contemporary discussions about work?

(The TOW Project discussions of each of these books may be helpful.)

Course Modules in NT - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on New Testament.

Rewrite an Epistle as an Office Memo

Ask students to pick one New Testament letter and highlight its applications for the modern Christian worker, then re-write the letter as a one-page office memo.  Some suggested ideas for getting started can be found here.

Vocation-Themed Bible Study

Ask students to prepare a lesson plan for teaching a Bible study that is

  1. based on a specific passage dealing with work, vocation and/or economics (the list in the preaching segment) or
  2. based on themes of work, vocation and/or economics throughout an entire book of the Bible.

Greek Word Study

Have students do an exegetical word study on one of the following words in New Testament Greek related to work, economics, and vocation:

  • ἔργον / ἐργάτης
  • ἐνεργέω
  • τέχνη / τεχνίτης
  • κλῆσις / καλέω
  • οἰκονομία / οἰκονόμος
  • πωλέω
  • προσκαλέω
  • λατρεύω
  • διάκονος

What does Acts Say about Work?

Ask students to look at the book of Acts in whole or in part.

  • Where is work mentioned in the book or excerpt?
  • What kind of work is praised? Why?
  • Are any kinds of work condemned? Why?
  • What implications do the answers of these questions have for contemporary discussions about work?

(Again, the TOW Project discussion may be helpful.)

Course Modules in Theology - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Theology.

Explore The Theology of Work Over Time

Ask students to write a short paper explaining the theological development of one of the following ideas (throughout church history, in a specific era or tradition, in the writings of a specific theologian, etc.). Even better, ask them to turn their findings into a lesson plan to teach about this concept with their congregation.

  1. Stewardship
  2. Vocation/calling
  3. Poverty (material and spiritual)
  4. Exchange
  5. Community
  6. Creation in the image of God
  7. Economic justice

Some suggested books to use as resources are in the Economic Wisdom Project document. Other bibliographies are here:

Work and Doctrine

Ask students to write an essay addressing the following questions:

  1. What are some key Christian doctrines that should have priority in a theology of work, and what do these doctrines contribute to a theology of work? Any doctrines could be fair game, but particularly good places to start might be the Trinity, the image of God, sin, the Incarnation, ecclesiology and eschatology.
  2. What parts of the human experience and the Christian response to it should a theology of work explain? Examples include the place of work in life, whether we are designed to work, how we are called to work, the role of work in discipleship, our role in the economy, etc.

Some book resources dealing specifically with the theology of work can be found here.

A related assignment would be to base a similar essay based on whatever readings are already assigned for a particular course, by asking what theology of work is present in those readings and authors.

Do We Need a Theology of Management?

Have students respond to this article by Benjamin Norquist: “Proposal for a Theology of Management.”

  • Is Norquist correct in thinking we need a theology of management as well as a theology of work? If so, what additional evidence do you see for this point? If not, why not?
  • Where would you start in building such a theology? What doctrines could serve as starting points? (the imago Dei, original sin, and the Incarnation are three possible ones, but should not be construed as the only possibilities). What do you have to say to the managers in your own congregation?

Creeds and Work

Have students take a statement from either the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed and link it to a current news or human interest article that centers on problems and issues related to the world of vocation, work and economics, individually and/or socially. Have them explain their choices and discuss what they learned in applying the creed so specifically to work.

Here are some possible examples:

Apostles’ Creed

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”

Article: Brookwood Community Offers Work to People with Disabilities

“[I believe in] the resurrection of the body”

Article: Why We Need a New Theology of Work

Nicene Creed

“For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven”

Article: Election Day in the Shadow of the Cross

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son”

Article: The Quiet Unraveling of Work in America 

Theology by Video

Ask students to watch an episode of the Jesus and Your Job series by Sean McDonough at the Theology of Work Project and answer the following questions:

  • What theological point related to work is addressed?
  • How are the Scriptures used to explain and illustrate this point?
  • What other Scriptural passages might illustrate this point?
  • How does the Scripture relate to the lives of the workplace Christians interviewed?
  • Bonus assignment: write a set of study questions for your congregation about the chosen video.

Course Modules in Preaching - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Preaching.

Sermon Illustrations Straight Out of The Workplace

Require students to develop and preach a sermon in which all the illustrative material is drawn from workplace contexts. If possible, encourage the student to visit members of their congregation in their workplace to help give context to the sermon. Afterwards, have a conversation or assign short reflection questions about their experience:

  1. How did this illuminate the biblical text for them?
  2. How was it similar to, and different from, their usual sermon preparation?
  3. Did they have any surprise learnings from the experience?

