Last summer I spent many of my evenings listening to the voices of the multivocational ministers that had agreed to participate in the Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project. I was working on transcribing recorded interviews to pass along to the research team for analysis. A few nights a week, after my 1-year-old son was in bed I would go down into our basement to the computer tucked in a corner next to the furnace. It’s not so much a home office as the plan B from when we moved our own bedroom into the space where our home office had been before our family needed more bedroom space. I would put on headphones, try to tune out my husband putting our older son to bed and focus on doing this work.
Before my oldest was born I worked one full-time job and volunteered at our church plant, teaching on some Sundays. I didn’t have creative energy or time for much else. During my mat leave, I started picking up various projects on a volunteer basis and my multivocational opportunities have continued to diversify over the last four years.
Both my husband and I have felt both a clear calling to various ministry and vocational pursuits, while also lamenting (somedays) that there isn’t a single vocation that has surfaced with full-time employment opportunities. Most days I have been content and even blessed, to line up scripture study and teaching on Sundays at our worship gathering alongside administrative work, various writing pursuits, online-class facilitation for a Bible school and a grab bag of whatever else is needed in my role at New Leaf. There are days when the constant adjustment of my schedule is exhausting – fitting in the work wherever possible – after bedtime, sometimes tucked beside the furnace. Yet, there are other days when I have a meeting with someone for New Leaf and I discover that my varied work history informs the conversation, or my role at the church plant gives me insight into the experience of a church planter.
When my husband and I moved to Saskatoon after our graduate work in theological studies at Regent College. We didn’t know exactly how we were going to pay the bills, but we did feel a sense of call to this particular place, and this particular emerging worshiping community. For a while, alongside our pastor, we did a bit of a thought experiment about if we should organize ourselves as co-planters with a shared vision for this emerging community. The further down that road we went it became more and more clear that we were not co-planting, it was something different. While we still felt a clear call to be contributors to this worshiping community, if we were to focus solely on it we would be missing key parts of our vocational calling. My husband leaned into acting opportunities and doors have opened in that part of his vocational calling. I have had space to connect with the Bible school I attended and work with them to facilitate and design online courses. I have been working with New Leaf using my gifts and skills in unique ways that I wouldn’t have time for if I were to focus more of my weekly time and energy on planting this particular church.
This kind of diverse calling wasn’t what my husband or I expected when we did graduate work in Christian studies. We expected a clear call to one job. But, as I told various people when Tim’s acting career was starting to get traction and we were trying to balance acting gigs with his full-time job — he’s happier when he’s acting. He’s called there. But, he is also thinking about theology and ministry and philosophy and music (and so many other things), he needs space for those, too. This kind of diverse calling actually fits us so well. We are called not only to doing ministry with our worshiping Christian community but to so many other places as well.
One of the refrains I heard as I listened to the multivocational ministers as I transcribed was, well, this works for me, but it probably wouldn’t work for others. Maybe not always in those words, but many of the ministers shared how their unique situation, passions, personality or other factors led to them to combine multiple work environments into the unique configuration in which they currently found themselves. The call to each of those pieces made sense to them. While it would have been desirable to have a list of part-time jobs that are compatible with congregational ministry as one of the research results, what the team actually found is that discovery of the unique fit in vocational combinations is one common aspect of satisfying multivocational ministry.
In the midst of all the scheduling and life balancing and discerning the call to different vocations and jobs, I still find tension and the pull to univocational life. This hypothetical life would be simpler to put on the calendar. But the wisdom I have gained from spending time with the research findings from the Canadian Multivocational Research Project is the affirmation that having multiple vocations isn’t an accommodation or less valuable that full-time ministry. It is a unique calling on my life.
There are other insights and wisdom to be gained from the research findings of the Canadian Multivocatioal Research Project. You can read the research report for yourself. Or join New Leaf at the Learning Centre on July 2, 2020 for an interactive webinar engaging the research findings and the topic of calling.