By / May 19

Our jobs help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing, both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect the spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families.

For many of our fellow citizens, joblessness is a serious and ongoing crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of May, 20.5 million Americans are out of work. While most of those losses are due to the COVID-19 layoffs, almost 1 million have been out of work for 12 months or more. An additional 574,000 unemployed individuals are “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking for work because they believe no job is available to them in their line of work or area, they had previously been unable to find work, they lack the necessary schooling, training, skills, or experience, employers think they are too young or too old, or they face some other type of discrimination.[1]

To help us minister to the unemployed, there are three things Christians should do:

1. Develop a biblical view of work and jobs  

Before we can minister to the jobless, we must first understand what jobs are for. 

The Genesis account of creation tells us that from the beginning humanity was created to work. God puts Adam in the garden to “work and watch over it.” As Rev. Robert Sirico has said, “The Scripture provides an insight into our nature: We are all, man and woman, called into this life to find our vocation, the work that is uniquely ours and contributes to the flourishing of the wider community.”[2]

For most of us, the work we do at our jobs is the primary way we serve our neighbor. It is also a way that we glorify God. As Gene Veith says,

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And he does. The way he gives us our daily bread is through the vocations of farmers, millers, and bakers. We might add truck drivers, factory workers, bankers, warehouse attendants, and the lady at the checkout counter. Virtually every step of our whole economic system contributes to that piece of toast you had for breakfast. And when you thanked God for the food that he provided, you were right to do so.[3]

Because jobs can serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing, they are the most important part of a morally functioning economy.

2. Recognize unemployment as a health crisis 

Numerous surveys and studies have found that unemployment can have negative effects on communities, families, and a person’s subjective well-being and self-esteem. 

For example, research has found that the longer Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being. A Gallup survey found about one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression. The survey also reports unemployed Americans are more than twice as likely to say they currently have or are being treated for depression than both those with full-time jobs and those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less.[4]

For young people, the stigma of not having a job may be devastating enough that it is similar to adding 30 years of aging to one’s physical well-being. The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index found that among 47 high-income countries, the physical well-being of unemployed youth aged 15 to 29 is statistically tied with that of employed adults aged 50 and older—26% vs. 24% thriving, respectively.[5]

A 2011 study of the long-term unemployed published by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University also found that half of participants experienced shame and embarrassment that led them to isolate themselves from friends and associates. Among the long-term unemployed, 31.1% reported spending two hours or less with family or friends the previous day, versus 21.5% among short-term unemployed adults.[6]

To effectively minister to the unemployed, churches must recognize that joblessness has profound effects on the mental and physical health of the unemployed and minister to those needs.

3. Recognize unemployment as a spiritual crisis 

Long-term unemployment is not just a mental and physical health crisis; it’s also a spiritual crisis—and the church is the only institution that can adequately respond. “Fortunately, the church is in a unique place to explain Christ’s restoration of work,” says Michael Jahr, “the meaning of suffering, and the hope and peace that result from putting our trust in him.”[7]

Jahr offers three ways to assess how effectively your church or parachurch organization is ministering to the unemployed and underemployed within your congregation and community:

  • Examine whether you are providing encouragement, dignity, and accountability, or merely engaging in what long-time urban ministry leader Bob Lupton describes as “toxic charity”—charity that leads to dependency, deception, and disempowerment of an individual in need.
  • Look for ways to foster entrepreneurship to creatively meet human need, add value, and further the common good.
  • Engage business people in finding solutions to joblessness and poverty. In particular, find ways that you can provide jobs for those in your area or help to train those who need marketable skills.

“The church has the message and resources necessary to revive the broken spirit and restore the downtrodden,” says Jahr. “The question is whether the church will discern this opportunity and take action.”

Jobs are important to the flourishing of the individual, the community, and the economy—which is why unemployment should be a primary concern for the church. Helping people find work that is uniquely their own and contributes to the flourishing of the wider community should always be one of the chief economic concerns for the Christian community.   

A version of this article originally appeared in our WORK issue of Light Magazine. 

Notes

  1. ^ Bureaus of Labor Statistics, “The Employment Situation — September 2017.”
  2. ^ “Rev. Sirico: ‘Jobs & deficits — the moral equation,’” Acton Institute PowerBlog.
  3. ^ Gene Veith, “Our Calling and God’s Glory,” Made to Flourish, November 1, 2007.
  4. ^ Steve Crabtree, “In U.S., Depression Rates Higher for Long-term Unemployed,” Gallup, June 9, 2004.
  5. ^ “Youth Unemployment: Damaging to Their Health,” Gallup, December 6, 2016.
  6. ^ “Long-term Unemployed Struggle as Economy Improves, Rutgers Study Finds,” Rutgers Today, September 25, 2014.
  7. ^ Michal Jahr, “Economic Malady, Church Opportunity,” The Gospel Coalition, September 15, 2013.
By / Apr 24

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss facemask requirements, unemployment rates, cats with Coronavirus, and Zoom fatigue. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece from Casey B. Hough on 3 ways to lead Christ’s sheep through the valley of the shadow of COVID-19, Ericka Andersen on quarantine as an opportunity for churches emerging stronger, and Josh Wester on why religious liberty is so important to Baptists. Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Dan Darling for a conversation about life and ministry.  

