Vocational Connection Groups—which I began to discuss in this post and in this post—can be the key that unlocks a church’s ability to discern how God is calling them to engage their community. I call them Vocational Connection Groups because they involve three activities:
- Living out our vocations. In other words, as God’s people, we are called to live out our various callings—as moms and dads, as employees and employers, as business people and soccer coaches.
- Connecting with people. As we live into our vocations, we are bound to interact with people—people who are loved by God and in whose lives God is already at work.
- Meeting with other church members in groups to consider what God is up to in and around our vocations.
Forming People Deeply
The goal of Vocational Connection Groups is not just to discover how God is at work in the world. It is also to form church members into the kind of people who are growing in awareness of God’s activity and intentions in their place of work, in their school, in their family, and in their neighborhood.
But formation doesn’t happen easily. The mere transfer of information in the form of sermons, Bible studies, books, and so forth doesn’t really shape a person. What shapes a person far more deeply is a process of action and reflection. Action refers to doing something. Reflection has to do with sitting back, once the action has been taken, to consider: what happened, what one experienced, and what action or actions one might take next?
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The Action-Reflection Circle
Robert Schreiter, in Constructing Local Theologies, says, “Good reflection leads to action, and action is not completed until it has been reflected upon.” To put that in terms of Vocational Connection Groups, we start by thinking about which of our vocations to focus on (at work, at school, at the YMCA, etc.). Then decide intentionally to pay attention to people. That’s reflection.
Then we take action by going to work, going to school, going to the gym—wherever we live out our various vocations—and interacting with people. We listen to their stories, and take note of what God might be doing in their lives.
But we can’t stop there; we have to reflect together on what we experienced and learned during our time of action.
It’s a big circle that keeps repeating. Reflection leads to action, which is followed by reflection, which leads to more action, which is then reflected upon, and on and on.
Action = Going and Listening
The action part of the Vocational Connection Groups’ action-reflection process involves essentially two things: going and listening.
- Going: Vocational Connection Groups involve going to work, going to school, going to the gym, going to your kids’ little league practice, going to the PTA meeting, and so forth. It means engaging in your vocation—your calling—in your work, with your family, in your community.
- Listening: Action also involves actively listening to the stories people are telling. What are your co-workers struggling with? What are the other soccer parents excited about? What do your neighbors find frustrating? Action involves having conversations, asking good questions, and listening for what God might be up to below the surface of their lives.
Reflection = Sharing and Listening
Reflection is the other major component of the Vocational Connection Groups process. This involves essentially two components: sharing and listening.
- Sharing: Group members share with one another stories what they experienced in their places of vocation. Who did they talk with? What did they talk about? What stories did they hear? What do they think God might be up to?
- Listening: As one group member shares, the others listen. But they don’t listen only to one another, they also listen to God through Scripture and prayer.
As participants move through this process of action and reflection, they will get a sense of what God is up to in their places of vocation, in their neighborhood, and in their church. At the same time, they will begin to understand the ways in which they themselves are being called to join God’s mission in the world.