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Resources for Creating a Culture of Calling

Our Vibrant Faith Team spent three years immersed in helping churches create a “culture of calling” in their congregation—working under the umbrella of a Lilly Foundation grant, we built coaching relationships with 24 churches from seven denominations. First, we focused on teaching ministry leaders a theology of calling, sourced from the work we did in the “planning grant” portion of our research. You can read the Theological Overview of Calling HERE. This short document turned out to be a critical feature for grounding and providing traction for these diverse churches, providing them a shared understanding and a common language for what God does in and through the Christian notion of “calling.”   

In our three years of work together, the churches asked for resources to engage their people with their callings and God’s activity in their lives. The resources we created can all be found on the Vibrant Faith Projects Website: https://www.vibrantfaithprojects.org/c3-project.html 

I’d like to highlight a few specific resources collected on the site:    

1. The Stories We Live Small Group Curriculum  
Kathleen Cahalan’s book The Stories We Live became a “Calling Primer” for our churches. The book describes what God does in calling using prepositions. Each preposition is a chapter… 

  • By God  
  • To follow  
  • As I am  
  • From grief  
  • For service  
  • In suffering  
  • Through others  
  • Within God  

Vibrant Faith developed a small-group curriculum that walks through The Stories We Live in eight sessions. We created a version geared for adults, a youth version, an online version, and a retreat version. While some of the sessions are built around using our Visual Faith Images, we can help you to access those.  https://www.vibrantfaithprojects.org/stories-we-live.html 

2. The Calling Survey
The first “Creating a Culture of Calling” (C3) survey is designed to engage adults and young people in reflecting on their faith life and experience of calling. It is organized into three parts: 1. Personal Faith Life, 2. Personal Experience of God’s Calling, and 3. How the Church Supports People’s Callings. It was conducted at the beginning of our churches implementation of C3 projects (Fall 2018 and Winter 2019) You can access it here:  https://www.vibrantfaithprojects.org/c3-project-materials.html 

3. Discovering God’s Calling in Transition 
As we worked with churches to more deeply engage people’s callings, we noticed that times of “life transition” are particularly important to discerning new callings. So our Vibrant Faith Team created 13 modules designed to help people discover God’s calling through major life transitions: married life, single life, becoming a new parent, parent of a child, parent of a teen, parent of a young adult, becoming a grandparent, empty nest family, young adulthood, work, retirement, caregiving, and starting a new home. You can access them here: https://www.vibrantfaithprojects.org/transitions.html 

4. Discerning Calling 
The grant leaders created a series of spiritual practice exercises designed to focus people on discerning their callings—both big and small:  
• Holy Listening 
• Reflective Writing 
• Ignatian Examen 
These include a teaching tool, a handout and a “ways to use” doc 

5. Other Resources
Included in the C3 section on our VF Projects site are a retreat on discerning calling and a curated exercise called “5 Cups of Coffee,” designed to help people connect for five conversations around calling. You’ll find the Discerning Calling Exercises here: https://www.vibrantfaithprojects.org/discerning-call.html 

6. Instruments of Calling 
Along the way, our Vibrant Faith Team also realized the power of purpose and meaning as an outreach tool for congregants to talk with their unchurched and de-churched friends, neighbors, and family about what God might be doing through their specific life circumstances. That insight led us to create two related resources that can also stand alone. First, Instruments of Calling is a four-session training program to help people in churches listen for and engage in “calling conversations.” The program is designed…  

  1. To strengthen your ability to identify callings in yourself and in others 
  2. To prepare you to identify when people may be open to discussing a calling experience that they are having 
  3. To empower you to initiate, sustain, and close calling conversations with people who are not affiliated with a church but are open to growing in their relationship with God.   

The four sessions include…

Session 1. What is Calling?

Session 2. Eight Windows for Calling Conversations 

Session 3. Enter-Engage-Embrace 

Session 4. The Nuts & Bolts of Calling Conversations 

There is a facilitated version of the curriculum with a leader guide and a self-guided version that people can use individually or in a small group. You can access it here: https://www.vibrantfaithprojects.org/all-called.html 

7. Vibrant Faith’s AllCalled Website   
This site is an online portal for introducing people who are not connected to a church to the idea of a God who calls throughout a lifetime. There are eight calling “windows,” or life circumstances, through which people often experience God calling in new ways—whether or not they are practicing Christians. We have curated content behind each of the windows for people to be able to explore calling through that window or life circumstance. The entire site is also translated into Spanish—www.allcalled.org 

Dr. Nancy Going serves as the Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. Nancy lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Art, an Anglican priest, and they have launched two new families from their children.

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