IVP - Online Pulpit - Encouraging Vocational Stewardship

February 9, 2012

Encouraging Vocational Stewardship

by Amy Sherman

I’ve never known of a church that doesn’t encourage its people to serve God with “their time, talent and treasure.” Sadly, though, few congregations—even those sold out to the missio Dei—actually facilitate “serving God with your talent” in an intentional, sustained, practical and strategic way that pays attention to members’ vocational talents. In a telephone interview, church-equipping guru Don Simmons, who’s helped innumerable churches with volunteer mobilization for decades, reports:

There are very few churches that have strong, intentional systems for deploying their people’s time and talent. Churches would not consider doing a stewardship campaign for money and not having systems in place to be able to gather it in, to disseminate it [and] report back how it’s being used… . But they don’t think of people’s use of their talent in the same way.

Congregants in our pews need to know that they should—and can—connect their workaday world and their faith. So often they feel a disconnect between Sunday and Monday. When we exhort congregants to “live for Christ’s kingdom,” we need to show them what that can look like in their lives 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. We need to do better in training our people to live missionally through their vocations.

kcOP.jpgIn researching Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, I discovered a handful of churches that are trying to do just that. We can learn much from their efforts.

At Christ Community Church outside Kansas City, pastor Tom Nelson has been preaching for a decade on the high calling of daily work. He visits parishioners at their job sites and uses workplace illustrations in sermons, diligently avoiding language intimating a sacred-secular dichotomy. Instead of only recognizing Sunday school teachers and missionaries, Nelson publicly commissions members for their professional service in local government and public schools. As a result, Christ Community congregants are living out their faith at work in fresh, thoughtful ways:

  • Dave and Demi, business owners, go the extra mile in supporting their employees’ families. Their firm’s light-drenched facility boasts a room for nursing mothers and a playroom for kids who come to visit Mom or Dad on site for lunch. And they offer financial aid to employees pursuing adoption.
  • David, an architect, now articulates his calling as one of redeeming architecture—designing buildings that “contribute to human flourishing.”
  • Jay, an attorney specializing in business transaction law, has found deep fulfillment in realizing that his work is all about advancing the kingdom’s values of peace and reconciliation.

At Church of the Good Shepherd in Durham, N.C., associate pastor Sean Radke has encouraged congregants to meet in vocationally oriented small groups. There they can share ideas about how to advance the kingdom in their particular fields. Already the law fellowship, Justice Matters, has launched a new legal aid clinic.

Grace Church in Noblesville, Ind., Northwood Church in Keller, Tex., and Crossroads in Cincinnati encourage congregants to serve abroad using their unique vocational gifts in specially designed short-term mission trips. For several years Grace has sent IT professionals to serve a seminary in Nairobi; Northwood has sent teams of educators to a partner ministry in South Africa; and Crossroads has sent lawyers, cops and researchers abroad to serve in special projects with International Justice Mission.

Let’s stop asking our bankers, engineers and artists for their canned goods and used clothes instead of their unique vocational knowledge and networks. When we create onramps for parishioners to advance the kingdom in ways that specifically draw on their vocational talent, we’ll find that they experience newfound joy and purpose in their work while the church significantly improves its effectiveness in bringing neighbors near and far greater foretastes of shalom.

shermanOP.jpgAmy L. Sherman is a Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, where she directs the Center on Faith in Communities. Her latest book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, was released in January by IVP.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at February 9, 2012 11:41 AM Bookmark and Share


You should check out a highly unique ministry organization here in Portland, OR called KingdomPoint International. (http://www.kingdompoint.com/) They actually have a process of formally ordaining "Marketplace Ministers" which are people pursuing non-clergy/missionary vocations for the Kingdom.

Comment by: John Shepherd at February 13, 2012 1:12 PM

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