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Jobs Program Supports People Seeking Work


Unemployment is often filled with disappointment and discouragement, but for those within reach of the Self-Help Jobs Program, Laura Vande Werken provides education and encouragement.

Mark Timmer and Laura Vande Werken discuss positive feedback from the recent seminar held at Tinley Park Library.

For nearly 14 years, Vande Werken has served as director of the program she describes as a teaching ministry. In her role as a job search coach, she helps clients—of which she currently has 150—explore career options while providing tools from skills assessments to résumé and cover letter training. She provides the free service from an office at Faith Christian Reformed Church in Tinley Park, Ill.

In mid-January Vande Werken held her first major presentation at Tinley Park (Ill.) Library, attended by 60 people. She wove together guidance for job seekers with encouragement rooted in her faith, just as she does each day with clients who visit her office.

Vande Werken said, “Most people have not looked at themselves and asked ‘What is it that I would like to do? What am I able to do? And how do I find places where I can do what I would love to do?’”

Through one-on-one sessions, Vande Werken asks open-ended questions that allow clients to think about and articulate what they enjoy and do well. When given the opportunity, she also talks about her faith and prays with clients.

“Sometimes it’s just reminding people to stop saying, ‘What if?’ God will provide every day,” Vande Werken said. “People are very comforted by that, even if they are not strong believers.”

While donations are accepted, the program’s main source of funding is Classis Chicago South, a regional group of churches. A year ago Vande Werken stopped working because of a lack of funding, but churches rallied to the cause, she said, and sent in extra donations, an effort led in large part by Rev. Mark Timmer of Faith CRC.

“Laura’s work fills a big need in encouraging people who are often very discouraged to improve their efforts in the job search,” said Timmer. “She helps job seekers refine and sometimes redirect their search, based upon what may be undiscovered skills and passion. Her work helps the church to show the heart of a compassionate God; people inside and outside the church need to see that.”

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