By Dr. Nancy Going
Director of Research & Resource Development
Over the course of our three-year Creating a Culture of Calling project, how did the churches involved actually embed this “calling lens” in their culture? Here’s sampler that includes three churches planted in the Eastern U.S….
1. They Hosted Dinners Just to Hear and Tell Calling Stories
At Round Hill Community Church in Connecticut, once or twice a month, nine people gather in the church’s parlor to share a meal and tell stories of unexpected grace. It’s a diverse group from all walks of life and “ages and stages.” The purpose is to bond over a meal and dig deeper into stories of God’s grace threaded through their daily lives. The underlying mission is to use food and fellowship as fuel for “normalizing” conversations about the way calling threads its way into everyday experiences and choices. These dinners at Round Hill give people the courage to embrace and pursue God’s calling for their life and their community. As members at Round Hill got used to the language of calling, they became more open to experiencing and seeing the living God move in their midst—this is the crucial starting point for infecting your church culture with a new language and sensibility.
Today at Round Hill the people have a new awareness of God’s influence in their everyday rhythms, and that has fueled a new passion for fostering life in their community. They feel drawn to creating projects, serving on church committees, and planning events for their community. People are responding to the things they feel drawn to because they now honor those passions as God’s nudges. They are inviting God to form them into communities that make the Kingdom of God tangible and accessible to all.
2. They Handed-Out Peace Pins Throughout Their Community
If you walked the streets of Southbury, Connecticut today you’d pass by people wearing identical pins on their favorite cardigan, T-shirt, backpack, or blazer. These are no ordinary pins—they are “Peace Pins,” gifted to nearly 7,000 people by the congregation of Sacred Heart Church. These pins symbolize the collective dream of a community, binding Southbury’s disparate residents by a common thread—a passion for to bringing PEACE in a hurting and broken world.
The pins subtly-but-profoundly remind the community that the living God is present and active in their “daily grind.” Sacred Heart’s mission is to cultivate community around the church’s primary calling, to live out Jesus’ beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Church leaders have noticed that these pins give people in their community both an awareness of God’s priorities, and the courage to talk more openly about the things they see God doing among them. It has reconfigured the way their people experience their relationship with God, from a church compartment to all of life. These pins are creating a community that is not only aware of God’s presence in their midst—moving with them throughout their day—but also, a community that’s called to participate in the Kingdom of God.
Not only are the adults at Sacred Heart wanting to share their stories of peacemaking, but children are raising their hands to proclaim the works of God in their lives. This is extraordinary because the kids at Sacred Heart rarely shared anything about their faith, let alone talked about the living God moving in their midst. A mission trip tied to their “peacemaking” calling helped focus and motivate their passion to live out their calling in everyday life.
3. They Embraced and Their Role as a ‘Sacred’ Revolving Door
The people of All Saints Church in Durham, North Carolina often describe themselves as a hostel. Located between two major universities, students are always moving in and out of their community. As a congregation, they’ve intentionally created a space that cares for students, loves on students, and then sends students on their way to their next adventure. Though All Saints has naturally gravitated to serve as a refuge for students over the years, their calling mindset now gives them a shared language and a shared mission to see what they’re doing as a sacred passion. They feel a renewed calling to be a place where people can discern “what’s next” in their God-journey.
Now All Saints Church recognizes their God-given vision for offering people a sacred space for discernment, helping people of all ages think about their own callings. Along the way they’ve discovered some students want to explore the possibility of pursuing ministry as a calling. Because of their geographic location in the Southeast, where church participation and engagement continues to decline, this is an especially important outcome of their calling. As they live out their passion for giving students the refuge then need to discern their next life steps, they’ve fully embraced the repeated movement of young people in and out of their congregation. As a community, they’re continually challenged to open themselves to loving new people who enter their space for a short time. God’s callings challenge us to remain open and present with the people in our space and our community. They’ve learned that being called by God is to be fully open to the others in our midst.
Dr. Nancy Going serves as the Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. Nancy lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband Art, an Anglican priest, and they have launched two new families from their children.