As jobless rates nationwide approach levels unseen for decades, many job hunters are going to church not only for prayer and emotional support, but also for the booming increase in employment services being offered.

First Presbyterian Church of Elkhart, Indiana, had long-operated the only job-assistance ministry in town until the recession pummeled the local rv industry and sent unemployment rates past 17 percent, nearly twice the national rate. Today, local churches are launching ministries modeled after First Presbyterian's People Between Jobs program, which draws a weekly attendance of 40 to 60 job seekers.

"We went from getting no inquiries to [getting] one almost every day within a matter of weeks after the layoffs started [last fall]," said program co-coordinator Andy McCaskey. First Presbyterian has launched the Michiana Career Network Association to better coordinate activities between four involved churches.

The severity of the unemployment problem nationwide has caused more churches to focus on ministering to the unemployed. Most have many ministry elements in common, such as résumé-writing workshops, practice interviews, and advice for dealing with emotional factors such as stress, social stigma, and frustration.

"In the past four months, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of these types of programs across the nation," said Dave Travis, managing director of Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church management firm. "Churches are responding to help those who need it."

A February 2009 Lifeway Research survey of 1,000 Protestant churches nationwide found that 31 percent were considering creating or expanding ministries for the unemployed. Sixty-two percent had been approached for help by persons ...

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