About Dan

Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). Dan is a bestselling author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, Activist Faith, The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas and the forthcoming, A Way With Words, releasing in September 2020. He is the general editor, along with Trillia Newbell, of a small group study on racial reconciliation, The Church and the Racial Divide and is a contributor to The Worldview Study Bible and The Couples Devotional Bible. Dan has served churches in Illinois and Tennessee. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. They attend Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, where Dan serves as Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship. Twitter: @dandarling

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Cellphone data shows coronavirus kept churchgoers at home in every state on Easter
  2. NPR: 73% Of Inmates At An Ohio Prison Test Positive For Coronavirus
  3. Texas, as an example, is reportedly looking at cuts as deep as 20% to the state budget.
  4. CNN: These are the states that require you to wear a face mask in public
  5. Perhaps a preview of things to come: VP Pence speaking at the US Air Force Academy graduation.
  6. Trump to Temporarily Halt Immigration Into the U.S. Amid Coronavirus Crisis
  7. Another 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits
  8. Some citizens are looking to leave places like NYC
  9. Two cats in New York are first pets known to have coronavirus in the US
  10. 1 big thing: The Zoom fatigue is real
  11. Last night, the NFL draft went virtual amid coronavirus pandemic
  12. McDonald's is giving first responders and healthcare workers free 'Thank You meals'

Lunchroom  

ERLC Inbox  

  • Q: There’s been a lot of conversation about Christians and the 2020 election. What resources would you recommend for Christians to think about this issue? 

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors  

By / Apr 3

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent talk about the extension of social distancing, staggering unemployment numbers, the rise of Zoom bombing, and the brothers who won’t stop making America laugh. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece from Scott James on praying for medical providers, Lieryn Barnett on caring for your mental health, Aaron Mercer on international religious freedom, and Russell Moore on how churches should think through pursuing SBA-backed loans available through the CARES Act. Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Jen Wilkin for a conversation about life and ministry.

About Jen

Jen Wilkin is a wife, a mother of four, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. Jen is the author of multiple books including None Like Him, Women of the Word, and In His Image. She and her family are based at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. You can follow her on Twitter: @jenniferwilkin

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. 6.5 million people file for unemployment. Nearly ten million have filed in the last two weeks
  2. Social distancing extended until April 30th
  3. Joe Diffie passes away from Covid-19 + Ellis Marsalis at 85
  4. The DNC delayed until August
  5. Are abortions essential during coronavirus? 
  6. Zoom announces steps for call security
  7. Southern Baptists donate masks, supplies
  8. State Conventions gather to pray virtually
  9. Facebook gives $100 million for local reporting
  10. The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics are set to open on July 23, 2021
  11. Dolly Parton, the Queen of Tennessee, giving a million dollars to Vanderbilt medical center
  12. The Cuomo brothers make America laugh

 Lunchroom

 ERLC Inbox

  • Q: I’ve heard about the loans available to churches through the CARES Act. Is this something you recommend? And how can I learn more?

 Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

By / Nov 26

I know the job search blues, that feeling of hopelessness and despair when you work so hard at your job search, sending out countless resumes, going on interview after interview but still no job offer. You ask yourself, “Will I ever land a job? “

I was unemployed last Thanksgiving. I recall vividly having those feelings of awkwardness when meeting with friends and relatives over the holidays. People wonder if they should ask you about your job search and how you are doing. They figure that you would bring it up if you wanted to talk about it. If people hear that you lost your job, some say, “That’s a shame.”

However, it is important to know that the majority of those who are unemployed have nothing to feel ashamed about. In many cases, there was a reduction in force due to the economy, and there are many who were “let go” who were very good employees. It is important for those who are unemployed to not feel ashamed. When I run job groups, I ask people to introduce themselves and tell others their occupation. One person replied that her occupation is unemployed. “Unemployed” is not her occupation. She still has the same education, skills and experience as before. No one can take that away from her.  She can still feel proud of her past accomplishments and experience and not let what just happened to her overtake those many positive past experiences.

The holidays are a wonderful time to network with family and friends. Networking is all about building relationships for mutual benefit. If you have a friend who is unemployed, a word of advice is to sincerely offer to pray with him or her and also to connect them to those you know for networking purposes. A few good friends offered to do this for me and it was greatly appreciated. It is equally important for those who are unemployed to realize that their family and friends are also going through their own trials as well.  Be willing to ask others how you can pray for them too.  Although they may not be unemployed, they also have problems, i.e. experiencing health issues, relationship issues, etc. The mutual support of one another goes along way in navigating the challenges of life.

How to beat the job search blues? Don’t do it alone. Get support. Develop job search skills by joining a job search group.  Get a career coach.  Get a job search buddy.  Ask a few friends if they would be willing to pray for you regularly. Enhance your skills. Join a professional association. Network. Volunteer. Apply to jobs online. Get an internship. Take classes. Become a consultant. Stay focused and persevere. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

However, the ultimate way to beat the job search blues is to remember that as Christians we have our identity grounded in our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are unconditionally loved by the God of the universe. His love for us is not dependent on our performance or employment status. Our security and significance are in Christ, not in our occupation. I am secure in His love (Romans 8:35-39); I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).

We are Christians first and then whatever occupation second. This is so countercultural. Maybe I believed this in my mind but I struggled to believe these biblical truths in my heart. When I daily prayed and meditated on the Scriptures and asked God to help my unbelief, he changed my heart. This gave me tremendous confidence to trust him going forward through all the uncertainty. Our hope and confidence is in Christ. God is always faithful. This makes all the difference.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Of course, I was not thankful for my joblessness, but I was able to give thanks in my circumstances because I have a God who loves and cares for me, provides for me, walks with me, and will carry me through all my circumstances. I encourage you to spend some time journaling all the reasons why you are thankful. This alone can lift your spirits and cure you of the job search blues.