It had been a long time since Vivian Hobgood held a job. An African-American woman in her fifties, she had pretty much resigned herself to living on welfare. But a new, church-based program called the Jobs Partnership of Raleigh intervened.

Incorporated in North Carolina only last year, Jobs Partnership of Raleigh (JPR) links churches that can identify people who need jobs with caring businesses willing and able to provide employment. One important step in the process is a 12-week program in which prospective employees not only learn practical job-finding skills, but are taught biblical principles for the workplace.

"You might call it a 12-week Bible study," says Merl Mangum, secretary/treasurer and curriculum coordinator for jpr. Using Tony Evans's Keys to Personal and Professional Success as a text, participants "discover what the Bible says about how to function in the workplace, about honesty and integrity, communication, conflict resolution, and relating to authority," Mangum says.

Hobgood had only planned to drive a student there, not to enroll. But she listened to the introductory session and signed up immediately. At the last session, she became a Christian. With her certificate of completion and resume in hand, Hobgood soon landed a position as manager of an apartment complex.

A BURGEONING MOVEMENT: Jobs Partnership of Raleigh is far from alone as a Christian organization focusing on economic development. Coinciding with society's recent collective push for welfare reform, more churches are purposefully shouldering the burden of moving the chronically unemployed into the workforce. According to Elliott Wright, religion coordinator for the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED), the number of organizations ...

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