Stouffer’s – you know, the frozen meal makers – recently started the Let’s Fix Dinner campaign. The website asks compelling questions (e.g. “Can you give your daughter a better body image by setting the table?”), offers statistic-based answers (“Studies show that teen girls who have family dinners 5 times a week are 33% less likely to develop eating disorders.”) and invites you to take a test to see how well you do as a family regarding eating together.
Sounds pretty good for business goals. I don’t know if spiritual convictions played a role in creating this campaign, or if Christians are behind the effort, but I do see an important connection between occupation and calling, and here’s why:
Stouffer’s makes food. That occupation gives them a distinct entry point (read “opportunity to live out a calling”) for strengthening families.
In Chapter 2 of Real-Time Connections, Bob Roberts Jr. used these terms when he wrote, “God may use an occupation as the vehicle that carries us into our calling” (54). It really isn’t rocket science (nor should it be manipulative, as Stouffer’s could easily use the family thing as a gimmick to make money). But it takes observation and willingness to make the necessary connection.
Roberts tells an inspiring story about Melinda Needs in Chapter 3. The Needs’ son, Jacob, was born with autism in the 80s when very little information was available about it. Melinda used her speech therapy background and determination to help diagnose and then care for their son. The years were difficult financially and emotionally, as you might imagine, but what may have started as something she simply had to do as a mother eventually became not only a calling to her family but to many others as well.
Reflecting on her service to parents of autistic children in the U.S. and Vietnam, she said, “I have so much to give that I didn’t know I had. I always wanted to help people, but I didn’t know I could make that big a difference” (64).
Melinda made an observation, perhaps (and I’m giving them the benefit of my cynic-tainted doubt) the same kind of observation Stouffer’s made: Your job is your ministry.
Seeing is one thing. Doing is quite another. Stouffer’s gathered research and built the interactive website for families. Melinda went to bat for a local single mother in the school district and works with FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) in Texas. Neither simply made an observation and then sat on it. They responded.
Roberts begins Chapter 3 with the Needs story and then transitions into how to begin turning your occupation into ministry. If you’ve read books like The Call by Os Guinness or Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, you won’t find much new material here, but Roberts steadily advocates turning your occupation into ministry as opposed to leaving your occupation to do ministry.
“One of my biggest jobs,” he writes, “is to keep these people from making this change. I help them to see that they are in the ministry already, and usually they are serving much more effectively then they could as a seminary-educated, church-supported pastor.”
Let’s just say that a Christian inspired Stouffer’s to create their family campaign. How unfortunate would it have been had he or she gotten fed up with “just selling food” and left to start a family ministry at a local church?
I’m with Roberts on this. Stay where you are. Try to make observations that connect occupation and calling. Then be willing to respond in a way that Christ can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).