For Youth Workers Post


Sally Chambers

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for April 22–30, 2013.



“What will I be when I grow up? What do I want to do with my life? I’m asking the same questions after working for more than twenty years. Questions about careers are loaded with pressure, expectation, hope, or fear, depending on the context in which you begin to ask them. I try to stay focused on my vocation rather than my career. I ask these questions: What is God calling me to do? Who is God calling me to be? What is my purpose? How do I fit into God’s story of restoration in this world? How will I pay my bills?

“There was a time in my life when my career goals had become idols. My career was a way to achieve success in the eyes of other people and to find worth in myself. As with most idols, when I chose to follow Jesus, they ended up tossed in the fire like the golden calf.

“Today the question I try to ask daily is not “God, what work are you calling me to do?” but “God, how are you calling me to live?” As followers of Jesus, we find our career or vocation not only in the places we work, but in our whole way of life.” —Sally



Sally cartoonSally Chambers has been practicing youth ministry for nineteen years as part of her life with God and people; she is currently on sabbatical. By trade, she is a counselor and spiritual director. She is a lover of art, photography, people, hosting, adventure, stories, a cup of tea, beauty, all things English, her niece and her Grandma, abbey ruins and cathedrals, creation in its grandeur and wildness, playlists, and her furry four-legged companion Doodlebug. Sally is a co-author of the leader’s guide to The Way of Pilgrimage and the creator of The Pilgrim’s Way, an approach to leading pilgrimage with teenagers and adults. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently on staff and worshiping with St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. She dreams of creating altars in the world where pilgrims may gather together, rest for a while, find renewed vision, be healed (in body, heart, soul, and mind), and offer to the world the hope of God in Jesus Christ. Be sure to check out Sally’s blog.



  • a candle and matches
  • small slips of paper
  • pencils
  • a basket or bowl
  • Bibles
  • copies of the quotation from Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Frederick Buechner (see “Exploring the Word”)
  • Print-Friendly Version of this Session



The Examen is an ancient way of prayer that when practiced regularly, helps us to discern God’s call for our lives. These are some resources on the Examen:


Here are more resources on the Examen from Ignatian


Learn more about Frederich Buechner and his understanding of vocation:



Gather everyone together in the room. Welcome them. Light a candle as a way of remembering that God is present. Ask group members to close their eyes and to take a deep breath. Invite them to consider what worries them or distracts them from being present. Ask them to breathe out each of the worries or distractions, one at a time, and to breathe in the peace of God that passes all understanding.

After several minutes, conclude this time with “A Prayer of Self-Dedication” from the Book of Common Prayer:

“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”


Ask group members to sit in a circle. Ask each person to answer these questions:
          What did you first want to be when you grew up?
          Have you changed your mind?

Then say: “Today we’re going to think about careers and vocations.”

Give each person two small slips of paper and a pencil. Ask people to write on one slip of paper one thing they are good at and on the other, one thing they love doing. Collect the slips of paper, and place them in a basket or bowl.

Have each person draw from the basket two slips of paper. (Make sure that no one grabs his or her own.) Give people five minutes to mingle, finding out who wrote each slip of paper they selected. Post a sheet of newsprint. Write the names of the group members in a column on the left side of the newsprint. Ask people to tape the slips of paper beside the name of the person who wrote each one. Then invite people to consider what careers would be appropriate to each person’s gifts and loves and to write the names of career possibilities in a column on the right side of the newsprint.

Bring group members together. Ask if they have heard the word vocation. Explain that the word vocation is often used to describe the work or the career of priests, ministers, pastors, monks, nuns, deacons. However, the word vocation can be used to describe any work that God has given someone to do; it doesn’t necessarily include a paycheck from a church, and it doesn’t have to be overtly religious.

Ask if people hear a difference between a career and a vocation. A vocation is not just a way of working; it is also a way of living. The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call.” God calls us to a vocation, and a vocation includes a contribution to God’s work of healing and restoring the world. A career may also contribute to restoring the world but doesn’t need to include God. Sometimes a career is more about what we want to do, while a vocation is what God is calling us to do.



Scripture: Ephesians 1:15–19, 1 Corinthians 12:4–11

Introduce the scripture by explaining that Ephesians and 1 Corinthians were letters written to the early church to encourage believers to continue to follow the way of Jesus. Then read aloud each passage of scripture:

Ephesians 1:15–19 (The Message)
That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

1 Corinthians 12:4–7 (NRSV)
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


Ask these questions about Ephesians 1:15–19:
          The writer of the letter to the Ephesians prays for us. What does he pray?
          What does discerning mean?
          What might God be calling us to do? (The group will probably come up with “loving,” “serving,” and “praying,” but help direct them to the vocations God might be calling us to do.)
          Jesus invites people not only into belief but also into a way of life. What does “way of life” mean?

Ask these questions about 1 Corinthians 12:4–7:
          What does the writer of 1 Corinthians says about gifts?
          For what purpose are our gifts given?
          What does “the common good” mean?
          What does the scripture contribute to our conversation about vocation and way of life?


Distribute copies of following discussion of vocation from Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Frederick Buechner:

“It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God.

“There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.

“By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

“Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”


Invite discussion about Buechner’s understanding of vocation:
          What stands out?
          What makes sense? What doesn’t?
          Why does God’s calling matter when you’re in high school and classes are your vocation?
          How does Buechner help sum up the meaning of vocation?
          How might his definition shape the way you think about your future?

Conclude this time of “Exploring the Word” by asking each person to say aloud a word or phrase that he or she will take away from the conversation.



Ask people to find places in the room where they can be alone and comfortable. Invite them to close their eyes and to take a few deep breaths. Then ask group members to listen as you read this guided meditation, pausing after each sentence to allow them time to reflect:

“Imagine that Jesus is standing in front of you. … Beside him is a box overflowing with gifts. … Notice the gifts. … What shapes do you see? … How big are they? … How are they wrapped? … Jesus digs into the box, pulls out one gift, and gives it to you. … What does the gift look like? … Shake it. What does it sound like? … Imagine slowly unwrapping the gift. … Inside are more gifts: everything that you are good at and everything that brings you peace and joy. … Look at the variety and abundance of Jesus’ gifts to you. … What do you see? … How do you feel? … Choose one thing—just one—and take it out of the box. … In your own way, ask Jesus to help you figure out how to use the gift. … How can you use the gift to help set the world right?”

Allow a few minutes of silence. Then invite anyone who wishes to name the gift he or she pulled out of the box.

Conclude with a prayer: “God, help us to use the gifts you give for the joy of serving you. Amen.”



• Try practicing the Examen as a way of discernment whenever your group gathers. The Examen can be done in as little as 5–10 minutes.

• Invite your group to take a spiritual gifts inventory. Then ask them to brainstorm and to create a list of ways in which they might use their gifts to meet the world’s needs.

• Suggest that group members keep a journal. Encourage them to record their gifts as they discover them, to write down what gives them life and energy and also what drains them, and to record scripture passages through which God speaks to them. They may want to take their journal to a once-a-month meeting with a mentor or spiritual director. Together they may want to look for common threads or themes in the journal and explore these questions: What is God calling me to do? How is God calling me to live?

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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