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Pastor converts to value of churches helping with job training

By Colin McCartney

A while ago I had the opportunity to attend a job creation conference in Memphis. I have been doing some church planting work for the Mennonites in low-income urban, neighbourhoods and they wanted me to look into creating micro-businesses that would employ people in our job-depleted urban communities.

So, off I went to the land of Elvis to learn the ins and outs of creating businesses. At the first session, I listened to a panel of entrepreneurs who shared about their business ventures. I was exhausted within 20 minutes of listening to them and it wasn’t from jet lag. Hearing them talk about their businesses and all the work they put into starting and now running their companies was thoroughly draining on me.

As an urban missionary, I already have enough on my plate.  Recruiting, training, caring for and raising money for our inner-city church planters is hard enough. Then dealing with the realities of the pain in people’s lives who live in our neighbourhoods is more than enough for one person to live with.

You can imagine how I felt when I was being told that I also need to create micro-businesses to employ our people on top of everything else I was doing? As I continued to listen to a successful business owner share about his work I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me. In my mind, I heard a quiet voice say;

“Don’t do it. Don’t create businesses. That’s not your calling. I already have people who I have been calling to create businesses and they own successful companies. You go out and find them. You tell them that it’s their responsibility to employ your people. Your job is to train your people up to be great employees that they will hire.”

Wow — that thought was so wise I knew I couldn’t come up with it on my own so it must have been from God!

Why should I create businesses when they are already there! Let someone, gifted and called, create the businesses but I create employees!!

The rest of my time in Memphis I kept thinking and planning a strategy of how I could start an effective job- training program that would empower the people in our neighbourhoods to be employable.

I realized that most churches are great at providing short-term solutions to real-time needs by handing out food, clothing or even shelter to people in need. In our ministry here at Connect City, we don’t want to replicate this important model. We want to take it a step further — instead of giving out food, clothing and shelter why not give out jobs to people so they can buy their own food, clothing and shelter?

We want to empower our people to take care of themselves and their families while keeping their dignity and self confidence in place. This was the beginning of a partnership that some of my business friends and I hatched up between Christian business owners and the poor we serve. And I have to say that it’s so beautiful.

We just graduated out our first job training cohort. Nine out of 10 of our students are working. We also have a mentoring team of business people who journey alongside of our grads, sharing life struggles and encouraging one another.
This has been an incredible thing to experience as rich and poor, male and female, young and old, and a variety of cultures gather regularly to learn from each other’s lives. We even had mentors weep while praying for our students after getting to know what they have gone through in life. What a quality of an amazing mentor. It’s truly been a blessing for both our mentors and mentees, and so I can’t wait for our second class starting in a few months!

Faith alive in the workplace, this is God’s will for his creation. Never forget that God has called us to serve and how we live out our calling will look different in accordance to how God created each one of us.

God’s future for you is awaiting. All it takes for your faith to impact your workplace is a listening ear to the Spirit, an innovative and risk- taking faith and a heart after God’s kingdom reign. ◆
This article first appeared in Seven Magazine. Colin McCartney, who leads Connect Ministries in Toronto, is an ordained minister, speaker and best-selling author.

As printed in The Marketplace - Jan/Feb 2018