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Current Affairs

The Unemployable Problem

Big news out of Washington D.C. recently. The unemployment rate fell to its lowest mark since February 2009, 8.5%. That’s good news if your a president in an election year.

But others would be quick to point out that 8.5% unemployment is still too high. Yet, I have to wonder. What percentage of Americans are unemployed because they are unemployable?

The other day, I took our kids to the local park for a picnic and to soak in some free vitamin D from the flaming ball which hangs in the January San Diego sky. It was a sunny, breezeless, quiet day at the park. With most kids back at school and parents back to work the park was fairly empty of the dozens of screaming toddlers on the slides and mom’s chatting on the sidelines experienced during the week before.

It was our family and a pile of random stragglers each there for their own reasons.

One man and his friend watched a little boy as they smoked weed and talked about how weed hasn’t hurt them a bit. In the same conversation they talked about their inability to find a job but apparently lacked the cognitive ability to recognize that smoking weed at a public park at 1 o’clock in the afternoon while a toddler plays under your care is as good a reason to not hire a person for a job as any other.

A young woman sat on a bench near me and talked on the phone while her daughter tumbled up and down the ladder of the slide alone. She cried, literally, to a friend about how her mom wouldn’t give her $100 to pay her cable bill. In the same conversation she lamented to her friend about not being able to find a job anywhere.

Moments later a nanny arrived with 3 toddlers. In San Diego it’s fairly normal to see a middle-aged Hispanic woman caring for 3 little white kids. I could be wrong in making that assumption, because they could have been her children I suppose, but they looked to be children she watched. She oversaw an orderly march to and from the park, the distribution of snacks and jackets, and she maintained order as they played in the sand and later helped them take turns on the swings.

So there I sat, basking in the sunlight of this irony. 4 adults at the park with very different American experiences. 3 unemployed and relatively unemployable young adults wasting every legal opportunity they have for the advancement of their life. And 1 employed, legally unemployable middle-aged woman, exhibiting professionalism and investing in the advancement of her life.

Mike Rowe is right, you know?

We have an educational system that has created a massive hole in the job market. It’s not just in my industry that there is a gap in qualified people. It’s in the trades, as well. (Read more: College isn’t for everyone)

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Church Leadership hmm... thoughts stocks

Things are looking up

You want this chart to keep going up

It may not look like it yet where you live, but there are signs of life in America that things are looking better.

As the chart above shows- stocks have been rebounding for basically 12 months.

You want this chart to start going down

The unemployment rate, while still horribly high, has begun to turn… following the comeback of Wall Street.

As church folk, we know that these two charts are closely tied to people’s ability/willingness to give. When people feel good about their money [and 401k, and for retirees, their investments] than they become more generous. Once unemployment starts to turn, then happy times should come in the offering plate… and begin trickling into staff dollars and budgets.

The upside of 2009’s double crotch kick

Let me explain what I mean by the double crotch kick.

First, going into 2008-2009 pretty much every church in the country was re-evaluating and re-thinking how they do ministry. This was a crotch kick as we all wrestled through the realities that our ministries probably need to change significantly to adapt to culture faster and reach more people.

Second, 2008-2009 were rough years financially. While not in every single church, most churches saw a dip in contributions. This was a swift kick to the groin because you either had to cut staff or cut programming (or sell assets at the bottom of the market) to balance the budget.

The upside, just like in real life, is that getting kicked in the crotch twice in a row causes most people to wise up and get ready to fight.

As I talk to ministry people all over, almost universally they have come through 2008-2009 with a new sense of calling and determination.

While the signs of life haven’t trickled into every corner of the church just yet. It is awesome to report that there are signs (more than the two economic ones I’ve shown here) that things are truly looking up.

May we take to heart lessons learned in the hard times. And may we never again need to get kicked in the crotch twice to be awoken from our slumber.