Vocation Exploration

This lesson focuses on God's calling for our lives.

This lesson focuses on God's calling for our lives.

Enhancer of Joy


Lesson Developed by

Caroline Ainsworth Huges and Kelly Antonson


Vocation Discussion and Affirmation Night

Tips to Prepare

  • Reach out to alumni of the church/youth program or other adults in the community who are living out unique and inspiring vocational lives.
  • Ask 4-5 of them to come to youth group and speak for 2-3 minutes about what they do and how they discerned their call.
  • Prepare the cardstock neck tags and markers.
  • Prep small group leaders for discussion.

Materials Checklist

  • Hole punched paper card stock
  • Ribbon or string to tie into card stock and around each participants neck, long enough to hang onto their backs.
  • Marker for each participant
  • Name tags
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Assign someone to take photos

Setting the Atmosphere

  • Set neck tags and markers aside on a table.
  • Arrange chairs or a space for students to sit and listen to speakers, also arrange for break out spaces for small groups of 8-12 if necessary.

Scripture Focus

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


Students will engage in conversation, presentation, and discernment about vocation within their faith community.


Students will learn about vocation – how God has a plan for their lives and how they can begin to identify that plan.
Student leaders will hear from various alumni, community adults who speak to their own vocational calls.
Students will affirm gifts and talents in others.
Students will reflect on their own gifts and begin early discernment work.

Further Study

David F. White, Practicing Discernment with Youth: A Transformative Youth Ministry Approach. (Pilgrim Press, 2005).


David F White, Dreamcare: A Theology of Youth, Spirit, and Vocation. (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013).


Gather [5 minutes]

Greeting One Another:

  • Have an adult or student leader greet each person as they arrive.  Make sure alumni or church members are introduced to youth group members.

Opening Prayer:

  • As a program alumni if they’d like to open the group in prayer.

Introducing the Session:

Define vocation, a good resource comes from http://www.frederickbuechner.com/ :

“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 Super-ego, 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.”

– Originally published in Wishful Thinking


Engage [30 minutes]

Activity 1:  Introducing the Presenters

  • Introduce each presenter and have them share about their work and their understanding of their call. Each should touch on why they feel God calls them to the work they do, how that work serves the world, how it does or does not align with what society expects and values, and any part of their adolescence that nudged them to this work.

Activity 2:  Q&A

Allow time for students to ask questions and for conversation following the panel presentation.



Reflect [20 minutes]

Activity 3: Vocational Affirmations

  • Have each participant hang a piece of cardstock around their necks, with the cardstock on their backs. With some music playing, have each person work the room, writing vocational affirmations on the tag of others.
    • “You are a great listener.” “You are so patient with senior citizens.” “Little kids love you and listen to you!” “You worked so hard on our mission trip site.” “Funny!”

Activity 4:  Small Group Discussions

After the cardstock is full of comments, break into small groups and read what was affirmed, discuss what surprised them, what affirms their own vocational aspirations, any comments or reflections from the speakers’ stories.

Send Forth

Send Forth [5 minutes]

  • Sum-It-Up – Remind students that they do not need to do the work of seeking their vocation alone – this community is with them and God has a plan for each person gathered.
  • Reemphasize the focus scripture and the way God has called you to the work you are currently doing.
  • Offer a Closing Prayer

Yale Youth Ministry Institute