Faith Communities Today
New Fact Information
More than one in ten Adventist churches report that they provide a community service program that helps people find jobs or get job training. This is below the average for all religious groups in America.
Helping an unemployed person find a job is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. It also requires a high level of commitment and diligence. Among the poorest of the poor, there is often a lack of marketable job skills or even basic education. The long-term unemployed often are deeply discouraged and need emotional support or they may not understand the social skills involved in getting a job. Due to the hard work involved in employment counseling and job training programs, churches are usually more interested in the comparatively quick and easy relief activities such as handing out meals or distributing donated clothing. The vast majority of American congregations of all faiths do nothing to meet this need.
Adventists have a long heritage in this area. “Many who are upright and well-meaning become poor through lack of industrial training,” wrote Ellen White in “The Ministry of Healing” (page 190). “They are often unable to find employment [and] are unfitted to wrestle with the difficulties of life.” In order to “become industrious and self-supporting,” she wrote on page 192, “very many must have assistance, encouragement, and instruction.” On page 194, she advocates “the establishment of various industries so that poor families can find employment,” and states that “everyone who understands some line of useful labor, should feel a responsibility to teach and help... the unemployed.”
This type of program is one that has a very strong correlation with church growth among Adventist churches. This means that most of the small number of local churches that have started job-finding and job training programs are having excellent results. A model program called JobNet has been run for more than ten years by Adventist Community Services at the Samaritan Center near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Findings from this pilot project have been published in “Ministries of Compassion,” available from AdventSource.
1. Has our congregation ever provided employment counseling, placement or training services for our own members or for people in the community?
2. Is there a need for this type of program in our community or in our metropolitan area?
3. Is there enough interest in this creative approach to outreach, public service and church growth that we should appoint a small task force to study the possibilities?
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Center for Creative Ministry
Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, March 22, 2006, Center for Creative Ministry