At WorkFaith Birmingham, we’ve worked with hundreds of applicants who are taking the next steps in their career, regardless of their past or the challenges that lay before them. Recently, we celebrated our 1000th graduate! To commemorate this great milestone, we asked our founder, Keith Stanley, to share some of the challenges and ways that God met those needs over our first seven years.
Tell Us About How God Began to Reveal to You the Need for WorkFaith Birmingham
As we began intentionally mobilizing our people from Brook Hills to love our neighbors more in the city, we became increasingly aware of some of the barriers that people were facing that were keeping them from enjoying God’s Good Design for their lives, especially in the area of work. We met people who wanted to work that lacked the skills to promote themselves or the connections to network for work opportunities. We met people who had made some bad choices in the past who were looking for second chances, but who were defined by their past choices. We met others who had conditioned hopelessness, who didn’t believe they could ever succeed or had any value to offer anyone. We knew that everyone was valued equally by God and all had some giftings and skills, they just needed the Church to come alongside them providing the support system and Biblical worldview to succeed.
Can You Share With Us Some of the Specific Ways That God Answered Prayers in the Early Days of WorkFaith?
When we first were getting started, I had never worked in the non-profit world nor did I know many business leaders outside of our church. I prayed that God would send me the right mentors and experienced board members to help guide me through my learning curve, help me network with Christian business leaders, and help me develop the curriculum. God graciously connected us with The WorkFaith Connection in Houston who shared their curriculum with us and sent mentors like Tracy Hipps, Frank Woodson, and Mike Flink and experienced board members like Clark Watson, Bob Quinn, and Alan Swafford to provide counsel. Then God graced us with an incredible Instructor who had been a civil rights foot soldier and career business teacher.
Over the Course of Seven Years and Now 1000 Clients, How Has God Transformed Your Thinking About How to Best Serve Our Clients? How He Wants to Use WorkFaith for His Glory?
It’s always been about empowering our clients to grow in their faith and use their God-given abilities and skills for His glory and to serve others, but the longer we are in this ministry, the more I see the importance of the local church in the process. For our graduates to have long-term successes and long-term growth as a follower of Jesus, they need to get connected as soon as possible to a local church where they can find mutually encouraging relationships in Christ. Hopefully, Workfaith Birmingham can become a bridge to help new Christians connect better to local churches in the future.
Can You Share With Us Some Ways That God Showed His Faithfulness Especially During Challenging Times in the Ministry of WorkFaith?
I remember a time when we were coming to the end of a year with less than $5,000 in the bank and a payroll obligation that exceeded what was in the bank. We considered folding the ministry or merging with another ministry. The only thing we knew to do was pray. It was our crisis of belief time. We sensed that God was telling us to keep pressing forward and trusting Him. We did and some unexpected gifts came in to help us make payroll. God has continued to provide for all our needs to support our staff and obligations ever since then.
Can You Share One Favorite Story From the First Seven Years?
Our first class had a young man who had been a drug dealer and spent five years in prison. He had been out of prison for over a year and a half and was considering returning to the streets to selling drugs and guns. His dying grandmother prayed over him and told him God was going to do something for him that week if he would trust him. The next day he heard about WorkFaith Birmingham and came to the first class. He got ill and had to drop out, but graduated from the second class where he became a Christ-follower and went to work the day after graduation. God did that for His Glory and to show us what all He wanted to do through this ministry!
How Has God Worked in Ways That Were Beyond What You Expected?
I knew God was going to do some great things in the lives of our clients as they put themselves in a position to hear God speak from His Word. God always speaks when we open His Book. I didn’t know how much God was going to speak to us through our clients about life, justice, priorities, faith, and so much more. I’ve learned a lot from my brothers and sisters who often have to live at a greater level of faith than we do in the suburbs. Also, I didn’t anticipate the great benefit and joy of getting to know and serve alongside brothers and sisters across the city from different churches, backgrounds, and ethnicities. It’s been an incredible joy to share our lives and stories and insights with one another as we serve our Savior together.