What To Do If You've Been Laid Off

Being laid off from a job is terrible, but it is not the end of your world. Unemployment must be kept in balance with the rest of your life. God has given us families and friends to help us through such difficult times. No matter how difficult life becomes, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to help us through the hard times.

Jesus was unemployed, too. During His last three years on this earth He did not have a paying job. He had to depend on the generosity of others. Of course, Jesus knew his heavenly Father would take care of him. Likewise, your same heavenly Father will take care of you during these coming days.

Here are some tips that have made a difference for other ministers facing unemployment.

Apply for unemployment compensation. Your employer has been paying premiums for years for you. Why not take advantage of this benefit? It's not welfare, but a source of help from your former employer. Don't be embarrassed to ask for it.

Talk to your former employer's human resources staff about the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This is a Federal law that allows those separated from their jobs to purchase health insurance at a group rate for a limited time. Of course, you will have to pay your former company for this benefit, but at least you will have health insurance.

Consider a career change. This may be a good time to go back to school to gain skills that will make you more marketable to new employers. You may be surprised by the low cost of attending school. In many cases, it could be free. Look at this time as an opportunity to do something you have always dreamed about doing.

Consider relocating. It will be difficult to leave friends or family, but it might be necessary. Look at the move as a new adventure and start, but make the decision as a family. It is important the wage earner and the family relocate together, both physically and emotionally.

Develop a spending plan. Try to list the possible bills you will have in the next three months. Rank them by importance. What can you live without? What is essential? Certainly, cable TV and cell phones are not as important as paying credit card bills or loans. Nevertheless, credit bills are not as important as home utilities. Develop your list as part of a family discussion. God gave you a family to help provide focus and sound reason during difficult decisions.

Discuss ways family members can make extra money. Encourage even the youngest child to consider doing small jobs around the house to help him or her valuable. When more family members contribute it helps distribute the weight of responsibility and rallies you around a common cause.

If you cannot pay some bills, contact your creditors to explain the situation. Ask them about a payment reduction plan. They might just do it for you. Regardless, you then need to write them a thank you for considering deferring payments during this time of your unemployment. Keep copies of these letters for your records.

As a last resort, consult an attorney about bankruptcy. Don't despair. People in your situation can and do recover from overwhelming debt using this legal method.

Finally, make sure to commit your financial problems to God before taking any action. He is the source of your strength during these times.

Keith Hamilton, D.Ed.Min, CFP, CRPC is with the Georgia Baptist Convention. He has written several publications on establishing church designated funds, managing your household finances, and protecting your church and ministry from identity theft.

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