Commentary

Sometimes you just can’t work hard enough

We need to pay attention to those in our midst who aren’t making it economically

Can you imagine a situation in which church members would be forced to work so many hours, or so many jobs, that they couldn’t even make it to weekly worship? That recurring situation led a group of ELCA pastors, back in 1997, to take action. The common experience was that many of their member families were struggling to make ends meet and often were incapable of attending services because of the necessity to work multiple jobs. Because of time and financial constraints, these individuals were unable to take a more active role in the lives of their families, their congregations and their communities.

This group of pastors requested assistance from St. Paul government officials in finding living-wage jobs for their congregation members. In response to a lack of progress, the pastors decided to create a ministry to respond to the need of their members for living-wage jobs. Together, they wrote grant proposals and received funding to begin operations.

In 2000 Daily Work was officially established when a program coordinator was hired and began work. During the second half of 2003 a volunteer consultant from Grant Thornton, a regional accounting and consulting firm, led the Steering Committee through a strategic planning process. As a result of this planning process, a vision for Daily Work was mapped out. This new vision began to be implemented in 2006. In August 2006 Daily Work became an independent 501c3 institution and today continues to implement its mission to provide a resource for the achievement of living wage employment for people affiliated with participating ELCA congregations.

This vision includes addressing both the short-term goal of attempting to find immediate employment for families in crisis, coupled with the long-term goal of overcoming systemic barriers to employment such as insufficient education, insufficient language skills, transportation, lack of specific skills training, and the many other obstacles to sustained living-wage employment.

These obstacles are large and the available pool of work is shallow. The urgency of the problem can be seen on the faces of Lutheran families who are comprised of diligent, hard-working people saddled with seemingly insurmountable issues. As a church body we cannot and should not ignore these people. We must find ways to help and we can.

We as a church body have financial resources to assist. We as a church body have talented and creative people who can help navigate paths to success when the obstacles seem insurmountable. We as a church body can help access networks of employment for people who are without safety nets. We as a church body can type for those who cannot type, access the Internet for those who don’t know how to use a computer, knock on doors that are closed to those for whom English is not a primary language, provide encouragement to those worn down by the daily stress of not having enough. We can do all this and it still may not be enough. But we must try. Trusting in our faith in Christ and in each other we must try to do the impossible with too little.

In this spirit of hope Daily Work asks for volunteers of time, money and support from individuals and congregations. If you are willing to help in this struggle, please contact Daily Work at dailywork.tc@gmail.com or 651/442-3834.

Grove is program coordinator for Daily Work.