In the face of the crisis and its consequent impact on the supply of work, how can church participation effectively support job seekers?

In a short time, we had to reformulate the family and professional routine. The global impact of the crisis caused by COVID-19 raises rumors of incalculable economic damage, with unemployment rising as one of its main consequences. Faced with this situation, what can we as a church do?

In his book The Christian in a non-Christian society, John Stott states that the engagement of the churches in global dynamics and ills is not limited only to prayer, but to active and forceful participation, with the same urgency of the proclamation of the Kingdom. A really interesting perspective that can stimulate us to take action in the face of the current contingency.

To encourage you to reflect on the subject, we share below an excerpt from The Christian in a non-Christian society, content kindly provided by Editora Thomas Nelson Brasil. At the end, we elaborated some questions for study and reflection. We hope that reading will inspire you to be an instrument of transformation and help among those in need of help.

Supporting those looking for work

By John Stott

Helping job seekers find work should not be a task delegated to the voluntary sector, but the church can contribute a lot. Job seekers have different needs, depending on their background, their competence and their skills. The needs of a person born in the UK and with higher education are quite different from those of someone who has just entered the country as a refugee; in the latter case, they are rarely limited to employment.

In general, people in this situation will need help finding housing, to ensure that they receive the right benefits, and to enroll in English classes if required. In other cases, they will need help filling out forms or participating in interviews. Some will have to receive advice to create their own business.

The church has much to offer in all these areas; in fact, several churches have projects to meet many of these needs. Many of them had their structures adapted, and new churches were designed to be multifunctional, so that community groups, meetings and financial counseling sessions can have their head.

Then there is the whole sphere of community service, through the local church, a voluntary organization or personal initiative: visiting the sick, the elderly or prisoners; redecorate an old person’s home; working with people with mental or physical disabilities; caring for children; give rides to other children in school; teach children with learning difficulties or ethnic families for whom English is a second language; hospital, school, or local church.

By Creation, humanity is creative; we cannot discover ourselves without serving God or others; we must have a place to vent our creative energies. So if people without jobs can’t afford the range of activities I just mentioned, and if they’re not accessible anywhere else in the community, shouldn’t the church provide them? Is it impossible for the church to provide a workshop (and tools), a garage or a studio where people can learn and practice new skills? And do most local churches develop a much broader program of service to the local community?

“By Creation, humanity is creative; we cannot discover ourselves without serving God or others.” John Sott

An increasing number of jobless, semi-employed and retired people should be encouraged to use their free time creatively. As a result of automation, as Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1964, “we are suddenly threatened by a release that burdens our inner resources of self-employment and imaginative participation in society.”

Work is a personal matter

First, work is[…] a personal matter; are the attitudes we take towards our work, the involvement with our employment and the results of our work. It is one of the main ways we express our Christian character. The way we work indicates that we are honest, efficient and trustworthy, and we should try to incorporate the highest standards.

Often, work presents people with ethical problems that are difficult to solve. It is important that we, as Christians, know how to deal with these issues without yielding to the status quo, and this may mean that we will have to bear the price of acting with integrity in the world of work.

Either way, in most cases, employers want employees they can trust, and transparent and reliable companies generally realize they thrive as their reputation grows. We must never forget that work is an expression of the Christian character, nor should we give reason for people to be sarcastic about the Christian faith, given that there is an abyss between what we speak and what we do.

Secondly, one of the reactions to the advent of automation is the tendency to personalization of work. We live in the era of flexible work of the service provider who tries to control what everyone is doing at any cost. Here, we are dealing with the ultimate expression of personal work, and we need to remember that work is not only a moral expression, but also an emotional issue.

Those, for example, who work from home, can quickly discover that they miss company because we are social beings and are not created for isolation. When we work alone, it can be difficult too, to maintain the balance between working too hard and not being disciplined enough. When evaluating work, therefore, we should be aware of its impact on people, not only thinking about new technologies, but also potentially isolating working conditions.

Whatever scenario we work in, we need to encourage each other to work with integrity, contribute to the well-being of others, and do everything for God’s glory.

Stott, John. The Christian in a non-Christian society: how to position yourself biblically in the face of contemporary challenges / John Stott ; translation by Markus Hediger. – Rio de Janeiro : Tomas Nelson, 2019. It’s not even like that. 273 to 275. Published on sepal’s blog with permission of Publisher Thomas Nelson Brazil.

Questions for reflection:

“The creative impact of the church on unemployment”

  • The author says that the government may even support voluntary services in favor of the community, but should never exempt itself from its responsibility of social assistance. On the other hand, the church must and can be an alternative for unemployed people to develop new skills and engage in activities beneficial to themselves and society. Considering the Brazilian reality, how should government and church come together in the search for creative solutions to mitigate the damage of unemployment?
  • Based on the social question described above, how can the church contribute to supporting those seeking employment or need training to return to the job market?
  • Knowing that the church has a strong role in social assistance, how should we act in the face of the new pandemic scenario that has clearly compromised businesses and job availability? What can you and your church members do?
  • “We are social beings and we are not created for isolation.” In a context of social isolation, where we should be held in for security reasons, how can the church use online tools to support those who feel the emotional impacts of a situation like the present one? In that sense, would you have any creative insight into distance initiative? What?

Read also:

Learning, experiencing and challenges of a time of pain
Pastorate and the Church from 2020
An invitation to silence, meditate, pray, and rest