Is guiding the application of parishioners’ gifts a dimension of your church counseling?

Churches have long been in the counseling business, but career counseling is a recent ministry. What’s more, few pastors feel competent to do it—yet they find many problems that people bring to them are job related. Pastoral counseling training, however, is short in the area of career counseling.

Many church young people make no career plans; they believe God will direct them and they really have nothing to do with choosing a career. Many of these young—sometimes not-so-young—people believe they have been called to serve God and so have vague plans to go into the ministry. Though their skills and gifts may not be along these lines, to them, God’s call means the ministry.

Others separate entirely their Christian commitment from their work and choose careers that may be in conflict with their religious values. Such people often find it difficult to reconcile their values and their work, and end up very dissatisfied with their jobs.

Some Christians believe the so-called Puritan work ethic teaches that working diligently is next to godliness, and that the more disagreeable the work, the greater one’s reward in heaven. There are even those within the church who believe that since God will take care of them, they need not work. They go through life living on welfare, or on donations from parents or susceptible relatives and friends. It is thus clear that the church is a legitimate place for career counseling of both youth and older adults.

Washington, D.C.’s Fourth Presbyterian Church illustrates how a church can provide this needed service. After forming a vocation committee to look at members’ needs and make recommendations, a Career Day was ...

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