One of the significant challenges for the contemporary church is the encouragement of Christian vocation for its future leadership. Kay Shurden and I took on this challenge in a small book we have written, Call Waiting: God’s Invitation to Youth.
It grew out of a year of intensive research at Mercer University as a part of a Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant encouraging vocation in the university. I interviewed graduates in all 10 schools of the university about their careers, university experience and their own sense of vocation.
Those interviews confirmed what I suspected—about half of them formed their sense of calling as children and teenagers. But when it came time to find the resources available for churches to encourage a sense of discernment about God’s call, they were few.
As we explored biblical material on calling as well as the historic development of vocation in the church, the concept of invitation seemed most appropriate for understanding Christian calling. God invited Moses to follow in a mission of liberation of Israel from bondage. The call to Deborah, Samuel, Isaiah, Ruth and later the disciples of Jesus were all invitations to join in the divine drama of kingdom redemption.
We are called, not just to “do our own thing,” but to participate in partnership with God in changing the world. It is a call to obedience in doing the work of justice, sharing the compassion of love and implementing the vision of a universal kingdom on earth.
Kay is the psychologist partner in this work and has worked to weave the seven-fold structure of the book into a developmental pattern that is appropriate to teenagers. God invites followers into partnership, an invitation that can be accepted or rejected. The invitation is to partnership with God in both the church and the world, now and forever, and involves a response of one’s whole being. As youth, the challenge is to make those formative decisions that will require a lifetime of work.
The book can serve many purposes.
First, it is intended as a useful guide for young people exploring the meaning of Christian calling for their lives.
Second, it provides biographical biblical examples of the meaning of vocation—stories of Moses, Paul, Jeremiah, Mary, and Lydia are included.
Third, it is intended to evoke reflection. Thoughtful questions and spaces for recording the reader’s thoughts are included.
Finally, it is a curriculum piece with an appendix that includes suggestions for youth leaders in designing discussion groups, Sunday school classes or a youth retreat around the theme of calling. Many churches and grandparents search for a gift at graduation—this can be one of your choices.
The generosity of the Lilly Foundation makes it possible for us to provide a free copy to youth leaders who request one. To receive an examination copy email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, name of your church and address. We will provide one as long as the supply lasts—one per person please. Additional copies may be secured from the publisher, Judson Press.
Larry McSwain is professor of ethics and leadership at McAfee School of Theology.