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Students posing in Montreat College's Graham Chapel

Calling and Career

Discussing How to Help College Students Prepare for the Future with Taylor University’s Drew Moser

By Adam Caress

Preparation for calling and career is a crucial pillar of Montreat College’s mission statement, which states that Montreat “educates students through intellectual inquiry, spiritual formation, and preparation for calling and career.” The college years provide a unique opportunity for learning, reflection, and discussion to help students discern their calling and career. And in recent years, Montreat College has spearheaded a number of initiatives to support students in their discernment process.

In 2014, Montreat launched Calling and Career Week, a biennial symposium where students engage in workshops, lectures, and discussions with thought-leaders in the field of calling and career and professional practitioners across multiple disciplines. In 2017, the college opened the Thrive Center for Learning, Calling, and Career in the L. Nelson Bell Library and has since expanded the center’s space and staff to provide students with academic support services, guidance in discerning their calling, and career development tools and training. Montreat’s academic programs have increasingly prioritized hands-on learning opportunities to help students prepare for their careers through internships, project classes, and immersion semesters.

One of the thought-leaders Montreat invited to campus for its 2018 Calling and Career Week was Taylor University Dean of Student Engagement and Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Development Drew Moser. Moser had previously directed Taylor’s Calling and Career Office and in 2018 published the book Ready or Not: Leaning into Life in Our Twenties with his Taylor colleague Jess Fankhauser.

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Moser says that one of his primary goals in writing Ready or Not was to dispel the myths that many college students face. “Students are bombarded with two competing messages right now that are both maybe partially true, but mostly false,” he explains. “The first is to live it up while they can, and just have as much fun and adventure as they can before they have to settle down and be a boring ‘adult.’ And I think social media feeds this by promoting an Instagram mindset—this leads to that ‘FOMO’ that we see, the fear of missing out.”

"If you have a view that God cares about all of you—your whole being, your whole personhood—then work is just one aspect alongside those other really important dimensions such as your spiritual life, your church life, your community life, and your family life."

“The other message that I think we see, especially in Christian colleges, is to figure out your life as quickly as possible. There’s this false belief that everyone else has it figured out, so you need to, as well. This is more the ROI, or ‘return on investment’ idea. What we try to do in the book is say, ‘Hey, your twenties aren’t meant to be simply a thrill ride. There’s more to life than that. But also, you’re not expected to figure out every aspect of your life by the time you graduate. Very few people do. There’s a middle way here, and that’s what we think of as the way of vocation.’”

Moser is sensitive to the way that these myths can cause stress among college students. In his work with students over the years, he learned that the idea of God’s calling was very important to them. “But in many ways, that importance shows itself in their lives as stress or anxiety or pressure to get it right,” he says. “So they carry a lot of pressure and expectation.”

Part of that expectation has to do with our culture’s idolizing of the “American Dream,” which is often reduced to a focus on material wealth and career success. According to Moser, the Christian vision of vocation is much broader and deeper than that. “If you have a view that God cares about all of you—your whole being, your whole personhood—then work is just one aspect alongside these other really important dimensions such as your spiritual life, your church life, your community life, and your family life,” he explains. “Career is one piece of the overall puzzle of your vocation, as opposed to outside of Christian contexts, where often the only way in which you consider vocation is in your career. For instance, I’m not just an employee of Taylor University, I’m also a husband and a father, so I have a calling to be faithful to my family. I’m also a member of my church, so I’m called to invest in that faith community. I’m a resident in my local community, so I’m called to be a good citizen in my town. And most importantly, I’m a child of God and a being in Christ, so I’m called to intentionally and faithfully live that out. So our overall vocation is really this broader picture of how these dimensions work together, integrate, and intersect to reveal a picture of how one is living this biblical idea of ‘the good life.’”

Drew Moser

Taylor University’s Drew Moser

“The good life” is a phrase with deep roots that date all the way back to pre-Christian Greek philosophy. But Moser is quick to point out that the biblical vision of the good life is unique. “I don’t think a biblical view of the good life means success in the eyes of the world, or riches in the eyes of the world, or even as much happiness as possible. I view the good life from the biblical concept of ‘shalom,’ which we kind of crudely and loosely translate from the Hebrew as ‘peace’ in English, but it really means ‘flourishing.’ And this flourishing is in the terms of our right relationship with God, with ourselves and who we are, right relationship with others, and then right relationship with God’s creation. So I think the good life is intentionally and faithfully living in right relationship with those spheres. That’s a good aim for our vocation, no matter what we do.”

 

Students in the Montreat College library
Peter Ripmaster

Moser considers himself an unlikely vessel for wisdom about calling and career. “There’s an old adage: ‘You teach what you need,’” he says, laughing. “[Ready or Not] is the book or resource that I wish I had when I was in my twenties, because my twenties were marked by a lot of confusion and anxiety, wondering about where I should be going, what I was supposed to be doing.”

Growing up in tiny Gridley, Illinois— population 1,300—Moser began to take his Christian faith seriously in high school. “At my church, we had a lot of high-schoolers that ended up going to Taylor University [in Indiana],” he recalls. “I really looked up to them and thought, ‘Hey, they’re coming back different—in a good way.’ So I visited some of my friends there when I was in high school, and it ended up being the only college that I applied to, so I’m glad that I got in.”

