What is VocationCARE?

What does it Promise?

VocationCARE consists of communal practices in which churches and other spiritual communities grow together into a life worthy their deepest commitments. In other words, this is practice for action, for the enactment of ministries that change the world – or the world immediate to you, at the very least. This process was originally co-developed by the staff of the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) in Atlanta.

VocationCARE helps individuals and communities discern and enact their call. We think this practice is dynamite if you want to stir up or rekindle in a community that urgent longing to participate actively in Christ’s redeeming purpose in the world. VocationCARE also connects to the entrepreneurial energies of its participants – so that the church becomes and remains a vehicle for transformation in our time. Our primary commitment is toward shaping faith into action.

There is an urgent need for the church to embody the deep commitments and emerging mission consciousness of its members, especially of its young people. Vocational energies – the ones that link us most closely to Christ the Vine – must be tapped or the Body of Christ is diminished. VocationCARE provides a quality of access to the wider and deeper places that the Spirit is calling the church. It also provides a model for ministry design and strategy. In short, it is a response to the challenge facing so many churches: to make a connection with the deepest longings of the people in its midst – inside and outside the church – or become a cultural artifact, or just simply close their doors.

When you practice VocationCARE, you tap into a deep collective heart force that we call leadership or compassionate presence. Its Source is within us. The VocationCARE practices provide a framework for taking deep dives into that zone regularly as a community. This is a clarifying, unifying, and fortifying experience for those engaged in discernment.

These practices, unique in each church, spiritual tradition or context, are observable disciplines that can be named as four core moves that can become a way of life for congregations, ministry contexts and other places of Christian gathering.

The acronym CARE stands for:

C - Create space to explore [our calling] together;
A - Ask self-awakening questions together;
R - Reflect theologically on self and community; and
E - Enact the next faithful step. 

Creating space together, we listen for the “sound of the genuine,” a term coined by Howard Thurman, the social mystic theologian who heavily influenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That listening begins with hearing holy texts from Scripture and other sources. It continues as we engage the practice of Testimony and Holy Listening (a culmination of Creating Space). Through a focus on listening together to sacred texts, and in the exchange of stories from our lives, we find that the sound of the genuine is both within us and shared between us. For us at the Beecken Center at the School of Theology, we are also bekieve that the more we practice this together the deeper our commitment to justice and to compassionate presence to the world becomes. Hearing one another’s stories, we engage “open and honest,” or self-awakening questions to take story-tellers and hearers deeper into the mystery of calling that each of our lives bear.

Next are practices that release participants from attachments to preconceived ideas, prejudices or biases that might narrow or obscure God’s future seeking to emerge through them. These are named as exercises of Letting Go and Letting Come. This is followed by another discernment move that imaginatively walks participants into a new future. These last two moves are preparatory for the design and action phases that cap the process.

This combination of contemplative, conversational and design practices has become a wellspring for those engaging it in re-imagining their ministry context and the gifts of everyone within them.

Through the addition of a design studio as a way toward Enacting the Next Faithful Step, teams create blueprints of how they will implement what they have discerned when they return to their congregations. They are led through a specific framework developed by the Silicon Valley firm, IDEO, for “thinking like designers,” to implement prototypes that test their discernment, and faithfully enact their sense of sacred calling.

VocationCARE not only provides a framework for continuously discerning the future that is trying to emerge through us. It also leads groups through a step-by-step process for brainstorming, and creating blueprints for how we will incarnate a future that is different from the past.

The summary effect of engaging these practices is a call to action that awakens courage. Experimented with together, these practices unleash the life that is in us to make a difference in the life of a church and the world, an embodied engagement of our spiritual commitments. This involves co-creating an ecology rich in spiritual practice and behavioral conditions that draw out and engage the gifts of everyone.

We believe that congregations and other spiritual communities wishing to participate in a VocationCARE training gain the most by sending teams to our training events. This is very much connected to the common understanding that it takes a group of three or more to be signs of possibility and transformation to the communities they represent.

To submit your interest in training and introductory events, contact Jim Goodmann (jgoodman@sewanee.edu) 931-598-3398.