Work-Themed Sermon Critique

Ask students to:

  1. Read and critique one of the work-focused sermons on the TOW Project page. What do they admire and find useful about the exegesis, structure, and illustrations? What would they change? How could the sermon be adapted to their own setting?
  2. Write their own sermon on the given passage in light of their study of the TOW Project sermon.

Preach on a Work-themed Passage of Scripture

Ask students to prepare a topical, a narrative and an expository sermon on a passage focusing on work and vocation.  Here are possible scriptures. Links go to the Theology of Work Project Commentary on each passage:

If possible, the students should preach one of the three sermons in the field and reflect on the experience. 

Pick a sermon, pick it apart

Ask students to critique a sermon related to the topic of work. (This link leads to over 40 sermons from the Theology of Work Project and The High Calling that discuss work.) How does the preacher approach the text? What aspects of their exegesis do you agree with? What would you have done differently? What other illustrations can you think of which illumine the biblical text the preacher chose?

Course Modules in Church History - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Church History.

Unacceptable Jobs for Christians

Ask students to respond to the Apostolic Tradition’s list of unacceptable jobs for Christians (chapter 16 here.)

  • What is the context for this writing? (It will help to have students read the entire document – it’s not long – and/or use this at a point in the semester when you are studying the early church.)
  • Why are these jobs defined as unacceptable? What themes unite them? How did they function in Roman society?
  • Would you put forward a similar list of unacceptable jobs today? If so, why? If not, why not?

It may also help to introduce as resources some links from the Theology of Work Project and The High Calling:

Lesson Plan for Education at Church

Ask students to write a lesson plan – including modern-day application questions – for teaching in a church educational setting (Sunday School, small group, etc.) about some aspect of church history dealing with work, vocation or discipleship (whether this be a movement, figure, event or famous text).

Course Modules in Spiritual Formation - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Spiritual Formation.

Work-Themed Spiritual Narrative

Ask students to write a spiritual narrative of their journey with Christ – focusing on their work. Such narrative-based assignments are common in spiritual formation classes, so you may simply want to add this as an additional focal point to a narrative you already assign. Where have your students seen God in their callings to work, both paid and unpaid? How have they served God in their work up to this point? How do they see their callings within the larger context of the body of Christ in ministry?

Workplace Prayer App

Ask students to design the content of a prayer app to be used by people in the workplace. What prayers, scriptures, songs and readings might they include? What issues should be addressed and how should the app be organized? What kind of structure should be used? (Do people need a prayer every hour? A longer devotion at lunchtime? Music? Would they like notifications to remind them to use the app? How often do they want to be notified? Do different occupations want different structures?) If possible, have them interview several workplace Christians in the course of developing the app. They might also want to check out Pray as You Go for ideas and inspiration.

Unemployment Spiritual Resources

Ask students to develop a spiritual resource specifically for congregants facing unemployment or underemployment. This could be a set of prayers, a Bible study or Bible reading plan, a sermon on the topic, or anything else you feel would be appropriate to the specific situation.

Work Problem Case Study

Ask students to write a case study according to the normal case study method, but paying special attention to issues of work (perhaps focused around a client or congregant’s work problem, or around the way work plays into relationship issues within a family or marriage.) Discuss with them afterwards how it affected the case study process to foreground work in their analysis.

Youth Education

Ask students to prepare a lesson plan for children or youth explaining one of the following (or another work-related topic) in audience-appropriate language:

  • Being made in the image of God
  • The concept of Sabbath and a rhythm of work and rest
  • Serving others through work
  • Especially for teenagers: How to treat others justly and ethically at work
  • Especially for teenagers: How to discern what work God is calling you to do

For inspiration, see the elementary school curriculum God's Story of Work for Kids.

One example of a curriculum for elementary-age children is here and another for older students is here if students need help with ideas on how to approach their chosen audience.

Course Modules in Worship and Liturgy - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Worship, Liturgy, and Church Music.

Work-Themed Worship Service

Have students prepare a worship service centered on a work- or vocation-related theme. Include scripture readings, hymns, prayers and other liturgical resources, and the outline of a potential sermon. For those traditions which require set scripture readings for various Sundays, students can work with a particular set of Sunday lessons that is congenial to being adapted in this fashion.

For inspiration, see sample services with work themes in from David Welbourn's book Work in Worship.

