Although Jesus did through the moneychangers from the Temple, perhaps we would be well served to welcome them back.
With summer nearly, officially, underway not only have beautiful flowers, graduations, and Romney/Obama attack advertisements arrived, but a so too has growing economy. Home construction is near a three-year high, factory output has risen in three of the year’s first four months both assisted by falling gas prices and hiring gains. According to Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at capital economics, “It’s all very encouraging. Things look good at the moment.”
Don’t forget that second sentence: “Things look good at the moment.”
Since 2008 we have grown accustomed to experience growth and hope, and then the next week (or following day) great disappointment. As we continue to rebuild economically it’s important to remember that there will be growing pains. Yet figuring out how to create jobs and strengthen the economy isn’t the responsibility of only the government or Wall Street pundits. It’s not only up to small-business owners or local politicians. One of the most potentially effective allies in the promotion of job growth is the local church.
The greatest tension now is between skilled and unskilled labor. Where a young person without a high-school degree could find employment in a factory, now to work in most any U.S. factory that need job training if not technical, two-year degree. Samuel Rines of Chilton Currents charts the path of the 20th century and unskilled labor saying, “Knowledge-less jobs were pushed offshore to boost bottom lines, and consumers found a bastion of cheap, in both cost and construction, goods…In the U.S., laborers struggled against a throng of much cheaper international labor and lost.” To put it simply, when we shipped off unskilled labor we enhanced foreign economies, and we began losing our economic prowess.
Hope, though, remains close, as Rines points out: “The emerging world would find it difficult to compete directly with an economy built around technology and innovation, and the next generation of dreams can be nurtured and the American middle class put back to work.” Our greatest resource for economic and job growth remains our innovative spirit.
So, where does the church come in? First, congregations, specifically local congregations, need to analyze and discover what industry and opportunities are available in their region and area. By isolating these opportunities they can better decide what types of skills training and networking to engage. This, of course, blends into the send demand of the local church: creating opportunities for job training. This may occur on a broad spectrum from helping congregants and community members gain easier access to education, or actually providing skilled training gratis vis-à-vis tax incentives from training organizations or individuals.
In the end, the local church possesses potential to not only impact their communities, but also bring people into the pews. We focus on soul health, but part of that work is assisting people in navigating the demands of the 21st century. New skills are needed for new jobs, and the local church possesses the autonomous, community-focused lenses to assist in providing access.
While economic policy is often times a political issue, it’s an issue that affects all congregations, regardless of their theological label. Simply put, people are struggling to make ends meet, and its not because they don’t work hard enough. Congregations possess immeasurable potential to invigorate their communities and their sanctuaries. That is, if they are willing to work hard enough.