Here are sample assignments to help inspire fresh thinking about how to incorporate a concern for vocation, flourishing and economic justice across the curriculum. Several of these ideas were adapted from the Theology of Work Project article “TOW For Scholars and Academics.”
Biblical Studies (Old or New Testament):
Ask students to take one of the twelve elements or one of the four central themes of the Economic Wisdom Project and write a short exegetical paper tracing the element or theme through scripture. This could be done with the Bible as a whole, either testament, or one biblical genre or book. Naturally, the Theology of Work Bible Commentary would be one good resource for students to begin with, as would the new Faith and Work Study Bible from Zondervan. Some questions for students to consider:
- What are the main points the biblical witness puts forth regarding this element?
- Is the testimony about this element consistent, or are varying opinions given about it in different parts of scripture?
- What are some of the reasons for varying opinions (if they exist)? Historical development? Cultural context or setting? Compare and contrast the opinions. The assignment could actually be given in this form: i.e. “Compare and contrast the view of stewardship in the parables and in Paul’s letters / the view of integrity in Psalms and Proverbs.”
Biblical Studies (New Testament):
Ask students to pick one New Testament letter and highlight its applications for the modern Christian worker, then re-write the letter as a one-page office memo. Some suggested ideas for getting started can be found here.
Require students to develop and preach a sermon in which all the illustrative material is drawn from workplace contexts. If possible, encourage the student to visit members of their congregation in their workplace to help give context to the sermon. Afterwards, have a conversation or assign short reflection questions about their experience:
- How did this illuminate the biblical text for them?
- How was it similar to, and different from, their usual sermon preparation?
- Did they have any surprise learnings from the experience?
Ask students to write a short paper explaining the theological development of one of the following ideas (throughout church history, in a specific era or tradition, in the writings of a specific theologian, etc.). Even better, ask them to turn their findings into a lesson plan to teach about this concept with their congregation.
- Poverty (material and spiritual)
- Creation in the image of God
- Economic justice
Some suggested books to use as resources are in the Economic Wisdom Project document. Other bibliographies are here:
- From Greg Forster of the Oikonomia Network.
- From Gordon-Conwell’s Mockler Center.
- From Jeffrey Greenman.
- From the Theology of Work Project.
- From an article on faith and work bibliographies on the Patheos Faith and Work Channel.
Worship, Liturgy, and Church Music
Have students prepare a worship service centered on a work- or vocation-related theme. Include scripture readings, hymns, prayers and other liturgical resources, and the outline of a potential sermon. For those traditions which require set scripture readings for various Sundays, students can work with a particular set of Sunday lessons that is congenial to being adapted in this fashion.