By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Today’s young adults — many of whom are longing for opportunities to “live out” their faith in service to others — now have a new option: the Lutheran Young Adult Corps.
The online application process for the new LCMS young-adult ministry opens Oct. 10 with two ways to serve, beginning next year:
- 10 weeks during summer months (June-August), or
- 10 months over a school year (August-May).
The only requirement for participants is that they are high-school graduates ages 18 to 26 and members of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregations.
Those who are accepted into the Corps serve full time in Synod congregations, campus ministries, Recognized Service Organizations and other settings. Housing and utility costs are covered by the program, and each participant receives a monthly stipend of some $500 for food and transportation.
For its inaugural year, the Corps plans to offer a total of at least 20 service opportunities in three cities: Boston, New Orleans and St. Louis.
A “key goal” of the program, according to its director, DCE Julianna Shults, “is for participants to come away with a deepened faith, widened worldview and commitment to their vocation of service and leadership in the church.”
Research shows that 90 percent of students who take a so-called “gap year” between high school and college, or during college, “actually increase their GPA” and the experience also “increases their competency skills because they have the ability to deal with stress, they have the ability to deal with other people and groups,” notes Shults. “They just have more life experience to tie onto their studies.”
Shults says she knows of LCMS young adults who are currently doing community service with AmeriCorps. With the Lutheran Young Adult Corps, “we’re saying, ‘Hey students, if you really want that urban-ministry experience, this is a way to get it’ ” — through your own church body.
Current students and those who have been accepted at Concordia University, Nebraska, in Seward, and the Concordias in Mequon, Wis., and Ann Arbor, Mich., can serve with the Corps with no fear of losing their place or financial aid, since those schools already have signed a “memorandum of understanding,” according to Shults, who is working to establish such agreements with all 10 Concordia University System campuses.
That partnership, she says, “eases potential fears for current and future students who are considering a long-term service opportunity but do not want to sacrifice their education.”
As an added incentive, each of the three schools is offering $1,000 scholarships to their students who complete Corps service.
The schools see the Corps as a huge plus:
- Julie Johnston Hermann, director of Global Opportunities at Concordia, Nebraska (CUNE), says the school is “excited” that incoming freshmen and current students who come to CUNE “after a service experience with the Corps will be bringing with them expanded cultural perspectives, deepened personal insights and a renewed sense of vocation that will add exponentially to their college experience.”
- Steve Taylor, vice-president of Student Life for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, notes that “service to the church and world is written into the mission statement of our university and this is just one of the many ways we’re making good on our goal of fulfilling that.”
Matthew Rhodes, 22, a senior at Concordia University Wisconsin who took part in a weeklong Corps pilot project in August 2014 in downtown Philadelphia, said the experience was “very valuable” and “a profound opportunity to serve and engage the surrounding community in the name of Christ.”
Rhodes — whose service included talking to residents to find out their needs, making repairs at Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church and hosting a block party for some 75 people — calls the Corps “a phenomenal idea” because it goes beyond the typical assumption many young adults have about mission work: that you spend a week or two in a mission field outside the U.S.
“The Young Adult Corps offers something more,” he says: “the initial reality … that our own country is in need of Christ and of service. That neighborly helping hand isn’t as prevalent nowadays as it should be.”
But also, for participants, “this is a much longer extension of time to serve than what is so normally offered,” Rhodes adds, which makes it “an opportunity for growth within the individual in not just gaining a foothold in who they are, but it is also much more time to have the bonds of Christ flourish between them, their peers and the surrounding community in which they are serving.”
The Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission, which oversees the Corps, says he is “thrilled” with the new program and believes it “will be transformational for our Lutheran young adults as they set out to serve the church and world.”
516 Missions, Boston — a ministry of Regeneration Lutheran Church in Exeter, N.H., in the LCMS New England District — is providing both 10-week and 10-month placements for Corps participants, who will take part in service projects related to homelessness, hunger and other challenges of low-income city dwellers as well as outreach on local college campuses.
516 Missions Director Nik Locker calls the Lutheran Young Adult Corps “an incredible opportunity” for Synod members. “Giving young adults a new opportunity to put their faith in action while supporting the on-the-ground efforts of local ministries is a great partnership and concept that will benefit all parties involved,” Locker told Reporter.
Shults agrees, noting that urban congregations — many of whom have few members and staff for outreach — will benefit by gaining a full-time person with “fresh eyes” and who is “energized” to “get out into the community and share the Gospel.”
She emphasizes that “any kind of skill and talent that God gave you” will be valuable for Corps service.
“We’re looking for students who are passionate about their faith” and “are willing to make some sacrifices, they’re willing to get out there and try something new, and put themselves out there in order to help share the Good News of Jesus,” she told Reporter.
“Seeing it as an adventure and being willing to embrace whatever that adventure brings them — that’s more of what we’re looking for than any particular gifts.”
For more information about the Lutheran Young Adult Corps — or to fill out an application (beginning Oct. 10) — visit lcms.org/yacorps. The new ministry also is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Some information for this story was provided by Amy Gray, media and publications project coordinator for LCMS Youth Ministry.
Posted September 28, 2016 / Updated February 14, 2017, to note Philadelphia being removed from 2017 program opportunities