My Advice to Churches: Part 4, Providing Employment

A third bit of advice to churches was to shift from benevolence toward employment. Not employment training, but employment. Giving people actual jobs.

My imagination for this was formed by Fr. Gregory Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart, his starting of Homeboy Industries. As the Homeboys like to say, nothing stops a bullet like a job.

In my context, I've been increasingly concerned about the plight of men and women who have been released from prison. It is extraordinarily difficult for people with felony convictions and significant jail time to secure jobs and a steady paycheck. This contributes to a high recidivism rate.

And parolees aren't the only ones in need of jobs. Many people walking the long road to recovery also struggle to find and keep jobs. Most homeless people are not chronically homeless. They have just had a bad patch and just need a job to get back on their feet.

There are plenty of benevolence and job training programs around, many run by churches, but what most people need is simply a job.

To ask businesses to step into this gap is too much to ask. Businesses have to make a profit. They can't risk giving jobs to high risk and potentially unreliable workers. Not in any significant quantity.

But a church with a variety of non-profit businesses could fill this gap.

I think churches should starts up businesses. A pizza shop. A coffee shop. A laundromat. A landscaping business. A cleaning business. Employees can work in these businesses for 6, 9 or 12 months. Max. The goal is to provide a steady paycheck, skills, and a record of consistent work performance. Just what a business needs to see to give you a shot. These church-run businesses would be a proving and training ground, a territory of rehabilitation, before entry into the for-profit job market.

So that's my advice, for churches to shift away from benevolence and job training to providing employment in church-run businesses.

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