A corporate Christmas party for the unemployed

Jeff Kornoelje’s seen the number of unemployed people in his ministry rise with the recession and he’s been trying to help. So next week his church will try something different — a company Christmas party for people out of work.

“This is our first crack at it,” says Kornoelje, pastor of administration at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. What began as a brainstorming session on how to help a group of unemployed church members blossomed into a free, community event that he says may bring in as many as 400 people, Christians and non-Christians.

Recruiters and other business executives will be there, too. The church hopes the networking leads to jobs.

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As we’ve written before, religious leaders have a great vantage point on this economy. They witness the daily joys and struggles of their congregations and do their best to help people through.

At Grace Church, Kornoelje says a church group of people who are unemployed or seeking a job change has grown from 30 to 120 during the recession. People are feeling frustrated, he adds. “When they apply (for jobs) they know there’s probably 400 other applicants.”

The Christmas party idea was a “practical way to show some love…to share the love of Jesus Christ,” he says. “Since we have a captive audience, we wanted to give them some practical advice on how to work a room.”

We will offer the same classy hors d’oeuvres and nice door prizes that one would expect at a corporate Christmas party. But we also want the event to help advance the vision of our Crossroads Ministry by assisting attendees in finding jobs.

So there will be a time of informal coaching on how to effectively network or “work a room,” with practical tips like holding your drink in your left hand so that your right hand isn’t wet and clammy when shaking the hand of a prospective employer.

Attendees will then put into practice what they’ve learned by interacting in a “safe environment” with about 40 business professionals, CEOs, and recruiters. They will be on hand to meet with our guests, share their networking contacts, and to help them find jobs.

Kornoelje says you don’t need to be a Christian to come to the event. The company Christmas party’s been promoted on Linkedin and other sites.

12/18 UPDATE: Jeff Kornoelje says about 325 people came to the event from across the Twin Cities metro area with some folks coming from Mankato and Rochester areas. Reports he got indicated lots of networking and a few people seemed to even get some real solid job leads.

Says Kornoelje: “It was something that I am sure we will do again next year. ”

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