Last week I attended the Redeeming Work event put on my Leadership Journal, and I really enjoyed the speakers and conversations. (In case you missed it, you can see tons of thoughts from the day on Twitter, or catch the event as it travels the country.) Nearly 200 leaders gathered from around Chicago to learn what it looks like to view work in a new way—to see our vocations as an integral part of following Christ. We gathered at Ignite Glass Works (a local studio that boasts beautiful spaces and intricate glasswork around the building), ate local food made by passionate people, and discussed the day at independent coffeehouses around the West Loop. The day holistically gathered us into a workspace, talked about vocation, celebrated work done well, and supported local businesses. It was a beautiful picture of how God can redeem our work.
As I've said before, I believe the topic of vocation and seeing our work as part of our discipleship is extremely important for small-group leaders. Why? Because small-group leaders meet weekly with the people of the church to discuss daily life—much of which is taken up by our work. Leaders, we have an amazing opportunity to encourage, equip, and empower the people in our groups to see their work differently—no matter their work.
One of my favorite parts of the event was hearing Amy Sherman speak. Last year when I read her book, Kingdom Calling, I was blown away by her robust theology of redeemed work (You can read an excerpt here and here). As she spoke to the leaders gathered last week, she reminded us that we must help people be disciples in their Monday through Saturday lives—and a big part of that is our work.
When we take this new focus, we'll not only help our group members be a better kind of worker, but also help them think through the actual work they're doing. She gave multiple examples of people who have taken their passion, seen a real need in their communities, and are making decisions about the work they do—paid or unpaid—to make a difference for the kingdom. One person she profiled is a chef who opened a restaurant that serves organic, local food to care for the earth, has an open kitchen so everyone can see how she treats her staff, and offers free "cooking on a budget" classes to underprivileged families. Her faith affects every part of her business. Another person profiled is a builder who purposely sets up homes in communal settings that include lots of public space for gathering, wide sidewalks, and a small-town feel. On top of that, he's made energy efficient heating and cooling systems standard to help care for the earth and keep costs down for families. It's easy to see the impact that we could have for the kingdom if every person in our churches understood that God wants to affect every aspect of our lives—including our work.
Another reason we must address this topic is that we're losing young adults. Numerous speakers during the day pointed to the fact that young adults are leaving the church because the church doesn't seem relevant to their chosen work. They're getting the message that unless you become a pastor or missionary, your work doesn't have significance and is unimportant to God. If we can begin celebrating work and helping people see what God is doing through our everyday work, we'll all have a healthier view, and we may find we're more relevant as a whole—not just to young adults.