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Vocational Formation at ACU: Finding Your Purpose and Passion

“Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

That quote from theologian and writer Frederick Buechner rings true of what a Christian education can help you find. At ACU, you can discover and develop your calling through vocational formation.

What is Vocational Formation?

Vocational formation is all about finding your life’s calling, learning how God is shaping you into the person you were born to be. You likely have a career goal or the spark of an idea of what you’d like to do professionally. Vocational formation takes this a step further by helping you understand your deeper desire to serve others, no matter what the job title or duties entail.
In this blog post, we’ll share with you some ways you can uncover your calling and the meaning behind it.

Being Present

According to Dr. Ben Ries, associate dean of vocational formation at ACU, we should explore what it means to be more aware of ourselves and more present when we’re with others. It’s easy to lose personal connections when we’re so consumed by our schedules and, sometimes, technology.

One study revealed how hospice care workers improved quality of life for patients by being more present. Changes included spending more time with each patient and, in some cases, bringing back the human touch by reverting back to manual technologies such as a traditional blood pressure cuff instead of automated tools. This can be done in any profession. For example, in a grade school classroom, rather than focus only on a behavior or learning issue, a teacher could address the whole student and uncover issues or concerns that may be causing the disruptions.

“We need to pay more attention to colleagues, clients—whatever population we serve,” Dr. Ries said.

Slowing Down and Listening

Many vocational formation experts agree we need to tap into what we already have inside of us, the longings that have been with us since birth. Sometimes it’s a matter of re-learning what makes us glad. Over time, many of us shift our focus on what other people think is right for us, or sometimes even what we think we want for ourselves.

Vocational formation is “learning how to better attend to our own emotional landscape,”says Dr. Ries.

In his video overview of vocational formation (also embedded below), Dr. Ries suggests taking a few moments each day to be still, to breathe, to remember who you are, and that the work you do matters. In those moments of solitude, we may find—or rediscover—our calling.

Finding the Significant in the Insignificant

Dr. Ries points out, “Most of life is ordinary.” It’s true. No matter how exciting we’d consider our personal and professional lives at times, much of what we do could be considered mundane. We eat. We sleep. We run errands. We pay bills. We commute. Even much of our work day may consist of smaller tasks. But he says while humans often have a “deep desire for the spectacular,” we can’t forget how something we might consider menial or mindless actually matters to someone else. Smaller parts make up a larger picture, and everything has meaning: It doesn’t matter what the work is. He used an example of a plumber fixing a bad leak, how one person solving a problem leads to someone else’s chaos ending.

“We need to lower our need to be heroes,” Dr. Ries said. “A day’s work is often enough.”

Everybody wants to do meaningful work, and everyone wants to matter. And, the good news is you probably already are doing work that makes a different. It’s all about reflecting and realizing your contributions to those around you.

How ACU Helps With Vocational Formation

ACU students will naturally explore various aspects of vocation through coursework, advising, and interaction with faculty members. ACU also offers co-curricular activities that dive deeper into the topic. Dr. Ries began offering a webinar series called Vocatio Talks in March 2017. These online meetings allow students to gather for lively conversations about what it means to find your authentic self. The webinars offer plenty of time of audience questions, and the webinars are recorded and posted online for later viewing. Soon, students will be able to access a host of other resources—such as articles and blog posts—to help discover themselves.

Going further, Dr. Ries’ office also plans to work with faculty and staff members to further develop their own awareness of vocational formation. “Any moment that contributes to human flourishing is a moment of greatness,” he said.
If your passion and purpose involves continuing your education, we at ACU are here to help guide you through the process. Talk to us today.

P.S. Here’s Dr. Ries’ video on vocational formation. Enjoy!