Over the years I have had many friends experience the frustration of losing a job; there was the 40 something man laid off after two decades of work for a national retailer, there was the 60 year old executive who was forced out to make room for a younger (less expensive) person, there was the socially challenged man who moved from job to job because he continually offended others, and there was the middle aged woman whose cancer left her too weak for her job’s demands. I am sure that you have similar stories of those who have lost jobs and had to face the hardship of unemployment. Churches are filled with people struggling with this issue and congregations may wonder how they can make a difference. In answering that question we need to remember that there are mental, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual issues that present and needing attention. So what can congregations do?
Physically: we often discount the impact on our health of unemployment. Stress, difficulty sleeping not to mention depression can arise and have a devastating impact on people. Loss of a job is the eighth most difficult change to deal with, according to Dr. Richard Rahe’s Life Change Index and is shown to increase stress related illnesses. Churches can offer ministries that provide stress relieving activities like:
Also since diet has a big impact on people’s physical health congregations might consider efforts:
*to teach about nutrition and how to eat in ways to provide strength, focus, and stamina.
*offer times when people can come together to eat (inexpensively) for both the food and socializing.
Finally the financial impact of the job loss can devastating and support may be needed through:
*a food pantry,
*aid for utilities,
*health bills or insurance,
This financial help might be gifts or offered in exchange for projects done for the church.
Mentally: when unemployed we are faced with the challenge of evaluating, refocusing and updating our lives. Of course some of the areas that jump to mind are those related to job seeking or career identification. Many people need tips on how to go about interviewing, doing resumes, networking and more.
Here are so links to materials that could be helpful in regards to job search issues:
*Resource List for Job Searchers (e.g. resume examples, salary ranges, commute cost estimator & more) http://www.jobsministrysouthwest.com/resources.htm
*“How to answer the 64 toughest interview questions”
*10 Questions to Dazzle Would be Employers http://www.jobsministrysouthwest.com/10questions.htm
*Job Search 101: A Tool Kit for Job Seekers (8 page document listing steps to take from when you find out you are loosing your job, to interviewing and negotiating, until you find a new one)http://www.careerministry.org/resources/BellOaks_Job%20Search%20101Finalpdf.pdf
*“Job Seeker Resources” (While from the perspective of the Hospitality Industry, these147 pages of materials can be helpful to many job seekers. Topic on things such as organizing your job hunt, resume makeover, cover letters, questions to ask or avoid in an interview, how to sell your success story, reference etiquette and much more). http://www.careerministry.org/resources/Job%20Seekers%20Resource%20Guide%202008.pdf
*“7 Secrets to getting your next job using social media” by Dan Schawbel in 1/05/2009 looks at the use of Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn and more in searching for a job.
*“You’re not getting the job – 25 reasons why” is a May 28, 2008 article by Anthony Balderrama from careerbuilder.com about ways that you can sabotage your job search.
Congregations can also be helpful by:
*setting up a job lead board and/or database,
*keep in contact with those who have lost their jobs so that they don’t ‘disappear’
or withdraw in unhealthy ways (possibly a “contact ministry”),
*creating a series of classes related to job searches. (e.g. Peachtree Ministries course lists these: http://www.jobseekers-ptc.org/js/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=49
Emotionally: leaving a job and the search for a new position raises all kind of emotions. There can be anger over how one was treated, uncertainty over what the future holds, loss over the social network, and loneliness over lost relationships. Families and marriages can face great stress and lose each other in the chaos. So much of our identity can be linked to our job and when we lose it we can feel uncertain and disoriented. There is a great deal of fear that comes with the uncertainty of unemployment as well as discouragement and even depression. Congregations can offer time and avenues to process what people are feeling through offering:
*support groups (one time, short term, or longer termed)
*counseling (possibly set up a partnership with a psychologist, or community counseling group)
*courses or articles on issues and how to deal with them (e.g. stress, depression, dealing with fear)
*a list of uplifting books, music, movies that can provide motivation and encouragement.
Congregations may also offer events to help build relationships and provide opportunities for socializing such as:
With the drop of income low cost opportunities can be a blessing or even a demand in order for people to be able to participate.
Spiritual: questions about God’s presence and plan for one’s life often arise. Some other issues that arise might revolve around justice, stewardship, personal value, acceptance, and forgiveness. People might feel uncomfortable about not being able to give financially to the church at the level prior to their job loss. Often congregations highlight only financial giving, which can add to the sense of loss and failure. Congregations can:
*highlight opportunities for people to give time and talents (see ministry opportunity sheet http://www.wallaceresources.us/ministryoppsheet.html ) instead of only finances,
*in preaching use examples of unemployment or job seeking to provide encouragement, recognition, and validating of these issue(s) and struggle,
*see if people, with more time now available, are interested in participating in a mission effort or mission trip.
*provide scholarships for events (possible a work scholarship in which they give so much volunteer time in exchange for the scholarship…which can “save face” as well as provide help to the church’s ministries).
*offer formal and informal prayers for those seeking employment and/or struggling with the issues of transition. These can be “one on one” or “corporate” prayers.
The ministry of Christ needs to be present to the millions of people hurting and frustrated over the issues of job loss, unemployment and job seeking. We may not be able to do all things but we can do some things. What is your congregation willing to do in Christ’s name to touch the lives of those fighting this battle?
November 28, 2011