Earh and Heaven Separated by Song

Ask students to list ten hymns or songs, preferably from their own traditions, that emphasize discontinuity between earth and heaven, or between our current work and the new creation, with explanations. Then ask them to list ten (if they can!) which affirm the holy in the everyday and a continuity between our work and the new creation, with explanations. Possibly, follow this up by asking students to attempt to compose lyrics to a new hymn or song affirming an aspect of work or creation.

For practical examples of hymnody, see the TOW Project page on worship ideas related to work.

Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice across the curriculum.

Commissioning Service

Ask students to design a commissioning service by which a church could commission a believer upon entering into a specific type of occupation (teachers, nurses, artists, construction workers, secretaries, fast-food workers, parents, retirees…the list is endless!). The service should be

  1. appropriate to the student’s tradition
  2. biblically and theologically based
  3. inclusive of prayer, scripture and music.

For students from traditions with set liturgies, assign them to find the appropriate resources in their liturgical materials for putting together such a service.

If possible, ask the students to use the service in the field and reflect on the results.

For more on how a possible service could work, read the article Commissioning Our People for the Workplace and take a look at a service for commissioning an Industrial Chaplain.

Daily Commute as Liturgy

Ask students to respond to “The Work of My Hands,” a liturgy for daily commutes by A New Liturgy.

  • What elements of worship and prayer (praise, intercession, confession, etc.) do the creators include in their liturgy for commuters?
  • Why do you think they include each element?
  • How does this liturgy prepare people for work and for coming home from work?
  • Are there things you think could be added?
  • How could you see something like this being used in your own setting?

Critique Available Worship Resources

Ask students to respond to one chapter of the book Work in Worship, available at the TOW Project.  These include prayers, readings, sermons, hymns and sample services.

  • What theology of work and/or vocation is taught by your chosen set of resources?
  • Are there things your chosen resources leave out? Are there emphases that surprise you?
  • What theology of work and/or vocation do you need to teach your congregation?
  • Develop an adaptation of one of these resources for use in your setting. Be able to explain why you made the changes you did.

Very Common Prayer

Ask students to respond to the article “Blessing our Pets – and More” by Pam Tinsley and the accompanying Weekly Prayer Cycle for vocations by Demi Prentiss and Fletcher Lowe.

  • What insights can be gained from this article for designing worship that focuses on the “Monday through Saturday self”?
  • What might you add to or subtract from the prayer cycle for your particular situation? How could you incorporate these or similar prayers into your weekly worship?

Work in Contemporary Song

Ask students to respond to one of the songs on work from the Porter’s Gate Worship Project. (Note: the entire CD is available for purchase, and five songs can be viewed for free.)

  • What theological principles are taught by the song?
  • What are some Scriptural passages referenced explicitly or implicitly by the song?
  • How well does the song capture the experience of the workplace?
  • How could the song best be used in worship?

Course Modules in Mission and Evangelism - More Ideas for Assignments on Work

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Here are more sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice in a seminary course on Ecclesiology and Missiology.

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Ask students to write a paper addressing the following question:

Lesslie Newbigin’s book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society includes a chapter about “The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel.” Newbigin says: “The congregation has to be a place where its members are trained, supported and nourished in the exercise of their parts of the priestly ministry in the world. The preaching and teaching of the local church has to be such that it enables its members to think out the problems that face them in their secular work in the light of their Christian faith.” Explain how you respond to this statement from Newbigin. Describe a number of specific strategies that might help to facilitate “the congregation as hermeneutic of the gospel” in your local church setting. How could you communicate both this challenge and your practical suggestions to your church leadership team?

The TOW Equipping Church Overview paper might provide additional resources for this essay.

Business as a Personal Mission

Assign students to study a particular example of business as mission, ideally by meeting with or interviewing those involved in the endeavor. (The Business as Mission LinkedIn group is one place to start looking for a specific organization to study.)  Ask them to write a paper answering the following questions:

  1. What models of mission does this particular organization use?
  2. What cultural context is the organization trying to impact? How has it chosen to impact this context?
  3. What goals is the organization working towards? What specific strategies does it use to reach those goals?
  4. In what ways does the for-profit nature of this organization make it different from traditional mission organizations? What are the advantages? Disadvantages?

Learn from Lay Christians Reflecting on Their Work

Ask students to respond to these articles from workplace Christians at The High Calling:

For each of these articles, answer the following questions:

  • How do these Christians view their faith and their work?
  • How do they care for their co-workers?
  • How do they witness to Christ?
  • How do they negotiate ethical dilemmas?
  • What do they most need from the church?

Are the answers to any of these questions surprising to you?