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Life-Changing Ministry Develops From Cross-Race Friendships

In an effort to help unemployed and underemployed people, churches "tend to supply poor people with temporary help in the form of food, housing and clothing," says David Spickard, the president and CEO of Jobs for Life, an international organization that creates partnerships between churches and businesses to equip people for work and place them in jobs with career potential. "We need to change the DNA," Spickard continues. "We need to flip the list and help people transform their lives."

Transformation comes by attending to heart issues, he says, "the things inside people that tear at their value, their purpose, their understanding of who they are, their way of respecting authority."

To achieve the goal of changing lives, the Jobs for Life training program deeply integrates traditional training, such as how to dress, write a resume, and work set hours, with Bible study that focuses on Scriptural principles like relationships, integrity, time management, resolving conflict, and excellence. Connections between the two sides of the program are constantly drawn, allowing participants to transform themselves as they enhance their work-ready skills and abilities. 

Jobs for Life began in the unlikely friendship of the Rev. Donald L. McCoy, black pastor of the Pleasant Hill United Church of Christ in Fuquay-Varina, NC, and Chris Magnum, the white vice president of a high profile road construction and paving company located in Raleigh. Their meeting in the 1990s began in prayer, transitioned into regular lunch meetings, and blossomed into Jobs Partnership for Raleigh (which was later renamed Jobs for Life when the organization took on an international reach), to prepare the men and women Rev. McCoy knew needed jobs with the hard-to-fill jobs Magnum had in his own company, and knew about in other companies. The founders and early leadership of Jobs for Life credit their shared faith as the source of inspiration and fellowship.

Read about how two men committed to overcoming racial differences through their shared faith commitments were inspired to create an organization that has gone on to transform lives and offer dignity to thousands of people across the U.S. and internationally. A companion article on the Faith & Leadership website, an online offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, delves more deeply into the story of overcoming racial differences and learning to understand one another that founders McCoy and Magnum lived. For more on reaching into and engaging with your community, see our feature articles "Best Resources for Community Engagement," and "Take Action: Community Engagement." For insight on the five basic ways churches reach out to their communities, see "How Do Churches Reach Out to Their Communities?" by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, a research center of Hartford Seminary that explores denominational growth and congregational vitality.

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