Stop Following Your Passion–Er, Calling

Cal Newport wants you to stop following your passion. Instead, he wants you get really good at something, which, he believes, will produce a passion for it.

I’m kind of with him.

I won’t restate his thesis here, only apply it to ministry settings. We speak of “calling” and “vocation” in church more than “passion.” This is not only for the ordained, but for everyone. In broad terms, this is fruitful. To experience oneself as called to faith, called to community, called to ministry, and to have that sense of calling validated by others who affirm it: that’s golden.

Calling and passion language gets thorny when we apply it to particular jobs, though.

A personal example: in 2008 I accepted an Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry job, even though I had never felt “called” to youth ministry. I did not attend seminary and pursue ordination out of a passion for working with teenagers. I felt called to ministry, to a life’s work of serving the church. The job allowed me to do that and to build knowledge and skills for ministry with a particular community within the church, youth (along with all the other programmatic learning that came with it).

After doing that job for eight years, I kinda feel called to youth ministry.

I wonder what would happen if those of us in ministry focused more on the kinds of knowledge and skills we need to build, and how we can add value to the church and the world with them, and less on particular “calls?”