Many people turn to churches for help when they find themselves in tough times.
Local houses of worship answer the call with food pantries, clothing closets, even funds to help financially.
One St. Charles County church takes it even further, helping people find jobs.
New Hope Presbyterian Church started its employment ministry in 2009. It meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month.
Praying for work
At a recent meeting, every seat was taken at long tables that filled the sanctuary. The seats were filled with people looking for work. Others there to network.
Kirk Garten, a church and employment ministry team member, offered a prayer after introductions. The prayer was for those around the tables anxious about their finding employment, and for others in dire financial circumstances.
Although finding a job was the immediate goal of those around the tables, faith played another role: helping to keep job seekers grounded during the hunt, and prayers for other who may be even worse off.
The employment ministry meetings are free and open to anyone regardless of religious affiliation. Ministry volunteers say some people continue to attend even after finding work.
One example of this approach is Kirk Burrus, a member of First Baptist Church in Harvester. Burrus started a job in November and continues to attend employment ministry meetings to support and guide others.
Faith and facts
Guest speaker at the recent employement ministry meeting evening was Frank Alaniz. Alaniz is the Workforce Regional Liaison for the State of Missouri Division of Workforce Development and SLATE, St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment.
Alaniz shared information via PowerPoint and provided materials attendees could access and download on their own computers. After plenty of questions from meeting attendees Alaniz stayed behind to address individual concerns.
Bob Yeo started the employment ministry at New Hope. People who know him describe Yeo as a humble and unassuming person yet who provides advice, support and leadership.
"Bob saw the need and did the research” for an employment support ministry out of New Hope Church, said Garten.
Ministry on a mission
The ministry helps link people together. Barbara Newman, a church and ministry team member, pointed to an employment ministry insert for the Sunday bulletin.
It reminds church members about upcoming meetings, topics and speakers, and encourages people to email job leads to the ministry. The insert shares news about people who have found jobs and highlights the qualifications of those still looking.
At one meeting a woman walked in and handed a job lead to Burrus. She had kept it in her Bible and forgotten to give it to him the previous Sunday. He announced the opening as well as others he had to the group.
Before the meeting ended, Garten offered constructive advice about tasks job seekers should tackle before the next meeting: sendling follow-up emails, continuing to search, and remaining optimistic.
The tone of the New Hope employment minsitry meeting was upbeat, with leaders and speakers encouraging job seekers to keep their spirits up. One woman who'd been laid off was not despairing.
“I called the temp agency," she said. "And I have another job tomorrow.”
Other faith supported employment groups in St. Charles County:
The Catholic Employment Network: Formed May 2002, there are three local chapters, in St. Charles, St. Joseph in Cottleville, and Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie.
Faith At Work Network: Operating since August 2011, FAWN is beginning to enroll faith communities in its employer – employee network organization and will be increasing its visibility in the month.