Sep 15, 2021

One in Five Americans Wants the Church’s Direction in Vocational Well-Being

Since the upheaval of the pandemic began—which included major disruption in the workplace—church leaders may be wondering how to help their congregants discover the motivations and skills that can help lead them into a fulfilling career. But are Americans interested in what the Church has to say about vocation?

Today’s article looks at recent Barna data, collected earlier this year, to get a clearer picture of how U.S. adults are thinking about the future of their careers and the role local churches can play in vocational well-being.

Christians at Work

Examining the Intersection of Calling & Career

81% of All Working Adults Find Purpose & Meaning in Their Work
At present, most working Americans have a positive outlook on their careers, with just over four in five (38% agree strongly, 43% agree somewhat) stating they find some level of purpose and meaning in the work they do. Millennials are more likely than older adults to say this is true, with 84 percent agreeing at least somewhat. Christians also hold an elevated view of their work and are significantly more likely than non-Christians to say they find purpose in what they do (86% vs. 72%). Even amidst the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, these 2021 numbers align with data collected in 2018 for the Christians at Work study, in which 86 percent of Christians agreed to some extent (43% strongly, 43% somewhat) that they found purpose and meaning in their work.

Working U.S. adults also tend to agree that the work they do makes a difference in the world, with 75 percent agreeing with this statement at least somewhat. Again, Millennials are more likely than Gen X or Boomers to strongly agree their work positively impacts the world. Christians, when compared to non-Christians, are also more confident their work makes a difference (35% agree strongly vs. 22%).

Though the pandemic disrupted much of the “normal” workflows of Americans—and even contributed to many leaving or losing their jobs—there is a portion of working U.S. adults who say that, compared to last year, they are currently more vocationally healthy (18% more healthy vs. 24% less healthy and 59% about the same). This sentiment especially rings true among younger generations (32% Gen Z, 31% Millennials vs. 15% Gen X, 8% Boomers) and churchgoers (29% vs. 13% unchurched).

And even with nearly half of all Americans (47%) agreeing they feel satisfied with their vocation, 36 percent of working Americans say they either want a less stressful job or role or are interested in a different career path altogether.

The State of Your Church

Measuring What Matters in Ministry

Young Americans Are Particularly Open to Churches Helping in Career Development
Recent data collected this summer indicate that at least half of U.S. adults (21% definitely interested, 32% probably interested) would be interested if their local church addressed vocational well-being in their preaching and programs. Young Americans are particularly open to this idea, with nearly seven in 10 Gen Z (67%) and Millennials (69%) affirming this.

Churchgoers are especially open to their churches’ input in this area, with roughly two in five (38%) saying they’d definitely be interested in preaching and programs about vocational well-being versus 13 percent of unchurched adults. Working Christians specifically agree (41% strongly, 41% somewhat) that their church does a good job helping them understand how to live out their faith in the workplace, though this percentage shows a decline from data collected for the Christians at Work study in 2018 (53% strongly, 37% somewhat).

The data show Americans are in search of jobs that give them a sense of meaning and purpose, careers that they believe make a difference in the world. With some still out of work, and others in the workforce but desiring a less stressful position or a different career altogether, churches have an opportunity to help congregants find satisfaction and fulfillment in their vocations.

Further reading and resources:

Christians at Work

Examining the Intersection of Calling & Career

About the Research

Barna Cities data: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.

Christians at Work data: A set of quantitative online surveys was conducted February 27–March 12, 2018, and April 18–May 8, 2018, using an online panel. The sample included 1,459 self-identified U.S. Christians who agree somewhat or strongly that their faith is very important in their life today and are employed (full-time, part-time or self-employed, including unpaid work for a family business). The margin of error for this sample is +/-2.3% at the 95% confidence level. Barna researchers set quotas to obtain a minimum readable sample by a variety of demographic factors, and weighted the data by ethnicity, education and gender to reflect their natural presence in the working population (using U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data for comparison).

Christians are self-identified Christians, including those who identify as Catholic, excluding those who identify as Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness.

Churchgoers attended a church service at least once a month, on average, in the past year.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters from Unsplash

© Barna Group, 2021.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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