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— Kendrick Brinson/LUCEO Images

A friend brought him to a weekly CareerCare support group for the unemployed at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano. "Right away, you learn you're not alone, and that's a huge consolation," Brandt says. At CareerCare, more than 50 volunteers provide one-on-one coaching, using workbooks with scriptural passages produced by Crossroads Career Network, a nonprofit group assisting churches with career ministries.

Brandt, a devout Christian, found the program's prayers and spiritually themed exercises a comfort during his job search. "My faith plays a large part in my life and sustained me during the layoff," he says. "That's why the CareerCare program resonated with me."

Last fall, a fellow church member offered Brandt a job with a consulting engineering firm that specializes in sustainable strategies for the commercial real estate industry.

The system worked for Brandt, but it's hard to say how successful faith-based groups are in helping job seekers land jobs, says Richard Bolles, author of the venerable job handbook What Color Is Your Parachute?

"Group leaders may keep a list of successes, but there's no list of failures or first-timers who come once, pick up a packet and slip out the door," says Bolles, a former Episcopal priest who helped create GraceWorks. Too often, he says, faith-based groups bring in speakers for pep talks and focus on basic techniques like résumé writing, rather than helping job hunters develop customized search strategies.

"Still, if these groups are actually helping people with the hard work of job hunting and not just providing an hour of inspiration, that is all to the good," he says.

Faith-based job clubs generate more than just job leads — they provide hope in dismal times, a place to connect with others and perhaps whisper a quiet prayer, says Papuga. "And anybody who thinks they don't need God's help in this job market is fooling themselves."

Elizabeth Pope writes about work and retirement.

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