WASHINGTON – It's job searching with a dose of religion.
That's what a Dallas megachurch is offering locals in the job market – professional guidance on how to ace job interviews combined with divine intervention through the power of prayer.
Rather than just simply offer sympathy and hand-outs to unemployed congregants and locals, the 12,000-member First Baptist Church is running "pro-active" programs to get people back in the workforce.
Through church-run programs such as Career Solutions, Career Link, and Crown Financial Classes, the church is teaching people how to create attention-grabbing resumes, stand out during interviews, and match employer and potential employees within the church.
"It is not just a support group to offer encouragement – though that is a vital aspect of it," said the Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, to The Christian Post on Wednesday. "But it is helping people be pro-active instead of reactive."
Many churches, Jeffress said, think that the way to help people is to offer them financial aid such as assistance in paying their rent. But no church is rich enough to support struggling families for a long period of time, he pointed out.
"It is the old adage, 'give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish he'll eat for a lifetime,'" Jeffress said. "And we think the most important thing the church can do to help its members who are unemployed is help them develop and hone skills that will help them land that next job."
Some 200 people have participated in Career Solutions since the church started the program two years ago.
Career Solutions is a 12-week course that offers tips on how to land a job including resume building, mock interviews, thank you notes, and follow-up calls. The program is open to church members and non-members, including non-Christians.
Jeffress says most job seekers are unprepared to answer the first question during an interview – tell me about yourself. Career Solutions helps participants learn to answer such questions with confidence.
Some of the tips taught in Career Solutions include: resumes should be concise (2 pages), precise (facts no narrative), and clean (no fancy fonts or borders); never chew gum during job interviews; don't talk bad about your former employer; don't talk about salary; and never say no when the company representative asks if you have any questions.
And when the interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, you should talk for about two minutes on how your skill and experiences can benefit the employer. The interviewee should talk about the assets they bring to the company and show how their passion matches that of the corporate statement.
"What we tell people [in the Career Solutions program] is the most important thing you can do in a job search is to pray," the First Baptist Church pastor noted. "We are not hesitant to encourage people to ask God for his assistant. Our feeling is when we're facing any need in life, including employment, we ought to pray as if it all depends on God but also work as it all depends on us."
Jeffress has been on a press circuit in Washington, D.C., and New York since Wednesday to get the word out that churches of all sizes can help equip unemployed people with the tools they need to find a job.
He highlights that other churches can easily adapt the concept of Career Link to work for their church. The Career link website, launched by First Baptist Church Dallas this week, allows church members to upload their resumes onto the site that can be viewed by church members who are employers. It helps match church members who are looking for jobs with those who can provide jobs.
"The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, and as Paul says in I Corinthians 12, when one member of the body hurts the whole body suffers," Jeffress said. "We need to come to the aid and rescue those members who are going through difficult times."
First Baptist Church of Dallas also runs the largest homeless shelter in downtown Dallas – the Dallas Life Foundation. The shelter has 500 beds and provides 300,000 meals a year.
According to the most recent data available, 5,112,000 Americans have filed for unemployment benefits for the week ending on Feb. 14. That is the highest number since the Labor Department began keeping records in 1967.