Having completed my first year as the City Manager for the Columbus Career Network, I’ve seen many blessings and experienced expected and unexpected events throughout the journey that I’m happy to share.
Search for the Right Model
Before being introduced to Crossroads Career Network, I was volunteering for the marketing committee of a job club that I was part of and was searching for resources that would help them put their job search curriculum online to sell as a way to increase their membership and users of their methodology. For 30 years, this job club relied on zero staff and volunteers to serve in eight committees that ran the group. Local experts offered their time to do training on any one of 17 classes they provided to help professionals in transition. But when I discovered Crossroads Career Network, my approach changed.
I had worked with a company trying to develop a “city wide” approach in Indiana called, “Chaplains-at-Work” whose strategy was to invite the Christian community to support two of us who were providing weekly support to professionals in transition. At the time, the economy wasn’t struggling, and the concept was too innovative and difficult for church leaders to comprehend, so the model didn’t get off the ground! Needless to say, I was disappointed.
What attracted me to Crossroads Career was the size of the vision. I spent 6-8 weeks researching Crossroads Career. I called 12-15 of their largest churches and spoke with dozens of lay volunteers and some staff. I also spent countless hours with Cory asking all kinds of questions – and several repeatedly. What I heard confirmed that Crossroads Career would be a good resource for not only our local job club but for kingdom impact in a metropolitan area.
After flying to Orlando, Florida to meet the team behind the vision and seeing how God might be using me in His work in this endeavor, I came back determined to share the vision and convinced the chairman of the board of the job club to take a risk to fund a city wide site for the year. Seeing how the Orlando Job Connection worked also inspired me to the openness of civic and church working to address employment needs.
Make it faith neutral – What is important for a city model to work is collaboration across denominational lines and the provision for both a “faith based” and “faith neutral” platform. I jokingly say I moved Jesus “to the back of the bus” to make it less difficult for non-churches to participate. It’s called Career Ministry for churches and Job Club for others.
Seek out advocates – Not to ignore church staff, but progress will be quicker if you identify believers in the marketplace who share the vision for career ministry and introduce the concept to the right person in their church. Some great resources are the SHRM groups and other job clubs locally.
Speak in their sandbox – Rather than size of churches, one of my marketing approaches relates to comparable ministries in other contexts. DivorceCare, GriefShare, Financial Peace, Upwards sports etc. are examples of sandboxes churches have gotten comfortable playing in. Career ministry is like those but with a focus on jobs, careers, and calling!
Network, network, and network – Find out the ministry networking meetings and groups. Learn about the marketplace ministry gurus. Have strategic conversations through referrals of high level professionals.
Talk THEIR talk – When presenting to church business admins, talk stewardship; community colleges, talk about retention; job clubs, talk about membership services; parachurch non-profits, talk alliances; other existing career ministries, talk about exponential value
Focus less on the big fish – Crossroads started with a mega church focus. City models work well for small to mid size churches if they have an advocate and ministry leader. It’s more important to have a broad network of little fish than a few big ones. Referrals will be the best advertisement.
Don’t chase – In the city model, having local support is essential to follow up on leads and generate a pipeline for the national support team, however, be careful not to expend too much energy chasing churches. Focus on low hanging fruit and foster relationships with those who “get it.”
Don’t be afraid of the money question – When teaching step 5, negotiations, it’s important to know when and how to talk about money. Same is true in gaining members to the network. It’s not about the money, it’s about value. Keep the conversation about value to their need, their pain and demonstrate how career ministry (or job club)
Finally, I believe
The city model is the future for Crossroads Career nationally and, God willing, the lessons I’ve experienced in Columbus, Ohio will benefit others who choose to develop a city model. To learn more, see our website http://www.columbuscareernetwork.org. Blessings!