October 6, 2014
“So, what do you do?”
If you don’t have a quick answer to the standard-issue opening line at the First Encounter, no one will know how to frame a follow-up question, and the conversation will be DOA.
No credible sociological data is available for prior generations, but you don’t need a Gallup Poll to confirm the conclusion: Americans are career-centric in the 21st Century.
In a few weeks – at the end of Q4 – you’ll be in myriad holiday parties that will involve extended family members you don’t really know. Find yourself engaged over eggnog with a second-cousin who’s a college senior, and you’ll tweak The Question: “What do you hope to do?” Their major in art history – with a minor in indigenous peoples’ studies – may explain their stammer: they don’t have a clue about turning what they now know into something productive.
Unemployment rates are political fodder; they provide provocative challenge-points in debates, but it’s just a statistic… until you’re the one with nowhere to go on Monday. Downsizing is a C-Suite strategy, at the top of the org chart; “released” is a death sentence for a 50-year-old breadwinner with 25 years left on a mortgage, and two in high school shopping for colleges. Nothing does more to remove one’s raison d’etre (“reason for being”) than “I’m currently looking for a new opportunity” (HR-speak for “unemployed”).
International competition for employment is non-military war among nations. In the developed world, the current title for Biggest Loser is Greece, with 26.4% currently unemployed; in the Top Ten, Iceland takes the Gold Medal with 82.8% working; the USA trails at #10, with just 71.2% clocked-in.
The Employer in Chief – working in the Oval Office – starts every four years with one of two orientations: create jobs under his/her control (employment in government bureaucracies), or create an environment where jobs outside his/her control (employment in the broader marketplace) are stoked. Or, just live with unemployment as an unimportant issue, and give another speech…
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Redeemed people are now in a position to find meaning and purpose in their remaining earth years, working in and for the Kingdom.
Why have we been created in Christ Jesus? “To do good works” that are serving His Kingdom, and His people, in a world that is not yet in sync with Him. Is that your job? Or, is it something else?
The big question – “What do you do?” – is answered during the week in terms of your career: “I’m a tentmaker.” But, when you’re with people who get it – they know they’re here for more than making their year-end number during the Q4 countdown – the answer shifts from career to calling. Ask Paul: “I’m an Apostle, dispatched as an ambassador to non-Jewish people” (the tentmaker who understood his bigger purpose).
College/University helps people gain a heightened potential in their career; Church is supposed to do the same in helping people prepare for their calling. A powerful measure of impact – for a college – would be to measure their graduates’ employment rate, against the broader population. What if the same measure of impact were used for local churches? How many of their long-time participants are unemployed (clueless about their calling)? How many are internally-employed (within the programs of the church)? And, how many have been deployed (actively engaged in serving the Kingdom, beyond the safe zone of their local church community)? What’s the best vision, based on the Book?
Working to increase deployment,