Alabama Baptist churches help people find employment through job ministriescomment (0)
July 26, 2012
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
Unemployment in Alabama has been an issue since late 2009, when more than 10 percent of Alabamians were out of work. However, the current statewide unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is still high, and many Alabama Baptist churches are seeking to help those who are counted in that number.
First Baptist Church, Pelham, in Shelby Baptist Association began a career ministry three years ago. Jansen Richardson is one of six volunteers who helps in the Job Concern Ministry. Richardson said their goal is essentially to help people find employment.
“We do as much as we possibly can to meet the needs of those who come into contact with our ministry and to help people find jobs,” Richardson said.
One of the challenges of a jobs ministry is that each individual has different needs. Those needs may vary from emotional support to financial support. Some clients may be looking for a better job. Others will be happy just to find a job. Some are first-time job seekers; others are professionals looking for a new start.
What they all have in common — according to Joe Baker, who heads up the Career Ministry at First Baptist Church, Prattville, in Autauga Baptist Association — is a need to improve their job-hunting skills and to find a job that fits their particular skills and aptitudes.
Prattville’s Career Ministry is a member of Crossroads Career Network (CCN), a national community of churches providing faith-based job search and career transition resources based in Charlotte, N.C. Baker said one of the benefits of the ministry’s affiliation with CCN is the organization’s workbook, which leads job seekers through activities to identify their God-given talents, abilities and interests and then provides strategies to maximize those talents in their job search.
“We do not advertise that we find people jobs, but we equip people with the skills they need to find a job that fits their needs,” Baker said.
As in the business world, networking is important in a career ministry, Richardson said. Volunteers at First, Pelham, utilize their own business contacts, as well as community resources, to connect clients with job openings. The personal relationship ministry volunteers develop with clients helps them to make connections quickly when they learn of job openings.
“As soon as we are aware of a job, we communicate that to people in our system who might have the qualifications needed,” Richardson said.
Richardson gave an example of a client who had been the manager of a large retirement community in Florida. The man had moved to the Birmingham area because of an illness in his wife’s family and was looking for employment. Through one of his contacts, a jobs ministry volunteer heard of an administrative job at a local country club and the client was later hired for the position.
Richardson believes the success of the Job Concern Ministry is due in large part to the prayer support it receives from the church.
“About 50 percent of the people who have come to us are now working, but we don’t want any credit for that,” Richardson said. “We have an active group of men who support our ministry in prayer, both individually and as a group, and we think that has more to do with these folks finding employment than anything we can do.”
Baker said that unlike government agencies, churches can offer the hope of Christ to those who are struggling with employment issues.
“Our training sessions and presentations don’t pound upon God and Christ or have an invitation at the end, but we don’t shy away from the fact that God is in charge,” Baker said. “We pray for guidance and for specific needs all the time, and if someone wants to know more about Jesus, we’re ever so happy to share.”
Jenna Murphy, public information officer for the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, said the state offers many resources to job seekers, as well as to community organizations that want to provide career services. The state manages an employment website, www.joblink.alabama.gov, where job seekers can upload a current resumé and search the database of more than 13,000 available jobs. The site also contains contact information for the 45 assistance centers in the Alabama Career Center System.
Murphy said Alabama Career Center staff members provide a variety of employment services, from creating a resumé to transferring military skills into civilian terms. Each of these locations provides computer access as well as assistance with navigating the Joblink website.
Churches interested in hosting a career fair may contact their local career center for help, or to schedule the Mobile Career Center, which is outfitted with 15 computers and staff members who can provide career advice and help.