- The means for exercising our stewardship and in doing so, people should have access to resources and control over them. Work is essential to human dignity but is not an end in itself. It meets the Jubilee principle of restoring individuals to their stewardship resources.
- A social activity promoting co-operation in stewardship of talents and resources as is illustrated in the New Testament teaching on the church. There should be set limits to work – the principle of the Sabbath.
- Worship when seen aright (the word in Hebrew “avodah” means both worship and service)
Priority A - Sense of community and social cohesion
Work serves the function of bringing people together with mutual dependence and cooperation, an essential for human prospering. This may involve a degree of decentralisation of policy bearing in mind the local history and culture. Communities need to be empowered to be able to take initiatives and may involve pump-priming (funding) and self-help ventures like co-operatives. A greater respect for the value of voluntary activity is also a necessary ingredient. As communities come together in genuine co-operation there will also be a sense of inclusion for disaffected youth, ex-offenders and refugees.
Priority B - Encourage positive parenting and family influence
A positive and healthy attitude to work is primarily born out of family influence. The family should be the first unit in society to provide support and structure for life. When working effectively, this is where the right environment is created for children to begin to realise their potential. Positive role models are needed in family and wider society to inspire youth and adults and stimulate achievement, breaking down negative life cycles and reinforcing positive ones. Churches, health and social services all have a role in recovering, strengthening and reinforcing parenting skills.
Health issues need to be addressed at family level in terms of how to eat in healthy ways, habits of exercise and a positive ethos of making a contribution. Unhelpful expectations perpetuated in media and entertainment need to be countered and measures are also needed to deal with the negative effect of much of their output.
Priority C - Education & Mentoring in Business Enterprise
We have to find ways of avoiding worklessness, even if this does not involve paid work. For example, young people can learn from older people if a channel of assisting them can be found through voluntary service.
We must engender a greater respect for older people and what they can pass on from what they have learned. Discovering others’ achievements, often with far less resources, can be inspirational.
Role models are important in terms of setting an example in business enterprise. An entrepreneur mentality needs to be encouraged in schools and colleges. Courses should be practical in supervising the setting up of an actual business, so that its formation and development is witnessed as part of the Course, maybe involving the co-operation of local government enterprise departments.
Local business is crucial to community cohesion.
Priority D - Replacing benefits with work opportunities for Carers, Disabled, Single Parents etc
Recent benefit changes aiming to get people on Incapacity Benefit into work requires corresponding work opportunities. There needs to be a Business incentive developed to involve people who are disabled or have other health disadvantages e.g. paying toward salary costs for the first two years while their skills are developing for their value to be appreciated.
People with particular disabilities e.g. the range of Autism including Asperger’s syndrome, should be given opportunities suited to their particular mindset such as IT skills or statistics.
Those providing care for sick/elderly relatives should be recognised by providing benefits equivalent to a normal wage to show the importance of what they are doing.
Reducing the bureaucracy of employing someone must be encouraged e.g. a National Insurance “holiday”, relaxing maternity pay provisions for very small businesses, allowing more people to be self-employed.
Priority E - Recognition of volunteer opportunities in preparing for paid employment
The present unemployed need to become skilled to become job-ready through volunteer opportunities (as currently provided by Vine Social Enterprises at IKEA Wales and others). Although unpaid, this is an essential pre-requisite for the world of work, learning to be dependable, turning up on time, working with others, culture of no excuses etc.
Volunteer work e.g. with a Charity or other employer should be recognised by the Jobcentre on the jobseeker’s record as seeking to prepare for work (and included on any job application). However, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that potential employers do not take advantage of such volunteer labour.
Time banking should also be more greatly encouraged.
The biblical picture of work is first and foremost that of God in His work of creation and the delegation to humanity of the stewardship of the created order (Genesis 1: 26 -30) so that everyone has a calling to exercise their talents in this task.
The principles of responsibility and accountability were confirmed by Jesus in the parable of the talents (Luke 19: 11-17).
Men and women have a right and obligation to work, this being the creation provision (Genesis 1:28, 2:15) echoed in the Psalms (Psalm 104:23) and New Testament (2 Thess 3:6-13 , 1 Tim 5: 8).
The biblical understanding of work is not limited to merely paid work.