Inviting Local Churches to Focus on Vocation

Jonathan Hagood, Ph.D. | Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning, Associate Professor of History

A scene from the Chancel window of Dimnent Memorial Chapel. In vibrant colors of stained glass, three shepherds and a lamb are symbolic of the birth of Christ.

In 1998, Dr. Jonathan Hagood completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas with both a professional degree in architecture and a bachelor’s in Latin American Studies. After working in architecture for a few years, he started an IT consulting firm in San Francisco before answering the call to pursue graduate study in history and the vocation of a college professor.

With his unique educational and professional journey, it makes sense, then, that as a Hope College professor and dean, Hagood led the college’s 2017 effort to secure a $1.5 million grant to help others discern vocational calling. Awarded by the Lilly Endowment Inc., the grant will provide support to area churches to create and enhance programs that will help their members explore vocation in their lives.

“Sharing the winding path of my vocational discernment helps me explain to others that we often do not fully understand the good work to which God has called us to do when we are young — and maybe not even when we’re older,” Hagood admits.

So he hopes this new program will give others the clarity they need.

“Today, a growing body of research and popular literature tells us that the vast majority of Americans want their work to amount to more than a paycheck,” says Hagood. “Engaging the themes of calling and vocation — understood broadly as not only matters of employment and career but also larger questions about meaning, purpose and the direction of one’s life — will provide a richer church life for Christians, equip them for faithful lives at work and contribute to a greater sense of coherence in their lives.”

Hagood notes that churches don’t always have the resources to devote to creating and running such efforts. With this grant through Lilly Endowment’s “Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative,” the college will offer a series of workshops and conferences to help churches develop programs that make sense for their individual congregations; provide funding to implement them; and extend opportunities to gather afterward with other participants and discuss what worked and what didn’t.

The college’s Center for Ministry Studies will coordinate the grant’s “innovation hub.” Organizers anticipate that 12 to 24 small teams — comprised of three to five people each — from local churches will participate over a three-year period. Churches interested in developing or reshaping more than one program will be able to participate more than once, to the benefit of all.