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6 tips to launch a career ministry

The unemployment crisis in cities across the United States calls faith communities to step up. Your church members can get involved and use their gifts and talents to love and help their neighbors weather the economic downturn. Pastors and church leaders who see needs in their congregation and community can start a volunteer-led career ministry. This ministry can help people find jobs and careers. Your church will be helping people live the life that God has intended.

Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Find need and opportunity. Of the more than 150 million people in the U.S. workforce, more than 15 million are out of work. At the same time, a large number of those employed say they are unhappy, even miserable, at work. For the vast majority of workers, their job requires the greatest investment of time, provides the most important means of financial support and plays a key element in personal well-being. Those factors create a perfect context for introducing Ephesians 2:10, NIV: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."


2. Discover new ways to love your neighbor. Roswell United Methodist Church in suburban Atlanta offers an outstanding example of loving its neighbors through the volunteer-led Ministry. Every second and fourth Monday of the month from 1:30 to 9 p.m., more than 100 volunteers serve as many as 400 guests with workshops on writing resumes, interviewing, networking, starting a business, job-search tips for boomers, organizing the job-search process and more. The church serves dinner accompanied by a spiritual message and facilitated table discussion. After dinner the agenda includes resume reviews, small group networking, connecting with industry guide mentors and prayer time. The evening finishes with a keynote speaker, success stories and announcements of future events.

3. Start small. Let it grow tall. Just as RUMC did, you can start your new ministry with just one volunteer, one job seeker and no budget. Here are key tips for growth:

  • Do what churches do best: prayer, fellowship, Scripture application and service.
  • Create your ministry so it is led by laypersons, rather than clergy or staff.
  • Let volunteers contribute in areas of ministry that they consider right for them.
  • Be alert for volunteers from business, recruiting, career development and human resources.
  • Don't be afraid to let it grow. Whatever appears impossible for humans is possible for God.

4. Get equipped, trained and networked. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Roswell volunteer leader Katherine Simons wrote a "cookbook" called "Loving Your Neighbor: a Faith Community's Response to the Unemployment Crisis," complete with a menu of choices for starting or expanding a career ministry. It is part of a library of resources offered by the Crossroads Career Network. The collection includes the "Maximize Your Career" workbook, tools and tips, plus "how to" ministry guides and materials on leadership, prayer, promotion and six basic ministry environments:

  • Network meetings
  • Weekly support groups
  • Employer engagements
  • Small-group studies
  • Workshops
  • Coaching

Roswell, one of 25 United Methodist CCN-member churches, provides monthly training and direct experience in their job-networking ministry.

5. Promote your career ministry in multiple ways. The word about your ministry will spread naturally by word of mouth. Beyond that, make sure the meeting time is on your website, on weekly or monthly calendars in your bulletin and newsletter, and included as a Facebook event. You may consider adding the event to electronic signage, if your church has that. Or purchase an inexpensive banner for your front lawn.

6. Rethink ways to reach out. How can we rethink church as an out-of-building, 365-days-a-year experience? Consider the impact of reaching people who have come to crossroads in their careers.

This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls&ellipsis;" Jeremiah 6:16, NIV

Career ministry provides United Methodist churches with new ways to show kindness, acceptance, hospitality and love to guests and members alike.