Deployment: Discerning Context
In addition to addressing questions of capacity, the believer who wants to practice vocational stewardship should seek to discern the appropriate context for it. This exercise has some overlap with discerning one’s capacity, but some of the queries are slightly different. They relate to the arena, environment, and role that marks a “best fit” serving opportunity. Lloyd Reeb from Halftime, and leaders from equipping churches like Saddleback, Pleasant Valley, and Briarwood Presbyterian, have offered questions and discussion topics similar to those below to help congregants assess context:
• Describe something that you really enjoyed doing with your vocational gifts, something that you did well, and felt proud of. Where did this service occur?
• Considering your educational background and experiences, in what ways do you envision your knowledge/skills/abilities being put to use in the church or its partner ministries? How could they be put to use via a local nonprofit agency or in an international context with a mission agency?
• There are times in our lives when we feel that God calls us to a particular ministry. Presently, do you feel called by God to a specific ministry?
• In what arena do you sense God leading you to serve: the marketplace, your church, your community, or somewhere around the world?
• We’re all wired differently – some are “big picture” people, some are introverts, some like to work in teams, etc. Which of the following styles describes you best?
Task/Structured– You are focused on results, prefer to follow an agenda, and like getting the job done
Task/Unstructured- You appreciate flexibility, like tangible results, prefer general guidelines, and are often willing to help wherever needed
People/Structured– You project warmth, like clearly defined relationships, and enjoy interacting with others in a stable situation
People/Unstructured– You are conversational, relate well to others, are very flexible and spontaneous
These queries help individuals think about the arena where their skills might be most strategically used and the kinds of roles that would best fit how they are wired. These questions are most directly related to Pathways 2 and 4, where an individual contemplates the kind of nonprofit or church-based initiative to volunteer in and the sort of volunteer “job” that will best match his work and personality style. A young graphic designer, for example, who does not have extensive scope for “blooming” at the large firm where he works, may decide to pursue Pathway 2. Perhaps he’ll confront two possible volunteer opportunities. One serving opportunity might be in a nonprofit where the environment is quite warm but chaotic, lines of authority are messy, and staff excel in relational skills but not in organizational skills. A second opportunity may be with a large, well-organized nonprofit with clear work plans and deadlines and a quiet, well-ordered environment. Our young graphic designer is likely to do a better job if he picks the serving opportunity where the environment best fits his own temperament and work style.
Finally, these questions may also prove useful to ask regarding your own present work context. Suppose, for example, a nurse is working in a large hospital. On the one hand, she loves nursing. It fits her passion and personality, and she’s good at it. On the other hand, she dislikes her current job! As she complains about her work to her parents, they start worrying that perhaps their daughter chose the wrong profession. But the issue here is not that—it’s about the context where the nurse is working. She loves nursing, but her personality and work style suit her far better to some kind of small clinical setting where the pace is slower and opportunities for interaction with patients is greater. She is wired to “bloom” as a nurse—and can do great good thereby in the Kingdom—but needs to find a better context for deploying her skills. If a tight job market or tight finances prohibit her for a season from leaving her hospital job, she may want to sign up to volunteer in the church’s health fair or participate in a medical missions trip as ways of stewarding her gifts as a nurse (and getting more joy out of those gifts).
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