Economic downturn spawns career help ministries

Bible open on her lap, Ann sits in the same pew of the church she’s attended for nearly 15 years. Distracted about her husband’s joblessness, she hardly hears the pastor talking about meeting others’ point of need, and suddenly that strikes a nerve.

“What about our point of need?” she inquires silently, reflecting on her husband, Fred, who’s been jobless and depressed for months.

She reaches for a prayer request card from the pew rack, but the echo of Fred’s voice in her head grabs her arm. He’d told her explicitly not to tell anyone of his plight.

Meanwhile, Fred, who is not a Christian, sits at home in his recliner, channel surfing. Every button on the remote temporarily blunts his emotions of anger, frustration, despair, shame.

Tom sits across the aisle from Ann. A long-time, active church member, he traces the outline of colored shapes on his pants leg cast from the stained-glass window as he ponders his lack of a job and wonders why all that the church has done is add his name to a prayer list.

“Jesus met people’s needs. Why doesn’t my church help me with mine?” he thinks.

Tom can’t understand why God’s other children aren’t ministering to him. In the midst of a vibrant church family, he feels like a spiritual orphan.

In the current economic downturn, churches across Texas have increasing numbers of members like Ann and Tom, who face the challenges of unemployment?alone.

But there are also increasing numbers of churches responding to the needs of “Anns” and “Toms” and even “Freds” by offering a variety of career helps in addition to adding names to prayer lists.

“Our ministry is still in the developmental stages,” said Derek Rowden, minister to single adults at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. “But we try to encourage and equip the men and women in our community who are experiencing career transitions.”

The church recently began its “Third Thursday at Three” ministry to unemployed people. Meeting at 3 p.m. every third Thursday of the month, Rowden recruits career coaches to speak at the meetings, who offer the gamut of career advice.

“We’ve found that people are looking for all kinds of help in their job searches,” he said. “And this gives an opportunity to minister to those not in our church fellowship.”

Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall has a 12-year track record of ministering to jobseekers, offering much of it online. A couple of clicks on the site’s home page takes surfers to one of the most complete, church-sponsored career search-and-advice sites to be found anywhere on the web.

The “Job Connection” site represents a ministry that is a networking, support and resource group assisting local residents in job searches. The fee-free service entails a five-pronged approach:

?weekly meetings for networking and informational purposes, including resume writing, interviewing techniques, etc.;

?e-mail-based user group offering job leads;

?a job resource room at the church offers job seekers daily Internet access with free coffee, copying and faxing privileges, and also offers free access to Crossroad Career’s subscription-based website (crossroadscareer.org) and direct web links to more than 300 Dallas-area corporations;

?a lecture series aimed at organizing and preparing job seekers; and

?resources from the church’s media library that include CDs and DVDs regarding career-based information and training.

Helpful links at Lake Pointe’s site include the Christian Career Center Website, Making Career Decisions Within God’s Will for Your Life, Exploring Careers to Discover Your Career Niche, The Career Check Up Inventory,

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