In January of 2022, Lisa Slayton called me with an idea. Her pitch was this: while a lot of people were talking about the Great Resignation, not enough people were talking about how it related to the whole idea of vocation. In her observation, the Big Quit had a lot to do with a collective crisis of calling. Because of this, conversations around employee satisfaction and workplace wellbeing (think balance, burnout, and remote work) were only going to get us so far. So, we decided that Lisa would convene four experts on vocation — myself, Patrick Reyes, Nicholas Pearce, and Steven Garber — with the hope that our collective voices would help us arrive at a wider, but also deeper, sense of what it means for our work that we are called by God.
Lisa invited each of us to speak out of our particular context and expertise while she held the task of drawing connections throughout the series. She did this by asking us all the following three questions:
Together, Lisa and I have synthesized below what we heard across all four labs.
De Pree Center, Executive Director
First, calling is one of those theological concepts that is hard to summarize in words. For some, calling is an attractive concept — one that conjures up images of how God speaks to us and helps us know what is ours to do. But for others, calling is an idea that has more baggage — a theological word that has been misused to signal privilege or spiritual specialness. In order to untangle some of this toward the goal of understanding our response to the Great Resignation, Lisa started by asking each of the panelists: What is calling? Here’s what we heard:
As we begin to think about the implications that calling has on the Big Quit, it is important to note that since we started this series in January, the collective conversation has shifted. Popping up are new hashtags like #thegreatregret (1 in 5 people regrets choosing to quit when they did) and #thegreatreshuffle (workers are still quitting their jobs in record numbers but are finding jobs in new fields or industries). This shift continues to suggest that people are leaving one place with the hope for something better — and perhaps something more meaningful or fulfilling.
It’s probably not shocking if we tell you that we think we’re in the midst of a sea of change, a time of dramatic change where things are transforming in profound ways. And yes, the shifts have profound implications for workplaces and leaders who must rethink or double down on the “humanness” of their organizational cultures, working to create conditions where team members can bring their best and be truly valued and appreciated. We don’t think that this is going to cease, at least not anytime soon.
Acknowledging that it will take time for these kinds of organizational shifts to manifest in their deepest forms, we also wonder about the implications for calling as Christians looking to navigate our workplaces, considering shifts, or doing the work of leadership that this sea of change requires.
As we worked to synthesize this section, what we started to realize is that, collectively, we’re longing for something akin to #thebigpause or #thegreatsabbatical — time and space to make sense of what's happened and is happening all around us. A snapshot of what this looks like from our conversations:
There is a well-known phrase in business that goes something like this: what you measure is what you get. Whether a team uses a balanced scorecard or an Objective and Key Results system, Key Performance Indicators, or something else entirely, good business tracks progress against goals.
Drawing on the wisdom of Dr. Pearce, what if as Christians we had a different kind of scorecard? What if we had a scorecard that helped us think about our purpose and calling? This kind of scorecard might help us attune to and be guided by God’s calling, especially in the midst of widespread and disruptive change. Drawing on some of the wisdom from these CityGate labs, a Calling Scorecard might look something like this:
Objective: Lean into Listening
KR 1: Ask people from a variety of spheres of life (work, family, church, friends, etc.) what they perceive to be the places where I am most energized.
KR 2: Ask coworkers how I might best partner or work more effectively with them.
Objective: Have the Courage to Step Back
KR 1: Every month, say no to one thing to spend an extended scripture/prayer time with God, where I journal my questions about calling/vocation or make my way through one of the calling stories in the Bible.
KR 2: Sabbath every week from work and technology.
Objective: Steward My Context
KR 1: Spend time every week with people who know me well and let those times fuel my “why.”
KR 2: Consider all the domains in which I invest (e.g., volunteer, parenting, friendships, work, church, etc.). Name and evaluate how God is calling me to be the same person across these contexts.
Objective: Start Where I Am
KR 1: Regardless of job satisfaction, name what you are looking for in a work environment. Decide on two small ways you can help to turn your current context into the place you seek.
KR 2: Take inventory of the different domains of your life. Consider where you see truth, beauty, justice, and goodness. How God might be inviting you to participate in one of these spaces?
If nothing else, be courageous in slowing down. Seas of change require pause. For those of us who are organizational leaders, we likely recognize that the workplace is “not returning to normal” or some romanticized pre-pandemic world. The shift has happened. By leaning into listening, having the courage to step back, stewarding our context, and starting where we are, we can do our part to discern organizational calling as well as individual calling.
If these labs have left us with anything, it is the hope that we can create and participate in work environments where individuals can bring their best and be valued and appreciated for their contributions.