This week, in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in an effort to recognize the important work of organizations that provide year-long service opportunities, The Center for Faith and Service announced its annual list of Service Programs that Change the World. Service Programs that Change the World (www.ServicePrograms.org) is a collection of faith-based young-adult volunteer programs that provide leadership training, job opportunities, and career development for young people who want to work together to change the world.
This year’s Service Programs that Change the World represent a diversity of experiences, locations, and social justice causes, but share a collected commitment to bring hope, peace and justice to the world. The website is designed in such a way that interested individuals can search yearlong service opportunities by affiliations, geography or issue area.
Faith-based service programs offer individuals – especially those in their twenties – an opportunity to pursue their passions for justice while also working towards their career goals. Most of the programs provide a financial stipend, as well as a living community. Whether you’re about to graduate from college, have been out for a few years, are in between jobs, or just need a break, I’d encourage you to search through the list of service programs featured on www.ServicePrograms.org.
While each of the programs listed have distinct characteristic (which are highlighted in their profiles), there are some common themes that run through many of these programs including a commitment to social justice, intentional community life, simple living and spiritual exploration.
The list was made through our own investigation and encounters with these different groups. While the list is not complete (there are other programs worth pursuing that are not listed) we can attest to the integrity, promise and joy of those programs listed. In all but a few insistences, these programs are activity connected to a faith tradition.
Service Programs that Change the World: Class of 2017 includes several new additions, including Avodah, a national Jewish service organization that has service sites in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, DC and lives by the slogan "Sparking Jewish Leaders, Igniting Social Change." Another new addition to the list is Gould Farm, a therapeutic working farm that is not identified with a particular faith tradition. The farm, which is led by Lisanne Finston (a United Methodist minister who has supervised AmeriCorps members for over two decades) offers a challenging and safe space for volunteers to explore their faith while serving alongside individuals working through mental health issues.
Writing about his experience with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Father Eric Immel, SJ, affirms that after a year of service, you will never be the same.
"There they are, thrust together without much money, with no say as to who their roommates are, and with responsibilities to maintain a high functioning and intentional community life while holding a full-time job…that puts them face-to-face with the poor. They have to pray together too… All Christians are ruined…or ought to be. The Christian faith is, after all, an inconvenient one. It’s about loving enemies. It’s about living for and with the poor. It’s about forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s about conversion of systems of injustice. It’s about facing the darkest stuff our world offers, and hoping beyond hope that goodness will shine through. Maintaining this faith is exhausting. Taking it seriously would ruin anyone… to be ruined is to be called forth, crushed by an experience of reality in four core values that can form the foundation of a life in faith that does justice. …So, thanks, a lot, JVC. You didn’t make it easier for me, but you weren’t supposed to. You showed me that it’s good to be ruined, and that I am."
So, if you’re someone who’s looking to make a commitment for a year, who wants to make a difference, challenge your own world, and change the world while you’re at it, consider a year of service. These experiences can be so transforming, that one group (the Jesuit Volunteer Corps) promises you’ll be "ruined for life." And that is a good thing.
Service Programs that Change the World: Class of 2017
Appalachia Service Project
Border Servant Corps
Brethren Volunteer Service
Christian Appalachian Project
Congressional Hunger Center
Episcopal Service Corps
Good Shepherd Volunteers
Jesuit Volunteer Corps
Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest
Lutheran Volunteer Corps
Mennonite Mission Network
National Benevolent Association – XPLOR
Notre Dame Mission Volunteers
Quaker Voluntary Service
Sojourners Internship Program
St. Joseph Worker Program
UCC Young Adult Service Communities
Urban Servant Corps
Young Adult Volunteers