Vocational well being

Vocational well being

“How’s the job going in this economy?” This is an often asked question to most of us, to which we usually respond, “I’m hangin’ in there!”

Do you feel like the most enthusiastic response you can offer as a Lutheran pastor or teacher is, “I’m hangin’ in there.” The reality is that, based on survey after survey, an awfully lot of Lutheran church workers are responding…and living…just that way.

Is there a way to tell that your vocational well being might be in trouble, kind of like a yellow warning light on your gas gauge? Yes. If you think about your work as mostly “gotta’s” rather than “getta’s” you are probably running close to an empty tank.

Referencing the text, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements,* with which I started this series, our vocational or career well being may be the most influential component of our “wellness.” Surprising to me, researchers have found that it takes longer to recover emotionally, fiscally, relationally, and even spiritually, from the loss of a job than it does from the loss of a spouse! That’s saying something.

Now, I suppose that is fairly easy to understand for men, who for most of their lives have been taught that their career defines their worth. Good career, good earnings, good social acceptance, good spouse and family, good security…good worth. Lack of good vocation or even loss of vocation, often translates as tarnished value in the eyes of self, family and associates, decreased physical and fiscal safety, shelter, and resources, and suppression of spirit. Gentlemen, think of what this has done to women. Frequently, post-modern society women are struggling to define their true value from their vocations. If they’re not in an “outside the home” career, are they really of value to community? Is it okay to have a career of “Home/Family-Life Manager?” YOU BET IT IS! That is a superb vocation and actually one that more and more men are assuming with the changes in work opportunities. Please add your own 2 cents to the discussion.

A few key points, however.

[infobox color=”000000″ backgroundcolor=”f5f5e4″ bordercolor=”0f9347″ icon=”attention-orange” ]Firstly, your career well being is much enhanced if you have a “boss” who sees your good points and is an encourager, rather than a boss who always is judgmental and discouraging. [/infobox]

Church worker; who is your boss and what does he see? God sees you through the eyes of His Son, and His Son’s death has made you righteous and sanctified. Continuously, in Baptismal grace, God sends the Encourager, the Holy Spirit, to mature and make you a fragrant offering. Even Gallup admits that if you spend time with your “encourager,” you will have substantially stronger career well being. But we Lutherans know that, right?

[infobox color=”000000″ backgroundcolor=”f5f5e4″ bordercolor=”0f9347″ icon=”attention-orange” ]Secondly, it is critical to have a “best friend” at work. [/infobox]

Well, what a friend we have in Jesus. Yet, there is significant strength, and health, for pastors and teachers to have another best friend in the workplace. In my thirty two years of medical practice taking care of an awfully lot of Lutheran church workers, the biggest problem I saw was isolation in ministry; no peer group, no accountability group, no other human to turn to with burdens and troubles. It is NOT a sign of spiritual weakness to need a brother or sister of faith and to call upon them when needed; my guess is that that is why a gracious and loving Lord put them there next to you.

So to have career well being, call on the Encourager, connect with good Christian friends, and serve well. A life served well, is a life worth living.

*Well Being: The Five Essential Elements, Jim Harter and Tom Rath, Gallup Press, May 4, 2010.