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Using Your Church Website to Help Members
By: Jason Otis

As the effects of the economy saturate more into our daily lives, churches are seeing those effects through the eyes and hearts of their members and community. The impact of the financial downturn hit home for First Baptist Church in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, when pastor Jay Wolf heard from a Sunday school teacher that seven members of his class had recently lost their jobs. 

The question on his mind, and for pastors across the United States and around the world, is how does the Body of Christ respond and transform these economic difficulties into God’s opportunities?  His first action step was to bring together a team to craft a solution. 

“I sent e-mails to a few church leaders and invited them to come and bring others to an idea-gathering session following Wednesday prayer meeting,” Wolf said.  Twenty-nine people attended, and "many wise and Christ-honoring suggestions emerged from the meeting," Wolf said.

“We sought to craft a response to these tough times that reflects the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 and treats hurting friends the way we would want to be treated by our church family if we were suffering a job and economic loss.”

With job losses in evidence, job placement moved to the forefront of solutions discussed. 

“If you’re without a job and if you’re a member of a large church, that constitutes a large network,” Wolf said.  “So, how does that work?” 

With their Web site as a vital resource, they began an experiment. 

The church soon created a “Need a Job? Have a Job?” page on their Web site, which allows people who need a job to post that need confidentially. At the same time, members affected by the downturn can also make confidential requests for financial assistance. Once the requests for jobs or assistance are posted, they are received by an administrator and forwarded to the appropriate minister for follow up. 

“The tools for the church to do this were already in place within the software we use to manage our Web site,” said Amanda Smith, the church's communications director. “Our goal was to develop and implement the job placement idea to fit within the parameters of the site and to make it user-friendly.” 

The E-zekiel.com package, used by First Baptist Church, includes a volunteer management tool, which was put to use to create the job network.
Also as important, the site makes it possible for those who have a job available to post that opportunity. When an employer posts a job, a Web administrator reviews the job opportunity to make sure it is categorized correctly. 

“All employers need to do is complete the online form with as much information about the job as possible,” said Smith. “Once the form has been submitted, an e-mail alerts us to the posting, and we can make sure that is added to the correct category that day.” 

So far, members are responding. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of people who are interested and who have already posted jobs available in the area,” Smith said. 

Searching the job network for opportunities is not limited to church members, Smith added.

“We invite everyone in Montgomery and the surrounding areas to visit our Web site and utilize this online resource,” she said.

The job network is just one element of an overall response First Baptist began crafting during that initial meeting. The overall plan falls into five categories that can easily be adopted by other churches:

1. Gather information links that will help people in all areas from job placement to financial management in tough times and share them through the Web site, Bible Fellowship classes, and personal contacts.

2. Provide special events that will offer a wide menu of help for people caught in the grip of an economic storm, ranging from spiritual anchors and financial advice to résumé creation and networking.

3. Work with government officials and denominational partners to develop a prototype for how a family of faith can help with “disaster relief” during an economic hurricane.

4. Offer meaningful volunteerism to help a person use “extra time” in productive service to the Lord and others.

5. Magnify and multiply the resources of community ministry programs, which allow the church to be the hands of Jesus to countless people.

“As a church, I would rather get a speeding ticket than a parking ticket,” Wolf said. “This plan is a start, and I believe it will yield a great amount of fruit.”

Jason Otis is the vice president of marketing and business development for Axletree Media, Inc., www.axletreemedia.com.

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