The childhood questions, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” becomes central in the mind of emerging adults. The third developmental task of emerging adulthood is to discover vocation. Vocation is a means by which the individual fulfills purpose in their life. “We do not live by breath alone, sex alone, success alone, and certainly not by instinct alone. We require meaning.
We need purpose and priorities; we must have some grasp on the big picture” (Fowler). Emerging adults are seeking to discover vocation that gives them purpose and a place in the bigger picture of life. The first question in the Westminster Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” It is the basic question of the individual, and directs all future understanding of life. The Westminster Catechism responds, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Each individual faces a journey to discover how to practically fulfill this in their own life.
A Christian view of vocation can be defined as what God has called the individual to do in the world related to the kingdom of God. This definition echoes the main points of Veith’s definition in his book God at Work which states, “God has chosen to work through human beings who, in their different capacities and according to their different talents, serve each other” (Veith). This definition highlights three important aspects of vocation: a focus upon God (not the individual), an individual’s uniqueness, and a purpose to serve others. I believe these three aspects of vocation are important as we seek to help emerging adults discover the meaning of vocation.
Vocation has been defined in many different ways through the centuries. As I work emerging adults, their decisions are based on a misinformed view of vocation often received through the church. I agree with Volf that “It was clear to me that the dead hand of “vocation” needed to be lifted from the Christian idea of work. It is both inapplicable to modern societies and theologically inadequate.” (Volf) Many Christians have an incorrect view of vocation which causes them to struggle as they search for meaning in their work.
Although individuals face decisions concerning vocation at various points throughout their lives, emerging adults make critical decisions about education and vocation. It is critical that they have a clear view of what God expects of His people. The biblical teachings on the concept of work can be our guide. Parents, churches, and educational institutions must step forward to equip them to face the journey ahead.
Fowler, James. Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning.
Fowler, James. Becoming adult, becoming Christian.
Damon, William. The Path to Purpose.
Veith, Gene. God at Work.
Volf, Miroslav. Work in the Spirit.