The Call to Work: An inside look

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Recently, The Green Room became aware of The Call to Work, a program being developed by Resource Global. We spoke with Tracy Mathews to get the inside story about her own faith journey and how this new program came to be.

Tracy, how did you come to be involved with the faith and work movement?

My faith has come alive in a whole new way in the last 5 or 6 years as I’ve started to learn more about a fuller relationship with God. Before that he was my Savior, yes, but my boss at a distance.  I began to learn about how to grow a genuine relationship with him and now consider him as my most intimate relationship.

At the same time I have always been interested in and intentional about work. Before Resource Global, I spent 8-9 years at a biotech startup where I was quite passionate about my work, sometimes to an unhealthy extent.

About 2 years ago I was talking with a friend about impact investing: a growing financial trend where people want social and environmental returns on their investments, not just financial returns. That was the first time I had heard of it and it really got my wheels turning. A month or two after, I had an epiphany moment right after church. The sermon that day had been about guarding against the ways of the world. It was in that moment that it occurred to me that business was for more than just making money. It was a distressing moment. I realized that probably 95 percent of what I was doing at work wasn’t filtering through my faith lens even though I wanted Jesus to be the foundation for everything.

That moment led to a desire to better understand what I can now vocalize as the theology of work. Right around that time, I began to discern that it was time for a career change.

How did that lead you to work at Resource Global?

I had a specific interest in economic development, poverty alleviation, and agriculture. My hope was to work with a social enterprise with subsistence farmers as key stakeholder.

I was meeting with Tommy Lee who now runs Resource Global, to see if he might have any leads for me. He picked up on my epiphany moment and presented the idea of a faith and work training course as something that he and his brother, Jimmy Lee, had been thinking about for a long time. He wanted to model something on the Perspectives course and use it to awaken more people to the faith and work movement.

This was just about a year ago. I started with Resource Global in March 2016 looking to explore what was going on in the space and understand the prospects for a course.

So, how did the program begin to emerge?

I had the opportunity to speak with a number of faith and work veterans about what’s already out there, and what is still needed. I came to find out that there are so many excellent resources out there. The work that has already been done has been so beneficial to me in understanding God’s plan and purpose. I’m thankful for this. It’s very exciting to see that we have a full-blown movement underway.

We soon saw a few themes that were consistently coming out of the interviews. First, there’s a desire for further help with life application. Great work has been done to further  our understanding of the theology of work but many people need help living out this theology on a practical, day-to-day basis. Though people may vocalize it differently, there’s tremendous latent demand for biblical insight into our work.

Work is hard and people want help handling conflict, juggling priorities, and things like that. And it just so happens that our faith has so much to offer us. Greg Forster put it something like this, “Most people don’t wake up one day and say ‘I need a better theology of work.’ But they will Google ‘What to do when I feel stupid in front of my coworkers.’”

This theme of practical life application also came through from a different angle. Faith leaders want to not only help people with their stressful situations, they also want to see people transformed toward Christlikeness.  Transformation is facilitated when people actually apply theology to everyday life – when they look for and allow God to change the way that they see and respond to specific situations. This theme is now tightly woven into The Call to Work.

The other big theme that came through from many of our interviewees was the importance of the local church. This is about discipleship, and the local church has a central role to play. The local church also has the reach that’s needed to get to the population base. To help overcome some of the common barriers to sustained movements within the local church, we’re promoting the mobilization and/or training of a non-staff leadership team as part of The Call to Work. There are three reasons that were frequently given in the interviews:

  • A team of non-staff leaders can bring much needed bandwidth to think through what can and should be done. There are so many things on pastor and staff plates already.
  • Collectively, they can bring a much stronger and broader set of workplace experiences, which gives important insight on what is needed to best equip for discipleship in the work context.
  • They often feel the Sunday to Monday gap more intensely and are quicker to understand the need for faith at work integration.

Can you describe the program specifically?

There are two main components. First there’s the course itself, which is a workshop based experience facilitated by trained leaders from a local church, intended to help people make the paradigm shift that God cares about every aspect of our life and every moment of our days. We teach something we’ve developed called the  “Kingdom Orientation Process,” a series of questions that help us look at a specific work experience or situation and get to a Christ-like response, sensing God’s presence and discerning his will.

We hope that people will walk away from the course with a deeper understanding of how fruitful it is to take any issue or situation and seek God’s guidance for it. We hope that each participant will have experienced at least a  few profound moments that encourage them to take the things that keep them up at night—whether that’s a spreadsheet, a meeting, or just being bored with the same old thing—and bring them humbly before God.

The second component is the leadership training. We give guidance to help a church mobilize a primarily non-staff leadership team and we provide training to this team to facilitate the course well. We then go one step further, aiming to inspire the leaders with a greater sense of agency – of ability and responsibility – to advance their church’s faith & work efforts over the long term. Our hope is that The Call to Work will act as a catalyst to advance whatever faith and work efforts exist within this local church.

We encourage the team to have an active dialogue with the church’s senior leaders and promote a culture of thoughtful experimentation and innovation as they learn what works best for their specific congregation. Hopefully they have an experience running The Call to Work Course where they gel together as a team and become more passionate about faith and work integration, such that they are ready to make and carry out recommendations on next steps after the course is over.

What’s your timeline? How can the rest of us help out?

We’re in development mode now, intending to do a Chicago-based pilot in the fall of 2017. Hopefully that will give us good insight and feedback, allowing us to roll it out nationally across multiple churches the following fall, in 2018.

If people are interested in following along as we make progress, or would like to discuss how we might be able to partner, they can reach out to me here.  Partnership and coordination are so important as we seek to broaden and deepen the faith & work movement. One easy way people can partner with us is to spread the word about The Call to Work, forwarding this post to faith & work advocates with a strong interest in advancing faith & work efforts within their church. We see The Call to Work as a high potential tool they can use to make their job easier and more effective.  As we look for churches to participate in our pilot this fall, forwarding this to folks in the Chicagoland area would be particularly helpful.

headshot-e1474993999724Tracy Mathews is director of the Call to Work at Resource Global.

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