A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that I had wanted to write for 18 months. It was about depression. I wasn’t happy with the post, and hoped to get some comments. It has turned out to be one of my most favorite “blog discussions” so far, with 15 heart-felt comments (and counting) about depression in the job search.
Scientist is a commenter with some very thought-provoking questions/ideas. Here’s part of her comment:
I would like to ask how the clergy people in your religion (without naming the religions) have responded. I have not been able to get any clergy person in my religion willing to make an appointment with me or offer me any help. I am thinking about converting, and I wonder what religions are being supportive. Mine is not. I think religion involves a sense of community and not just going to a service once a week.
Wow – what a great question. I’ll attempt to answer it with my own experiences, and would love to know what you guys think.
Help from individuals in our congregation
When I lost my job, word spread throughout our congregation pretty quick. We live in a nice neighborhood with a lot of professionals who are excelling in their careers, and there was only one other person who was out of work.
A few people came and asked us how we were doing, and how they could help. We found ourselves in a very uncomfortable situation of being in a fishbowl where a lot of people that we didn’t know suddenly had some level of interest in what was going on. More than once we would answer the door at night, only to find bags of clothing, or boxes of food. Sometimes when we opened the mailbox there were envelopes containing anything from cash to gift cards at the grocery store.
Once, I got a bill from a utility company with a few hundred dollars credit. I didn’t understand it at first – it took me about 30 minutes to (a) understand that someone would pay our utility bill a few months in advance, and (b) pull myself together to tell my wife.
It was an extremely humbling period. My wife and I had stingily helped others throughout our marriage (let me clarify, I was the stingy one, not her… she would gladly give all we had and more to help others while I wanted to give only what we could “afford”), but we had never been on this end.
Throughout this entire process I was amazed at the kindness that people showed. I’m not talking about giving 10 or 20 bucks here and there. Remember the gift cards for the grocery store? There were three of them. I called the number on the back of each card to find out the value… and I could not believe it – they were each maxed out at $200. That means that someone gave my family $600 to use at the local grocery store.
I felt embarrassed, humbled, stingy, grateful… all kinds of things. I wasn’t concerned about my welfare as much as my family’s, and getting anonymous gifts from neighbors and congregation was so, so appreciated.
Help from our bishop
One of the early calls we made was to our bishop (congregation leader). I knew people were talking about us (it felt uncomfortable, of course, but it also felt right, since I would be talking about how to help someone else with others in our congregation). I just wanted to let him know what was going on, that I was sure we would be okay, that we didn’t need any help, of course we would reach out to him if we did, and I wanted to clarify a few things that I had heard that were not accurate. I certainly didn’t want to worry him.
He asked us if we (my wife and I) could meet with him in his office. We were pretty clear that we didn’t want or need any help, and that we could get ourselves out of this mess.
We sat down with him and he asked how we were doing. Then he asked us if he could understand our monthly expenses, and asked us specifically about our house payment, car payments, food budget, utilities, etc. Within a few minutes we all had an idea of what kind of money we needed monthly. He told us that he wanted us to take advantage of a program commonly referred to as “the bishop’s storehouse” where he would authorize us to go and get whatever groceries we needed. He emphasized that the storehouse is there for situations like this, and we would probably feel embarrassed, but he wanted us to go in and take as much as we wanted… it was there for us.
We told him that we were okay, and we didn’t need it. He countered with “I’d rather have you save your money for bills than for food, so please take advantage of the bishop’s storehouse.” How grateful we were to have this resource and not feel like we were moochers, beggers, or opportunists.
Was it embarrassing? Absolutely. The bishop’s storehouse does what it can to make you feel comfortable but when I went it seemed as if everyone there had their eyes down… embarrassed to be there. We were just a bunch of people down on our luck, really. We went for a few months but stopped when we decided to make JibberJobber a full-time business to pursue. It was definitely a blessing.
The rest of the story
My job search was going on and on. Everyone can feel sorry for you for the first few weeks or months. The “charity” died down, certainly, which was good for us and everyone else. I appreciated everything that people gave, and it changed my perspective on helping others, but I didn’t want to be seen as this no-good-mooch.
Some people didn’t quite understand my web-based business and I felt as if they thought it was just a psychological reaction to feel better about my employability – so we had the occasional “Jason, here are job postings for you” even after I repeatedly explained that we weren’t’ looking anymore, that I had a web business. I guess that’s part of being an entrepreneur – people wondering what the heck you are doing
I have friends that told me different stories… where their bishops would call them in and chastize them, tell them to not be so lazy or selective, and really make them feel horrible. I hated stories like these, and realized how lucky and blessed we were to have a bishop that was intent on helping, not harming.
It makes me sad to hear stories like that of scientist, but I think (I hope) I know what’s going on. I think that those people have no idea what to do. Perhaps they haven’t been through it before. It doesn’t help the pain at the time, but I want to (I really want to) give the church leaders the benefit of the doubt and hope somehow they can learn about the depth of the unemployment issue.
I’d love to know what more churches are doing with regard to this issue – unemployment in the congregation affects a healthy congregation! Not only can people not donate to the church, but you then get all kinds of issues tied to emotional health (depression, suicide, ability to serve others, etc.).
Want some resources?
I have three links to share with you:
- Between Jobs Ministry – this is the most impressive organization that I’ve come across in my travels. These guys get it, and do it right. You won’t get much out of their website (hint: call them), but they should be an example for a bunch of others to offer real career management service, regardless of religious beliefs. The worst thing about the Between Jobs Ministry is that they are in Houston… so it won’t help many of you. But still, five stars, and hopefully others will follow their example.
- LDS Jobs – this website is kind of clunky, but here’s what you do (again, non-denominational) – find the link to their locations. They offer an excellent (free) two day workshop on job search. You aren’t going to get preached at, although they do pray and have scriptures, of course. I have networked with many of the people involved in this program and I recommend it as a first step if you are just starting your job search. It is the thing that turned my job search around (I was totally headed in the wrong direction).
- Google the phrase “job ministry“ – Thanks to expert recruiter and sourcer Jim Stroud for this idea. It is kind of hit-and-miss but if you put in Job Ministry and your city (like “Job Ministry Atlanta” or “Job Ministry Sacramento” or “Job Ministry New York” or “Job Ministry Florida” or “Job Ministry Chicago“) you might luck out and find an active job ministry to help you with techniques, network contacts, support, etc.
This post is way longer than I wanted… sorry for that. Feel free to share your own religious/clergy/church job search experiences!
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