Seven women are gathered in the boardroom, looking at me with expectation. Each of them has been working, mostly alone, on projects that have absorbed their thoughts, actions, and lives for as long as 12 years. Over the next ten months, we are going to work together to squeeze the most out of their projects, for God’s glory. The first day passes, and all of them have gone through a range of emotions, but they are nonetheless excited about the possibilities of what we are doing.
Better futures are imagined for many others: disadvantaged children, women rescued from slavery, impoverished communities in Africa, new mums suffering from psychosis, refugees and new Australians learning English in church communities, people suffering from stress, and foreigners studying theology in English.
For the last three years I have been mentoring Christian women entrepreneurs, many of whom are millennials, and they have taught me much in terms of their attitude to work. First of all, they truly believe in what they are doing and the difference it’ll make on the groups to which they feel called. They know work is significant; it is not to be measured merely in terms of large remunerations but is an expression of faith, linked to God’s purposes for his creation. Secondly, I find their desire for working collaboratively to be a valuable attitude. Through consultation and empowering one another, they can do so much more than on their own.
However, some of my observations differ from those of Amy Sherman, who wrote an article titled “7 things Pastors should know about Millennials and Work”. While she agreed that Millennials want to make a difference, she also brought up some faults regarding this fervour:
Millennials’ desire for change might result in them being unwilling to “show faithfulness in the small things”, such as taking non-leadership roles and tasks with not-so-immediate, less-obvious impact. Some even romanticise the non-profit sector at the expense of the for-profit sectors.
Though possibly the hardest working generation, Millennials are often bombarded and distracted by social media, possibly reducing the impact of their work.
The large number of choices and information Millennials encounter may result in “analysis paralysis”, making them unsure about what to pursue or how to proceed.
Personally, I think that Amy might have overplayed some of those faults, since the Millennials I speak to are hardworking, focused and willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. Still, I agree with her that Millennials indeed want to hear from the pulpit about faith and work, and also to be affirmed for their work—they know instinctively that God values their work but lack sufficient sound teaching on it. Amy writes: “Millennials desire guidance and equipping on what it means to bring their faith to work, and how to renew culture through it.”
Unfortunately, few churches are willing to teach biblically about and affirm the work of Millennials. More often, they face “suspicion for their choice to work in fields like science, fashion, or film.” On the other hand, sadly, most young adults are either too busy or ill-equipped to have time to reflect deeply on how their faith connects with their working. However, we know that when God finished his work of creation he rested; and that resting was not because he was tired, but because he was reflecting on his work, enjoying it, and envisioning the next step of filling and sustaining it.
Nonetheless, whether church-initiated or on our own, the discipline of stopping to reflect on our sense of calling, our working and where God is at work, is so crucial. The disconnect between our faith and our work can heavily impact our spiritual health, and stop us from fulfilling our kingdom purpose at work.
Why not take some time off and try asking yourself these questions?
Where is God active in my workplace?
Who has God called me to serve? Do I include my workmates, customers or beneficiaries of my work in that sense of calling?
How does my work play a part in stewarding God’s creation? Do I see my work as my ministry, dedicating it to God?
How often do I pray for my work? Do I apply what I read in my Bible to my working?
Am I the same person on Sunday as I am on Monday?
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to use your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Alphacrucis and Mary Andrews College, and was formerly Associate Dean of the Marketplace Institute at Ridley College in Melbourne. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. She was Director of the School of Christian Studies for three years and has lectured with the Brisbane School of Theology, Macquarie Christian Studies Institute and Wesley Institute. Kara has commenced on a PhD programme researching the variables for effective faith-work integration of workplace Christians.