Lesson One: Understanding Calling
It is best for students to take the survey before they know much about the thinking behind it, so that they are less likely to give the answers they think we want. But after the survey you can help them learn more about what it was designed to do. This lesson focuses on the idea that being a student might itself be part of Christian calling.
- Students will understand what the Practicing Faith Survey was designed to achieve.
- Students will understand the ideas about vocation that inform the survey.
- Students will understand that their results are not a measure of achievement, but of investment.
It will be important for this lesson that you are familiar with the key ideas informing the Practicing Faith Survey. You should at least spend time becoming familiar with the provided explanations of student vocation, Christian practices, and the different areas of practice included in the survey. (If you would like to discuss with students the reasons for believing that the survey is reliable and valid, you should also take a look at this page).
Consider how you can create a classroom atmosphere that will help students to reflect and share honestly. Chairs in straight rows and a teacher behind a desk can communicate distance and formality. Consider groups or a circle of desks.
Preparing the Activity
If you choose to use the provided reading before or during class, you will need a copy for each student of Growing in Faith.PDF. You will need Bibles or handouts or presentation slides containing Romans 1:1-7, Hebrews 3:1-2, 2 Peter 1:3-10.
Teaching the Activity
Ask students what they associate with the idea of calling or vocation. (You could treat this as a class discussion or have them collect ideas in groups). Discuss with them whether they think they know what their calling is, or how they might find out.
Next, ask whether they have ever considered being a student as a calling. Allow space for objections. They may object that they will only be students for a little while; get them to consider that this can also be true for many professions. They may also feel that they are studying under compulsion; again, many working adults have limited freedom of choice about whether and where to work. There is no need to move this conversation to a resolution yet, just air the idea.
Display or have students read from Bibles or from the provided handouts or presentation slides the following passages:
1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. 2 This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name. 6 You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 1:1-7, NET)
1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, take note of Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess, 2 who is faithful to the one who appointed him, as Moses was also in God’s house. (Hebrews 3:1-2, NET)
3 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; 6 to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; 7 to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. 8 For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. 9 But concerning the one who lacks such things—he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin. (2 Peter 1:3-10, NET)
Ask students to circle or underline all the places where the idea of calling is mentioned, to identify what this refers to in each case, and to decide whether they all mean the same thing. Ask them to make notes alongside the passage on what kind of calling they have in mind – what do they suggest we are called to? After allowing some time for work on this, lead a discussion. Elicit that while the first verse quoted from Romans mentions a calling to a specific role (”called to be an apostle”), the other passages talk about calling as something shared in common by all believers and focused on growing in the qualities that are appropriate to being part of God’s people. Explain that theologians have thought about calling in two broad ways: the Christian has a general calling to be part of the body of Christ and formed in Christlike ways, and will also work that out within the particular callings that give shape to their individual life, such as being an apostle, a parent, a teacher—or a student.
Now zoom in on the passage from 2 Peter. This passage lists the following qualities that are to be sought with “every effort”. Ask students to circle the seven qualities that are to be added to faith and then to make their own list of them:
excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, unselfish love
If you have time, it may be helpful to have students compare this passage in several translations. Take a moment to have students suggest definitions or synonyms for each of these words to check for shared understanding. Organize students into small groups and depending on the size of your class assign two or more of these qualities to each group (there can be overlaps between groups). Give them a few minutes to discuss how these general qualities relate specifically to the life of a student. Ask them to be concrete and specific: what specific choices and practices might count as making “every effort” to grow in self-control, godliness, or love in the context of being a student and attending school. After a few minutes, ask students to share examples and collect them as a class, either on a whiteboard or by having students write on poster paper and display their findings.
At this point you could hand out copies of the reading in Growing in Faith.PDF. (You could also use this as a homework assignment). Have students read it and then discuss with a partner and then as a class how it relates to the themes you have been discussing and to the survey that students have just taken.
Be sure to emphasize that the intent of the survey is not to create a standard of perfection and give ourselves a grade. It may be helpful here to share a story about where you are aware that you still fall short in one of these areas. Emphasize grace and the opportunity to grow. The focus here should be on making space to think about areas in which we are working out our faith and areas in which we might want our faith to grow. It is not a matter of achievement, but of investment, looking for areas of growth. Do not pressure students in any way to share their individual results, but you could ask them whether there were any parts of the survey that surprised them or get them thinking in new ways.
Conclude with a few minutes for quiet reflection. Ask students to consider whether there are any specific ways in which they would like to respond in the coming days and weeks to what they have seen in their survey results.