The number of churches and faith-based groups ministering to the unemployed has grown in response to the economic downturn.

Just ask Timothy Mullner, author of "A Spiritual Guide for the Unemployed," who travels the country giving talks to churches about how they can help those who have lost their jobs.

"They're doing it because it's part of the Gospel message," Mullner said. "It's helping people in need." Beyond the spiritual, there's also a practical reason, he notes: "It affects donations and the budget of the parish. So there's a vested interest to support these folks and get them working and producing again."

Mullner will bring his message to Twin Cities area churches in the coming weeks. Among those hosting him is the Basilica of St. Mary's employment ministry. Janet Grove, who oversees the ministry, says about 450 people participate in it. She estimates about 50 Twin Cities area churches have established ministries in recent years dedicated to assisting the unemployed.

Grove says the unemployed are paired with a "jobs coach," often a volunteer parishioner who helps them hone their résumés and networking and interviewing skills. The church also holds monthly workshops that feature speakers like Mullner, who himself was unemployed nearly 15 months after losing his six-figure job at a Catholic publishing company. Eventually, he landed a job at Faith Journeys, a company that helps church groups travel on pilgrimages.

He calls his experience "absolutely humbling."

"What it did for me is it reminded me of ... what is really important," he said. "I had to focus on relationships. I got to know my family again."

One key thing Mullner recommends to the unemployed is to "connect their story to the church's sense of vocation. I had a job, but am I really living my vocation? Am I really doing what I'm called to do? There can be a hidden blessing in losing a job. It becomes a chance for a person to think about what they always wanted to do."

Rose French • 612-673-4352