Discovering a Unique Vocation
When I arrived at Regent College, I assumed that after my studies were complete I would find a full-time job related to my degree. I assumed I would be working in response to the calling that prompted me to study theology. In hindsight, this simplistic view of my complex calling feels a little naïve.
Back then, I was discerning between pastoral ministry and teaching. I felt like I did not fit in either world, making my future feel uncertain. During my time at Regent, I was blessed to learn alongside friends who were artists, accountants, nurses, and forestry workers, as well as those who went on to do doctoral studies or go into ministry in churches and beyond. My horizons of what is possible for a life of ministry expanded.
Now, here I am, ten years after graduating, and I am combining several paid jobs (and a few unpaid gigs) to live out of my unique calling to ministry. Looking back, I can see how I have been combining the varied skills and callings in my various roles. This multivocational approach to my calling has been more complex, yet also fulfilling, than what I imagined.
I did not always see this combination of roles as a positive. I originally thought it would be temporary. As I wrestled with my vocation, I have had the benefit of the research findings of the Canadian Multivocational Research Project (CMMP) to help me integrate my work and give definition to my calling.
Several years ago, a conversation started among academics and practitioners across Canada about the reality of multivocational ministry in the Canadian context. The group had a hunch that combining congregational ministry with other vocations would play a role in the future of the Canadian church. Since the research started, factors such as the global pandemic and the continuing secularization of Canada have brought about a noticeable impact on church attendance and giving. This has caused many individuals, pastors, and churches to face new questions about their unique call to respond to the ongoing call of the church to love the world. The CMMP was formed to seek an understanding of how multivocational pastors can thrive within such a complex context.
One key finding of the research is that multivocational ministers thrive when they live out of an integrated understanding of their unique calling—a calling that is grounded in the call for the church to love the world, yet understood as uniquely shaped to include their diversity of work (both paid and unpaid), family relationships, and community involvement. While work and ministry could be combined in ways that are complementary or lucrative or conflicted, those who had integration across their vocations were thriving.
The CMMP research was a mixed-method study. The first step for a candidate was to complete surveys from the Wellness Project @ Wycliffe, which provided quantitative results about stressors and satisfiers in ministry life. After the surveys, candidates took part in an interview to share aspects of their life related to the stressors and satisfiers of their additional vocation (or vocations) and describe how their multiple vocations fit together.
One way that I was involved in the CMMP research was to assist with the transcription of interviews. I had the chance to listen to words of wisdom from many of the forty interview candidates, and it gave me so much joy to hear how God called so many different people into unique callings that fit them so well.
And yet, it saddened me to hear how alone many of them felt. Many described how they creatively combine their vocations in their local context, then added a disclaimer that this was just how they did it and it would not be a good fit for everyone. Ironically, that insistence on a unique fit became a common thread that wove through the interviews.
The research is just the beginning of the CMMP: the project is also seeking to create a supportive community of Canadian multivocational ministers to support them to thrive. If you are a multivocational minister or support multivocational ministers please visit canadianmultivocationalministry.ca and read more about the research findings. The research has resulted in the forthcoming book, Tentmakers: Multivocational Ministry in Western Society, set to be released later this year. We also have plans to offer training to support multivocational ministers. Join the mailing list at the above website to receive notifications about online (and hopefully future in-person) training opportunities.