— Updated: Pastoral Care, The Unemployed & LinkedIn

November 14, 2013 at 9:08 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

Although I’m preparing to stop writing about digital ministry  in this space, I must tell you about a very potent way for your congregation to really know what professional skills are sitting in your pews. This is important because many people – especially newcomers – enter  your church when they are hurting or vulnerable and also unemployed.

Sync other contact sources with LinkedIn

Sync other contact sources with LinkedIn

In particular, the folks who are 50+ and looking for jobs are facing extraordinary ageism. I don’t need to tell you how difficult the 50s can be — caring for children, possibly paying their higher education and, at the same time, caring for elderly parents — while your financial needs in retirement loom large. Unemployment raises the level of stress to new highs for many individuals in this age group. Meanwhile, for all those who are younger, the church could provide a leg up if it encourages networking within to help people find work, in general.

The how-to message in this blog is a form of pastoral care. It will  help people connect and get through unemployment. It’s about syncing your online email and iPhone contacts through the most used work-based social network, LinkedIn, on the Web. It focuses on career networking, job hunting, recruiting and niche group-trade talk in nearly any industry you can think of.  Career networking sites on the Web trade in all kinds of jobs from no-skill to service industry, to the trades and to professionals. Blue collar and white collar.

An earlier version of this post sounded as if direct connections between Facebook and LinkedIn can occur. They can’t at least for now. But when that syncing is enabled, it will be very powerful because the majority of active UUs are on Facebook.

There’s a way right now to get Facebook contacts into LinkedIn but it’s a work around that some people just won’t want to fuss with. You should tell people about it anyway. For chronically unemployed individuals or people who are filing for unemployment right now, it is worth setting up this work around. More on that in a minute.

But first a question: Are our congregations able to help the unemployed? I venture to say that they aren’t. Many churches don’t keep a database of members. And even those that do don’t have the time to manage and leverage such a database for its full potential. LinkedIn offers a way to bypass those shortcomings.

My biggest frustration at my former church was most people didn’t have a clue about the working lives – past and present – of individuals sitting next to them at church. While many retirees in our pews do not have to work now, retirees of the future may not be retirees at all. They will be working out of necessity. For people who are unemployed, there could be others in the sanctuary who could really help them find jobs by simply spreading the word offline and online to personal networks of friends and family. The exponential power of a few hundred people in a congregation passing along word of a good person looking for work to their own facebook, LinkedIn and twitter networks could make a big difference.

Work is something we do. And while I believe it doesn’t define us, sometimes I wonder if work is a four-letter word in UUism if it doesn’t mean non-profit or activist careers. To me alternative culture embraces and is compassionate in the mainstream world, which includes the 8-14 hour days of our most productive time spent outside of the home. Talking about it is also a good icebreaker for getting to know people.

My former church had about 1,000 individuals on its roster. The member database only included family contact information. It knew nothing about work histories or interests. Probably most UU churches don’t know this on an institutional level as well. Good software could really help our congregations to create databases that could bring like minds and like skills together. If you are reading this blog and have such a database for your church, please click the “Comment” link under the headline and tell us what you use and why.

The Web can step in and bypass database needs like this. LinkedIn now is very powerful for helping congregants find each other based on career information. It can make the connection between your Yahoo Mail, Google Mail and other sources if you allow it to. Set up these connections in the “Manage Contacts” area of your LinkedIn settings.

LinkedIn is likely going to offer the ability to connect directly to Facebook friends in the near future. That will be a boon for UU congregations because the majority of UUs in pews have Facebook accounts. Right now, though there isn’t a direct way to do this. However, you can import Facebook friends into Yahoo email, through a Yahoo account. Once the Facebook friends are in a yahoo or gmail account, LinkedIn can sync with those accounts. This is cumbersome but you can get step by step help here to do it.  For those of you who have iPhones, however, it’s easy to import contacts from that phone into LinkedIn.

I’ve included a picture of the “Manage Contacts” page in LinkedIn in this post to show you what it looks  like.

As part of your Digital Ministry practice, I recommend you encourage people to create profiles on LinkedIn if they don’t already have one — even if they are recently retired or relatively new to the job market.

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