Monday, March 06, 2006

Rethinking Calling and Vocation

As a GA at Geneva College, I work with Bible 300, a class focussed around worldview, culture, and calling. The students just finished with a section on vocation. One of the emphases of the unit is that calling is determined not by your station in life (what your father/mother does), but by your God-given gifts and talents. For some reason, in many students' minds this translates into: whatever makes you happy is what your calling is. Whatever you are talented at is what you are called to do. On further reflection, though, I'm not sure if this is the best standard to set up for students. Not that this is necessarily what is being taught, but it is what a large majority of students is coming away from the class with.

What if:
--you love something that you are not immediately 'talented'/'gifted' in?
--your talents have only been tried in one field, so that you don't know the various ways of vocational service?
--you don't have any dominant 'talents' or 'gifts'?

More so than these is the lack of a sense of place. Since I've graduated college my interests have changed. So have my wife's. She was a music business major. She loves music, she is starting a business. However, the further study of music is not her concern anymore. While in college, it was because of the possibility of going anywhere (place-less-ness) after college. Now, though, that she is rooted in Beaver Falls, her options there are limited. Not only that, but her sense of 'home' and 'place' are influencing her interests. She suddenly has a strong desire to know more about sociology, especially the New Urbanism and Localism. Her study of it isn't driven by grades, or necessarily monetary reward (even though this study is connected to our business), but by love of where she is and the desire to make an impact here in Beaver Falls. As students we both lacked this sense of place. In fact, I would set forth that this 'homelessness' that many collegiate students have paralyzes them in their choice of major and future career. Talents and gifts only matter when they are connected with a venue to use them: a home, a neighborhood, a place. Not only that, the place must be concrete, it must be local. Serving a nation is just abstract enough to mean nothing, same with serving the Church. Serving a neighborhood or a city or a countryside or a church does have meaning, since it is not a reified abstraction.

All of this, of course, has led me to wonder whether or not it is a good idea to start college at 17/18, when (in our culture) very few really have found their calling(s). I would be especially interested to hear what Derek would think, since he has started a new and important work with CPYU. More on this topic as it develops.


Sean Purcell said...

Has the consideration of place included a delivery room yet?


Qere Ketiv said...

Unfortunately, no. The baby has chosen her place; tucked in the womb. Almost one week late...which makes her a Warren; always late with the most important things.

Eutychus said...


Former Geneva College student here ('96) just perusing through blogs that mention Geneva College when I came across yours. My personal experience is that I didn't start college until I was 22, and since I've graduated I've had multiple different types of jobs. As a matter of fact, if you check out my blog (shameless plug) you'll see that very recently I feel like I've finally found my calling, and I just turned 38.

Other than those that feel a definitive calling, or get locked into a career path such as engineering, medical arts, or law, I think the "career planning" aspect of college is overrated. Studies show that the average American makes a bunch of changes in their lifetimes before they settle on a final career path.
For instance, I have a B.S. in Psychology, but I do not work in that field anymore.

However, I look at my 4 years at Geneva as the years that God used to change the whole course of my life. Ask anyone that knew me, education was not a priority for me, but what I learned at college was invaluable.

I think that the critical thinking skills, the independence, the exposure to other people and cultures, the opportunities to travel to places you may have never experienced....I think these things are the most beneficial part of college. As we all know, at 17/18 some people are more than ready for them, and some people cannot take full advantage of them ever.

Ultimately, my prayer is that all of these things will lead a student to the conclusion that a world filled with such complexity could not possibly have come about by chance and they will accept Christ as their Savior. Once they have done that and submitted their lives to God, they will find the vocation He has prepared them for.