While at Taylor, Moser felt a call to ministry. “My assumption was that I would go into church ministry, so I went to seminary [at Denver Seminary] and got a job at a church,” he says. “It was a really good experience, but it became clear pretty quickly that, ‘Hey, maybe I’m wired for another type of ministry. Church ministry might not be the best spot for me.’ And then I started thinking, ‘Okay, could I either go into more of a mission’s route or an academic route?’”

"It became clear that students had these deep and complex and fraught questions regarding God's call on their lives."

Moser and his wife, Rebecca, tried the missions route first. “We went to Vancouver, British Columbia, with a group that was similar to a YWAM [Youth with a Mission] model where you would have a training school followed by outreach, but the training and outreach were all in the same area,” he recalls. But the mission field wasn’t an ideal fit, either. “I realized, ‘Okay, I really like the teaching, training aspect, and that’s where I feel like I come alive and some of my best strengths and skills are utilized,’ which eventually led me towards a higher education path.

At this point, God began to open up a door into higher education. “When I was out in Vancouver, I got a call from a friend at Taylor who said, ‘Hey, we’ve got an opening in residence life and I was wondering if you’d be interested.’ I had never considered residence life before but felt like I needed to at least explore it – if nothing else to be polite to my alma mater and to my friend. And then at every step of the way, in a way that didn’t really make sense to me on paper, I just found I couldn’t say no. And because I couldn’t say no, I realized, ‘We really need to consider this.’ After a lot of thought and prayer, my wife and I felt we should say yes to this offer.”

After three years as a residence hall director, Moser moved into Taylor’s Calling and Career Office, where he began to find his own calling in helping students navigate theirs. “I started meeting with students and realizing that a lot of the typical career services appointments that I was having—résumé reviews, mock interviews, networking connections, those sorts of things—many of them ended up being more about this idea of calling,” he says. “And it became clear that students had these deep and complex and fraught questions regarding God’s call on their lives. I realized, ‘My role in this office can’t just be about the career services. That’s important, but there’s a deeper conversation that we need to have.’ That’s when we really started leaning into this idea of vocation and trying to figure out how to help our students navigate God’s call for their life while at college. We started doing a lot of research and thinking and asking around about how to best help college students navigate calling.”

Being at a Christian institution, the exploration of calling and career looked a lot different from a secular institution, integrating calling and a career in a way that emphasized students’ ultimate calling. “I think it’s important for Christians to understand career in a way in which you are seeking to glorify God and actively living out a sense of calling from God,” Moser explains. “And so I think it’s really important for the Christian to understand that if you feel called or you’re being called, there has to be a caller. And that caller is God. It’s really a lifelong process of living with God, in relationship with Him, especially in your career.”

Drew Moser and Jess Fankhauser at Montreat College's 2018 Calling and Career Week

Drew Moser and Jess Fankhauser at Montreat College’s 2018 Calling and Career Week

In November 2018, Moser came to Montreat College’s campus to lead a keynote session— along with his Ready or Not co-author Jess Fankhauser—for Montreat’s Calling and Career Week symposium. Their talk was titled “Fully Present, Fully Prepared” and focused on unpacking Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (NIV)

Moser was able to share with Montreat students the wisdom he has learned through years of working with and researching college students. “It wasn’t until I got into this work and research on college students and vocation that I suddenly saw Romans 12:1-2 in a new light,” he told Montreat’s students. “Here you have Paul referencing sacrificial system that, in the Old Testament, often required sacrificing things to show your devotion to God. But here in this passage, he upends that sacrificial system in a really important way. He says that your best offering is your body as a living and holy sacrifice. But he provides a few qualifiers of what this looks like… We need to have resistance to some things and acceptance of other things.”

“First, don’t copy the behaviors of this world. That’s not authentic; imitation is lazy. Authenticity requires sacrifice. Second, ‘be transformed.’ Paul tells us to let God transform us into a new person by changing the way we think… Because we are living sacrifices, I don’t think this is a one-time deal. I think this is a lifelong process of offering ourselves to God. When we do that, then we can know God’s will. Then we know his plan for us is good, pleasing, and is perfect. And we need wisdom to see how this works practically in our lives and on a college campus. We want to find shortcuts, but what we truly need is wisdom.”

Throughout the talk, Moser was able to explore the different themes that have become central to his work and research: his expansive definition of “shalom;” his emphasis on the need for quiet and reflection; and his belief that the concept of calling is applicable in our spiritual, church, family, and community lives, as well in our careers. In his closing, he encouraged Montreat’s students to be fully present during their college years as they prepare for the future.

"I think it's important for Christians to understand career in a way in which you are seeking to glorify God and actively living out a sense of calling from God."

“You’re in a really important time to discover who you are,” he said. “Scripture has some really profound things to say about who you are as a created being in God’s universe. I would encourage you to explore those. Use them to counter the messages in your heads that tell you that you’re not good enough or smart enough or that you don’t have what it takes. God has some powerful things in store for you.” ■

Adam Caress formerly served as the director of communications for Montreat College.

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