Vocation Groups 2.0: What We Improved Over the Summer

Over the summer, we listened to you. Based on your feedback, we retooled the vocation group meeting format, focused our readings, integrated guest presenters, clarified vocation group values, raised the bar for participant commitment, and clarified the process for launching new groups. (What are vocation groups? )

Here are five big changes we made:

1. Group meetings include both reading discussions and guest presenters. 

Vocation groups now will follow a "2:1" rhythm - two reading discussions and one meeting with a guest presenter.  For example, a group will gather to discuss a text in January and February, and in March the group will hear from a leader in their field related to how they live out the gospel through their work.

For reading discussions, groups read and discuss a text related to either: (1) Contemporary challenges in your field, (2) Theological or historical foundations for your field, or (3) Models of exemplary service.  Group moderators broadly use a method called “Shared Inquiry” to draw participants into the meaningful discussion of a text.

Three times per year (every third meeting) vocation groups visit the workplace of  Christian executive, leader, or expert in their field who has a “theological vision” for his or her work and is an exemplary model of service. The focus of these meetings is on the life and story of the guest presenter, and are generally done in the place of work (oftentimes a boardroom) of the guest presenter.

These meetings generally have a three part structure: (1) Talk - Meetings begin with the speaker sharing openly and honestly about his or her story, career, work, and faith. (2) Q & A - Vocation group members have the opportunity to ask off-the-record questions to the guest presenter about anything from how to build a business to the biggest challenge in the field of medicine to hearing the Holy Spirit in making legal decisions. (3)  Tour - Most groups find it beneficial to have the presenter give them a tour of their workplace.

2. The meeting format is responsive to personal needs yet challenges participants to think broadly and serve creatively.

The new meeting format begins with introductions and check-ins, and ends with prayer for the particular challenges and needs of group participants. Each group is also focused on asking meaningful questions, engaging challenging ideas, and thinking broadly about the influence of the Christian faith on their chosen profession.

3. We raised the expectation level for participants. 

Many leaders expressed wanting to raise the level of commitment for participants for the sake of all who come to the group, while remaining flexible for the needs of group members. We also wanted to build trust among group members, yet provide “on-ramps” for new people to explore their group.

We’re trying to accomplish both of these goals by raising the bar for participants. There are three expectations for group members: (1) Members are asked to attend at least 75% of the meetings and to read before each meeting they attend, (2) They are asked to contribute to the vocational journeys of others in the groups through asking thoughtful questions, praying for one another, and serving as humble peer mentors, and (3) They are asked to commit to creative action and sacrificial service of others in their own work context.

Each group will also have several meetings per year that act as “on-ramps” for new members - meetings especially designed to welcome guests.

4. We clarified our core commitments.

It took a good part of the summer, but through a strategic planning process, the board defined 7 Guiding Principles that will act as a benchmark and standard for evaluation of all our programs, including vocation groups.

Specifically, vocation groups have four key purposes: (1) Build group relationships, (2) Investigate God’s good purpose for our work and profession, (3) Expose idols, powers and principalities that distort God’s good intent for our work, and (4) Focus on creative action and service.

5. We launched three more groups to make meetings times and locations more convenient for participants.

Geography matters! In an effort to make vocation groups accessible to more people, we launched three new groups, and plan to launch more. Here’s a list of active groups, which includes the first meeting dates for the year and general locations for each group. We ask participants to inquire before attending a group (thus, we’re not posting the times or specific locations online) in order to build relationships between group leaders and participants.

Now is a great time to join a group, as the first meetings of the fall are now launching.

Questions about vocation groups? Contact Greg Gast, our Vocation Group Leadership Coordinator: greggast@thirdstageconsultingllc.com

Don’t see a group either in your part of the city or in your field of work? Interested in starting your own? Check out the Process for Launching a New Vocation Group.