What if the Church Helped Provide Work Instead of Handouts?

What if the Church Helped Provide Work Instead of Handouts? April 14, 2014

This guest post by David Spickard originally appeared on Jobs for Life.  David grew up in Nashville, TN, and has always had a heart for people in need. Since 1999, he has applied his MBA and love for God at Jobs for Life, first as its Director of Operations and then as its CEO, beginning in 2006.  During this time, he has helped JfL grow from a local work in Raleigh, NC, to a global network of churches, ministries, and businesses helping men and women learn God’s design for work and find meaningful employment.  David adores his wife, Alice, and their four children, and anything Carolina Blue.

The effects of a lack of work are pervasive and self-perpetuating. When people do not work, there is more poverty, crime, recidivism, homelessness, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, substance abuse, domestic violence, debt, depression, and suicide.

Work is extremely important to God.  After all, God works and when He made us, He created us to work.

Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28.

Through work, we experience dignity, unleash our unique talents and gifts, create community, renew cities, and worship God. The Church, therefore, is uniquely called and positioned to advance God’s Kingdom in the world by helping people experience the dignity of work.

But There Is a Problem.

The National Congregations Study, a major survey of church congregations from all over the United States led by Mark Chaves at Duke University in collaboration with the National Opinion and Research Center  at the University of Chicago, discovered something interesting about the way churches engage people in need.

They found the top outreach program of the Church is food (51.5% of church congregations give food to people in need), the second is housing, the third is clothing.

Helping people go to work?  It’s at the bottom of the list.  The study found that only 1.9% of churches in all of America engage in efforts to help people learn and experience the dignity of work.

There are many reasons why this is the case, which we explore on our blog at Jobs for Life, but for now, let me ask a question.

What If We Flipped the List?

What if Work were on top of the list? Not to dismiss the need to help people with food, housing, clothing, and the rest, particularly in times of crisis or as a way to enter into relationship with people in need. But what if we spent the same amount of time, effort, and resources helping a man or woman find and keep a job as we do handing out clothes on a Saturday morning? What would that do?

In America alone, there are roughly 350,000 local church congregations. Most embrace and respond to God’s call for the Church to care for the poor.  Very few help the poor find a job. But shouldn’t that be at the top of the list?

What do you think? Should the Church make it a bigger priority to help the poor find jobs? Click here to share your thoughts with a comment.

Photo by kennethkonica

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