At Work

What Is the State of Faith & Work so Far in 2014?

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We’re nearly four months into 2014 – what’s the state of the faith and work discussion in the Church so far this year?

The Barna Group released a wealth of research on this question earlier in the year and condensed its findings into three major trends. It writes,

“So what do you do?” America’s quintessential get-to-know-you question is a lot harder to answer these days, between the realities of the new freelance economy, the ever-shifting lines between work and home life, and a revived quest for meaning that often manifests itself in unconventional ways.

Barna then offers some statistics regarding this “revived quest for meaning.” According to its research,

  • 75% of U.S. adults say they are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life.
  • 40% of practicing Christians surveyed say they have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives.
  • 66% of churched adults say it has been at least three years or more since they heard church teachings on work and career.

These stats point to the opportunity for helping Christians find fulfillment in their work. Throughout its research, Barna refers to its findings as “opportunities for the Church to engage vocational discipleship in new ways.”

Here are the three trends/opportunities Barna highlights in particular.

Millions of Adults are Choosing A Multi-Career Path

In his book, How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work, Hugh Whelchel  makes an interesting observation about today’s career landscape:

We must embrace a view of vocation which includes some constant elements but is also flexible enough to help us make sense of lives in which the nature and mix of our work is regularly changing. It is projected that college graduates today will not only have a number of jobs during their careers, but will have a number of careers during their lifetimes, some of which have not even been invented yet  (emphasis added).

Barna’s research indicates that it’s not just college graduates facing this brave new working world with its kaleidoscope of careers. “New Barna research shows adults today are deeply concerned with getting work ‘right,'” the report reads, and then cites more illustrative stats:

  • 60% of adults say they want to make a difference in the world.
  • Nearly 50% are afraid of choosing the wrong career.
  • Less than 19% of adults say they’re extremely satisfied with their current work.

Last week, Elise Amyx reported that many adults are thinking differently about the work they choose – they’re not just taking the first job that comes along. This desire for meaningful work presents an opportunity for the church to help Christians think deeply about what constitutes meaningful work and what makes work meaningful in the first place.

Many Women Are Realizing They Really Can’t Have It All

In discussing women and vocation, Barna opens the conversation with this finding:

The question that has captured the cultural imagination today – can women have it all? – is still widely debated. But on an experiential level, new Barna research shows that most women are feeling indicators that they can’t.

What are those indicators? Barna cited several statistics, the main one being that nearly 59% of women say they are dissatisfied with the balance between their work and their home life.

This is one reason why Anne Bradley suggests in her open letter to millennial women that the question shouldn’t be “can I have it all,” but rather “how can I do all that God has called me to do?”

Women are looking for an answer to that question, as Barna concludes:

All of this points to a strong desire for faith-informed vocational support among women, in whatever vocation a woman might fulfill.

Evidence Shows Many Christians Are Responding to the Vocational Call of Adoption

It’s initially perplexing why this conclusion would be included in a survey on faith and work. However, calling encompasses more than a career in the office. In The Call, Os Guinness explains calling as five components:

  • We have a primary calling to Christ.
  • Underneath this primary calling are four secondary callings: the call to work, church, community, and family.

This trend, then, fits within the call to family. Barna acknowledges the uniqueness of this trend in the midst of the faith and work conversation:

Adoption isn’t typically grouped in discussions on vocation, and yet, many parents who adopt do so precisely because they feel called to such choices.

You can read more here about Barna’s findings on Christians and adoption in the context of this particular study, but what’s interesting about this trend is how Christians feel the church is supporting adoption compared to the other areas of secondary calling. Barna reports:

What’s more, where churches don’t always offer support when it comes to integrating faith and work, adoption is one notable area  where many churches are doing so. Of practicing Christians, 30% agree with the statement: “My church makes a special effort to encourage adoption or foster care.”

These are just three trends emerging in the discussion on vocation in 2014. Who knows where the conversation will go as the year progresses?

What trends are you seeing in the faith and work discussion in the church this year? 

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