Spiritual Formation and Vocational Choice
1 SAMUEL 17:34-37
“But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!’”
If you’re like me, you only spent time talking about work related issues with students who feel called to ministry. If a student is called to ministry, I am very interested in helping him or her understand exactly what God is doing. But if a student wants to be a welder or a nurse or a teacher, my best advice has usually been, “good luck with that!”
Too often in ministry I think I inadvertently communicated the message that unless you’re going into ministry, God’s not really that interested. But, of course, we know that’s not true. Your work is important to God!
The vocation – the career our students choose – is important. Take a look at these stats from – the bureau of statistics from 2014:
• the average american spends an average work day sleeping 32% of the day (7.6
• 37% of the day is spent in work related activity
• leaving 31% of the day for family, leisure, and other activities.
Why these stats? It’s easy to see that no matter how much time you spend at work – your job has a tremendous influence on how you live your life. Your job affects where you live and who your friends are. Then doesn’t it make sense that God would be concerned with something that you spend the majority of your time on? Consider the following thoughts on how to help students with vocational choice and life’s purpose:
Examine God's Design
First, help students examine God’s design. We find in 1 Samuel 17 a description how David protected his flock from predators. What types of skills and abilities does it take to kill a lion or a bear? Certainly it would take courage, strength, skill or technique, and endurance. And, of course, the Spirit of God was with David to help him accomplish these amazing tasks, but God’s design for David was also at work. He was born with some of these qualities and abilities, others he developed over time.
But the bible is clear – God made David for a purpose. And God has a purpose for your students!
God has designed each person with unique physical and mental abilities, as well as different likes and dislikes.
• are you an outdoor or indoor person?
• are you a thinker or a feeler?
• are your strengths more athletic or academic?
• do you pay attention to detail or like to see the big picture?
We need to help young people find a match between the way God made them and jobs that require compatible skills, abilities, and personality. We can do this in two ways: informal and formal.
1. INFORMAL - Exploration questions
Talk with students about what they enjoy doing. Use the following questions as a guide.
Who I Am?
• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
• In what situations to you feel at your best?
• What are you passionate about?
Occupations to Explore
• What are your top five career choices?
• What do these career choices require?
• What type of education is needed?
• What school subjects must be mastered?
• Do these occupations match who I am?
2. FORMAL – Assessments
Here are three popular assessments to help students determine the types of careers that may be a good fit for how God designed them.
• Clifton StrengthsFinder™ (strenghtsquest.com). StrenghtsQuest is part of the Gallup research group. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is an online tool designed to help high school and college students discover natural strengths – the way you naturally feel, think, or behave.
- thirty minutes to complete.
- customized report that lists his or her top five “talent themes.” - - The StrengthsQuest book ($24) provides an overview of the strengths and 34 themes. You get a free access code for the assessment with the purchase of the book.
• MAPP™ (assessment.com). MAPP stands for “Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential.” The test consists of seventy-one questions with three answers. Your student picks the statement he or she likes the most and the one he or she likes the least.
- the test provides a list of career categories and jobs based on the responses. The initial assessment is free, but to access all the results requires additional fees.
- teenagers will receive a tremendous amount of information that can lead to a deeper understanding of God’s design.
• Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). This is the most well-known and effective personality test
- series of multiple choice questions with no right or wrong answers.
- identified with one of the sixteen personality types.
- introverted personality individual research,
- extrovert may prefer more interaction with people.
Provide Examples & Practical Experience
Students need examples to follow. Your youth ministry can help connect students with mentors in your church. Your youth ministry volunteers and parents can be wonderful resources. For example, you might invite your high school juniors and seniors to a special bible series calling and career. Ask volunteers and parents to share how God brought them into the career they have.
Another way to help students is to provide practical opportunities for students to develop a strong work ethic. A work ethic refers to the belief that work has intrinsic value. A student with a strong work ethic is dependable, honest, and believes that no task is too menial. Employers highly value people with a strong work ethic.
One way you can help students develop a strong work ethic is through serving and volunteering at your church and youth ministry. As you plan service and mission projects throughout the year, talk to students about the work itself. Often our students give half-hearted efforts in the ministry opportunities we present to them. Some feel that the people or situation may not require their best work. Help students see the importance of doing their best and being dependable. They exhibit a love for Christ and compassion to others through their service.
Spiritual formation shouldn’t stop with salvation and bible stories. Our students need our help to discover God’s plan for their lives.
Dr. David Odom serves as the new Director of the Youth Ministry Institute. He is Associate Professor of Student Ministry at NOBTS. He holds a B.A. from Liberty University along with an MARE and Ph.D. from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining faculty, Dr. Odom taught youth ministry at Grace University in Omaha, NE and served as Youth Minister in churches in Texas and Alabama.