In this section:
Discipleship to Jesus Christ should be at the heart of our response to the Gospel. As we orient our lives around this living relationship with Jesus, it naturally raises questions of identity - who we are, and work - what we should do. These naturally resonate with young people, who are working to answer these questions regardless of their faith or lack thereof.
In the Diocese of Lichfield, we are passionate about the entire people of God, young and old, lay or ordained, female or male, discovering and living out who God is calling them to be and what God is calling them to do. Francis Dewar describes vocation in three ways:
- The call to follow Christ,
- The call to a particular role (i.e. a job), and
- A personal vocation or task something that you alone can do that enriches the lives of others.
11-18s are in the midst of laying the foundations for, or are even discovering the vocation that God might be calling them to. Gods call on a young person can be significant: Anne Richards writes of Gods call of the boy Samuel (1 Sam 3:1-21), pointing out a number of telling ideas about Gods sense of vocation for children and young people. Jewish tradition has it that Samuel is about 12 years old in the story, an age in Hebrew culture where boys are at the cusp adulthood and the ability to make moral and ethical decisions for themselves (Richards, 2013, 22). Samuels relationship with Yahweh is personal and intimate (the whispered voice waking Samuel), and is serious and meaningful (Richards, 2013, 24) not in any sense less than that of an adult. This story (and others like those of Samuel, Moses, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to name a few.) shows us that God often already speaks to our 11-18s about their vocation even without or despite our help, on their own terms (Richards, 2013, 27 and 73).
As knowledge and confidence of ones vocational journey develops, ones ability to articulate the Gospel of Jesus Christ grows. This means that as we become more ourselves through discovering and living out our vocation, we might be able to more easily in word and deed call others to discover the life found in Gods love revealed in the person of Jesus.
At the heart of Christian life is the call, the vocation, to follow Jesus Christ as his disciple. The two concepts are interrelated, with one growing as the other develops. As young people step further into discipleship to Jesus Christ the question of vocation - who am I, and what will I do with my life? - will arise. Churches can help 11-18s by offering some the most appropriate opportunities from the list above or developing others that are more context specific.
The 2016 report Rooted in the Church reminds us that inclusion and equality are important for 11-18s to flourish as part of our church communities. Being included allows young people to experience life as part of the whole church, not just a silo of young people. Inclusion is also about being offered opportunities to serve and be served in church. Linked closely to inclusion is equality if young people are the church of today, and not tomorrows church, this demands that we notice the vocation, skills and talents of young people as a way of valuing their contribution to the churchs life. Below are a list of ideas for engaging young people in conversations and reflection around their vocation. The list isn't exhaustive, but gives you some inspiration for you to create opportunities that work best for your 11-18s and their context.
Opportunities to see how Christians live out their calling in everyday life
The vocation of many 11-18s will not be caught up in formal service in the church but will instead take place in offices, factories, building sites, or shops. It is important that 11-18s know its possible to do these things as an act of worship (cf. Rom 12), and that this is of just as much value as the overtly Christian roles of priest or reader.
Churches could consider doing this by:
- Interviewing people during a service, youth group, or youth cell / bible study once a month to talk about how their faith affects different aspects of their life (work, home, hobbies etc.).
- Connecting young people exploring different types of work with people in those industries to talk together on a one-off or semi-regular basis.
- Encouraging volunteers to talk about what they do when theyre not at your youth club / Sunday morning provision / holiday clubs.
Opportunities for Service at Church
If 11-18s are todays church, not just tomorrows, what opportunities can you offer them to let them serve as part the team at church? You might consider:
- Asking them what they might like to do in church God may already be prompting them to try inviting them to
- Be on the tea and coffee rota for after the service.
- To join the musicians once a month.
- To join the sound or projector rota.
- To lead a part of the childrens work (starting with simple tasks, and building up to more complicated things).
- To join the rota for reading scripture in services.
- To join the cleaning rota.
- To preach on a passage of scripture or a specific theme that is important to them.
- To join the PCC.
- Using material in your youth groups to help young people understand and develop their own vocation.
- Working out ways to make it okay to fail in their attempts to serve learning often necessitates failure.
Vocations to Licenced or Ordained Ministry
For some, part or all of their vocation may be to licenced ministry, either as a licenced minister such as a reader or Authorised Lay Minister (ALM), or as a priest. Nationally, the Church of England is making significant efforts to help young people explore the priestly ministry of attending to the glory of God, the pain of the world, and the renewal of the Church (Pritchard, 2007).
As we offer opportunities for young people to explore life as part of the wider church, we may notice that God might be calling some of our young people to priestly ministry in the Church. Here are some ideas for helping them to discover this:
- Invite the RNG Team to Lead a Youth Group Session on Vocation - Jon White, our Youth & Vocations Enabler, can lead a session on vocation for 11-18s designed to help participants to reflect on their vocation and what to do about it.
- Get them some training Courses like Innovate Mission (for 15-17s -https://www.lichfield.anglican.org/innovatemission..., or day-events like Dream Dare Discover (for 11-14s - https://www.lichfield.anglican.org/dreamdarediscov... are great opportunities for young people to reflect on who God might be calling them to be and what God might be calling them to do in a context outside of their parish. This might be an opportunity to begin the process of seeing a Vocations Advisor (see below).
- Connect them to a Vocations Advisor - If a 15-18 year old articulates a call to priestly ministry in the Church of England, a Vocations Advisor can meet with them to help them further articulate this call. You can contact the Vocations and Training Team about connecting a young person to a Vocations Advisor via https://www.lichfield.anglican.org/vocations-to-ordained-ministry/.
- Consider offering work-experience Under-16s have the opportunity to undertake work experience as part of their secondary education. It isnt easy, but Parishes in our Diocese have provided this experience for young people in their Deanery and have found it a positive experience for both parties.
- Need more advice? Connect them with the Vocations & Training Department visit the Vocations and Training website (https://www.lichfield.anglican.org/vocations_and_training/) for more information.
- Consider the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES) CEMES is a year-long (or longer) placement in a Diocese running the scheme (22 Dioceses at last count). A CEMES experience is free to the participant, offering them a placement in a parish for practical experience, and some theological training, usually through the Dioceses preferred Theological Education Institute. Throughout the process, participants also meet with their Vocations Advisor, usually in their home Diocese, to explore further what God might be calling them to.
Young Vocations Session contact Jon White, our Youth & Vocations Enabler (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Dewar, F. (2000) Called or Collared: An Alternative Approach to Vocation, London: SPCK.
Richards, A. (2013) Children in the Bible: A Fresh Approach, London: SPCK.
Pritchard, J. (2007) The Life and Work of a Priest, London: SPCK, 2007.
Lawson, J. & G Murcell, (2014) Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation, London: SPCK.