April 28, 2009
J. Michael Caley, Senior Pastor, Banner of Christ UB (Byron Center, Mich.)
Michigan has been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis. At Banner of Christ church (Byron Center, Mich.), 15 families have been affected by layoffs or job cuts.
Several men who are key breadwinners had been at the same location 25-30 years. Many of them got good jobs right out of high school or college. This is the first time they’ve been in this situation, and they know they could be unemployed for a long time. It’s not like they can make five phone calls and line up interviews for next week.
We decided to bring together people who had lost their jobs. We scheduled the meeting from 6-8 p.m., and we provided pizza. Twelve of the 15 families at Banner directly affected by layoffs or job cuts were represented–both husband and wife in some cases, just one spouse in others.
After eating, we held an informal time of sharing–what work they had been doing, their skills and abilities, what they might do if they can’t return to their previous work.
Then we committed to praying for each other and keeping alert for job opportunities we could share with each other. One guy doing a job search might come across an opening which fit someone else’s skillset.
They were still taking about 8:00 when I basically said, “Last one out, turn off the lights.” Four men stayed for another 45 minutes, just sharing and networking.
Within the first few weeks, several people helped others in the group regarding a job opportunity. In one case, a guy sent a reference back to his former employer saying, “I know someone who would fit the job you’re trying to fill.”
They committed to meeting monthly to check in with each other, and in between meetings, we used a confidential group email list. At least two families that aren’t part of Banner are in that email group.
I was blown away. It brought the magnitude of it to me–the number of people being affected by job cuts, and how much comfort they found in meeting to pray and share.
We have now seen two guys get at least part time work. Two guys also set up times every week to volunteer doing stuff for and around the church–just a way to give something back.