When Members Face Employment Uncertainty
January 17, 2019
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Both Canada and the United States are facing employment challenges. In November, newspapers and news radio stations in Ontario, Canada were obsessed with one story – the announcement that General Motors would be closing its plant in Oshawa, Ont. at the end of 2019.
Thousands of GM workers are now facing unemployment, but the impacts of the announcement stretched even further. For every job at the assembly plant, experts estimated that there were nine additional jobs created in the community (see this CBC story for more). This announcement spells potential unemployment and underemployment for the whole city.
News reporters told stories of families who have been GM employees for generations, employees who were expecting their first child in 2019 and were now uncertain about their future, and those who were worried about where they’d find another job to employ them until retirement.
Recently, we’ve seen similar stories coming out in the United States. In December, the United States Congress and President Trump failed to reach agreement on a federal budget, and this forced the shutdown of the government. As a result, nearly 800,000 federal employees have been forced to work without pay or to not work at all. These men and women are struggling to pay their bills, feed their families, and meet their obligations for things like rent or mortgage payments.
How should the church respond?
The truth is that employment and financial matters are highly personal. Those in our church who may feel comfortable coming forward to express health concerns to their church community, may feel uncomfortable letting others know that they are unsure how they will pay their bills that month.
There is a sense of pride that people take in being able to support their family. One’s vocation also becomes a key part of their personal identity. When these things are taken away, it can be hard to talk about with others.
Add to that the fact that many Christian Reformed people are more used to giving to help others than receiving help in return, these sorts of unemployment and underemployment situations can remain under the radar in most congregations.
As deacons, there are a few things you can do:
While talking about employment and financial challenges can be difficult, helping members through these times is a key part of Christian community.
Do you have other tips to share on how your congregation is responding to situations like these?
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Thank you for posting this timely article Kristen! We hope it will serve as an encouragement to all deacons to find ways to support those inside and outside of their congregations in helpful and practical ways.
These tips are wonderful. Being aware and checking in are huge. Thanks for sharing.
There are at least two kinds of responses to this question:
1. How does the church respond to those within the church who have lost their jobs?
In some cases, they will require only temporary assistance as they seek employment elsewhere. The probably have marketable skills and should be able to land something else relatively quickly.
In some cases, these members may require career counselling or skills training. Employers within the church may be able to provide the necessary training to make them employable.
2. How does the church respond to those within the neighbourhood who are unemployed?
I just returned from a two day conference in Ottawa ON called Capitalyze .
It was hosted by a broad range of Christian organizations and ministries within the city - most of them associated to a church. One church responded to the need of pervasive neighbourhood unemployment by creating a social enterprise -- a non-profit organization -- that trained participants in entrepreneurship and cooking. They created a successful catering company. Other churches -- and they are all surprisingly small churches -- created non-profits to provide various forms of skills training. These non-profits were generally accompanied by Alpha courses to attract most of them into the faith and the local church.
It would seem logical to have some unemployed church members provide leadership and become involved in these kinds of social enterprises.
This leads to a fundamental question: When church members become unemployed, can this be seen as a 'nudge from God' to become engaged in some other kind of work, ministry or activity? These are certainly moments to have folks wonder about God's purpose/calling in their lives.
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