Dealing with redundancy
When Matthew was made redundant it didn’t quite seem like the ‘new challenge’ that his optimistic friends said it would be – but it hadn’t happened to them! It felt more like a bereavement, a severing of all those ties, outlet for his skills and relationships with colleagues – and of course a structure to his day. It took a while for Matthew to find work, and when he did it wasn’t in his field of expertise, but related to one of his leisure interests. Matthew often reminded himself of the truth of Psalm 119:68 (‘you [the Lord] are good and what you do is good’) on a daily basis when the going was tough.
Sadly redundancy is a challenge facing many Christians and non-Christians alike. With the current economic downturn there may be more redundancies around the next corner! How do Christians cope?
Seren, a single woman in her late thirties, was relieved when it happened to her – at least at first. Gone was the long commute, the freezing nights in airports and the endless texts, emails and calls at all hours of the day and night. But as it dragged on her confidence plummeted and she began to feel useless. Redundancy money provided a bit of a financial cushion but then came the day when she had to face going to the job centre. She found it so stressful and bewildering that she had a panic attack which left her gasping for breath just as she left the offices. As she began to dread the next visit she was advised by a friend to consult a counsellor or coach. She did this and managed to find someone who was professional and sympathetic to her Christian faith. As her parents needed more support, Seren was encouraged to think about setting up her own business and started looking at the implications of working mainly from home and getting start-up advice. This is still ongoing. After the panic attack, but not before, she consulted one of her church elders. She expected to be given Bible verses full of positive exhortations, but instead she found a listening ear and someone who prayed sensitively. Bible verses were not shared with her like aspirins, but those that were given were poignant and helpful. Isaiah 50:10 (‘let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God’) spoke to her in her moments of panic.
Daniel, a man in his mid-fifities, had been made redundant three times in the space of four years. Heavy industry had declined and it seemed that there was no more use for his skills. He soon got used to the regular trips to the job centre and gradually set his sights lower and lower as his expectations sank with his spirits. His home group were supportive in prayer and made sure that he always had a ‘slap up’ Sunday lunch, as he lived on his own. However, what meant most to him was the practical support given to him by one of the secondary school teachers in the church. He taught him basic computer skills one evening a week and was patient with him as he skilled himself up for the twenty-first-century! This enabled Daniel to consider other work and before too long he secured a job in a local supermarket. Encouraged by his own experience, he is talking to his church about setting up a support group for those in the church seeking work. Romans 8:28 was the verse Daniel prayed through more than any other.
What advice would our three friends Matthew, Seren and Daniel give to Christians who might be concerned for friends who are facing redundancy?
- Keep in touch. Phone calls, texts, cards all mean a lot and help people to remember they are not forgotten.
- Encourage – but don’t hold out false hopes.
- Offer to accompany someone to that first visit to the job centre.
- Be ‘quick to listen and slow to speak’. This experience can be devastating – especially for families on one income.
- Offer practical help, if you are skilled to do so, e.g. computer skills, CV writing.
- Pray – but ask for specific prayer requests.
- Make sure they keep active – a daily walk is good for the mind as well as the body.
- Help them to find out about training and opportunities to volunteer (but make sure that they check with the job centre before they sign up to anything).
- Make sure they know they are welcome to any relevant church activities that take place during the day, and make use of them when they do.
- Offer to do a one-to-one Bible study with them – and make it relevant to their situation. You’ll both learn a lot about God’s purposes.
- Find out about the local foodbank.
- Don’t patronise.
What help is available to people facing redundancy? Often guidance and help is offered as part of the redundancy process, but where it isn’t there is help from:
- creditaction which has a money manual for coping with redundancy.
- caw.uk.net (Christians at Work).
- Job Centre Plus has a scheme, New deal for fifty-plus.
Sheila Stephen is a member of the editorial board of The Evangelical Magazine.
(All names and identifying details and situations of people in this article have been changed.)