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Churches step in to offer job guidance
Debby Fox heads up the Career Connection at First United Methodist Church in Gainesville, which helps anyone looking for a job with support, training and networking.

In her role as pastor of Christian education and discipleship, the Rev. Debby Fox generally works on matters such as curriculum for Sunday school classes.

These days, a portion of her time is devoted to helping train people to find a new job.

The program is called Career Connection, and while it is open to the public, it grew out of a need among church members who had been laid off.

“We didn’t know what kind of response we would have,” said Fox, who has had volunteer support from members who have worked in the business world.

“This has been a word-of-mouth thing among members of the congregation and folks they know.”

The program has had some who were able to leave early because they were able to find work. Others, who had been in their former jobs for 20 years or more, are being acclimated to modern job-search techniques, such as how to post a resume on the Internet.

They also are learning techniques such as “elevator speeches,” short verbal introductions that are designed to help a person “sell” themselves to a prospective employer.

“They’ve done practice interviews and had business people come in and interview them,” she said.

The program, which is in its first 12 weeks, has attracted between 10 and 18 participants.

At First Baptist Church, the Rev. Bill Coates said his congregation has not been immune to the economic situation, and the church is trying to respond quickly.

“We’ve got so many people who are coming by and saying ‘Do you know anywhere I might get a job?’” Coates said. “That’s the new twist. We haven’t been in the business of helping people get jobs until now.”

Coates said employment and financial difficulties are particularly hard on him as a pastor.

“These are people that I know and love. We’ve had numerous people in our church who have lost jobs, particularly in the banking industry, real estate and development.”

The church has formed a new ministry called Turning Point. They have signed on with a network of other churches to provide access to job listings in the region.

They also are in the process of identifying professionals within the church who might provide counseling in areas ranging from accounting to legal.

A number of churches are also helping families with financial counseling and ways to reduce their personal debt. Blackshear Place

Baptist Church in Oakwood, for one, has been offering a course from syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey, who has become nationally known for his advocacy for better personal finances.

Gainesville-based Crown Financial Ministries, which has an international program that teaches personal financial responsibility based on biblical teachings, has seen an increase in contacts through its Web site and by phone.

The ministry reaches out through churches and trains what it calls “Money Map Coaches” to counsel with individuals and families about their finances.

Founded in 1976, the ministry has taught more than 50 million people in 80 nations about biblical stewardship of their money and resources.

From its headquarters in Gainesville, it serves operations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, South America and Africa, and is expanding into Europe, India, Asia and Australia.