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Group assists search for jobs, God

Community: In tough market, team at Grace Baptist Church offers help for unemployed

Posted: June 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Members of the Grace Baptist Church’s job care team — from left, Barbara Paradise, Rolf Gutknecht, Jeff Tyler, and Réal Paradise — discuss the group’s plans for the future at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Friday.

 

Jeff Tyler worked as a director of corporate partnership for a company in Santa Clarita until the company folded about 30 months ago.

Faced with a tough job market filled with recent college graduates with low salary requirements, the 53-year-old Valencia resident decided to use his time to get help and help others, rather than stay home alone, waiting for the phone to ring with a job offer.

“You tell me to go home, and I say, ‘OK, I’m going to go do something,’” Tyler said. “I could just sit there and watch out for Jeff, or I could reach out and help others.”

At the recommendation of his friends, Tyler joined the Job Care Group at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita. With the group, Tyler is able to both give and receive help from others who are in similar situations.

As a member of the care group, Tyler regularly gives lectures on how people can network and market themselves to potential employers.

“When unemployed, most people tend to isolate themselves,” Tyler said. “Isolation is the worst thing a person can do, and this (group) is medicine for that”

The need for a group
After going on a hiatus, the care group was revamped two years ago when church leaders saw a need to reach out to the growing numbers of unemployed in the church and the community.

The unemployment rate is currently 11.7 percent in California, and 9.1 percent nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The group meets twice a month at Grace Baptist Church to share emotional, spiritual and practical help for those facing unemployment. The meetings consist of a 10-to-15 minute devotion on dealing with job loss from a Christian perspective, followed by everyone introducing themselves and ending with a presentation on practical job-searching skills.

The care group combines both practical job help with community and friendship, something the group’s leaders say is missing from similar secular groups.

“(The group) is not just 10 tips for writing a better resume; it’s about a community where we are all on the look out for each other,” Tyler said.

In a preliminary study done at the University of Georgia, some unemployed demographic groups separated themselves from the spiritual community more than others.

Unemployed younger men attended religious services 9 percent less often than employed younger men, but unemployed older women attend religious services 14 percent more often than employed older women, according to the study.

The call to lead
Barbara Paradise, Réal Paradise and Rolf Gutknecht lead the care group. All three said they wanted to use their personal experiences with business and unemployment to help others dealing with similar challenges they have gone through.

“I had experienced unemployment myself, so I was very empathetic with what other people were going through,” said Gutknecht, who worked in advertising for Fortune 100 companies until he became unemployed in 2008. Gutknecht now runs his own marketing firm.

Unemployment can be a time when people begin to question God and themselves, Gutknecht said. The care group provides a community that can help people who would otherwise shoulder their doubt on themselves or their spouses, he said.

“People start getting into a cocoon, and they don’t reach out for help,” Gutknecht said.

Barbara and Réal Paradise, who are married, said they felt a burden to help the unemployed people of Grace Baptist Church and the surrounding community.

“We aren’t unemployed, but that isn’t a prerequisite for caring,” Réal Paradise said. “God placed a need within us to help out.”

Réal and Barbara Paradise are both retired now. Réal Paradise served in the U.S. Army and worked as a senior building inspector for the city of Los Angeles. His wife worked for 10 years as a dental assistant.

“The most rewarding part of the job group is doing our best to help and letting God do the rest,” Barbara Paradise said. “I love seeing people light up with hope when they come and find helpful information.”

A nationwide need
Lynn Guillory is the founder and executive director of the Career Transitions Ministries Network in Dallas.

Guillory travels around the country, hosting conferences to train church leaders and pastors on how to start ministries for the unemployed at their churches. Guillory started the ministry after doing his own research and finding that few churches had a specific ministry for the unemployed.

“I found that maybe 1-in-15 churches had a specific ministry for the unemployed, but now churches are realizing that they have an opportunity to reach out to the unemployed,” Guillory said.

Even though local colleges and community centers can offer valuable help for job searching, more churches should start groups for the unemployed because they can offer spiritual help as well as practical help, Guillory said.

“From everything I can see, Christians are losing their jobs at the exact same rate as unbelievers,” Guillory said. “We try to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help remind Christians of God’s faithfulness in their lives.”

God never promises people job security, but God can use difficult times like unemployment to grow people in their faith, Guillory said.

“Looking for a job isn’t as fun as fly-fishing, but it can be a time in our life where our spiritual growth is the greatest,” Guillory said.

Tyler is still searching for work, but in the meantime, the ability to be helped and help others in the care group is something he hopes to bring to his next job.

“When you see someone who needs assistance, you help them,” Tyler said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about: ‘Are you a giver or a taker?’”

Job Care meets 7-8:30 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at Grace Baptist Church, 22833 Copper Hill Drive, Santa Clarita 92350, Building D,   Room 222.
For more information, contact Lilium Jones (661)  296-8737, ext. 153.

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