Lutheran Young Adult Corps: Year #1

June 4, 2018 / General Ministry

After a brief pilot project in Philadelphia, PA in 2014, and a two-year planning process, the LCMS’ Lutheran Young Adult Corps (LYAC) just finished their first year (2017-2018) with active service participants. The program “provides opportunities for young adults (18-26) to grow in a community of faith and service through long-term, full-time service”.

Corps Participants serving in a community garden in the 9th Ward, New Orleans, LA.

Following a thorough vetting and on-boarding process, including an application, essay, and video interview, participants are placed in host cities to offer additional capacity to Lutheran, urban ministry partners. These young people, many living on their own and with “roommates” for the first time, assist community partners with everything from back office, administrative work to volunteer management and hands on ministry. As a result, ministry leaders are better able to serve their communities and engage them with the Gospel. Program Manager Julianna Shults says, “LYAC participants are not going to come in and solve all a church or organization’s problems, but there is value in having an extra set of hands to help tackle some set goals.” The hope, of course, is that participants would also be transformed; that they would grow in their faith, develop new skills, and be encouraged to stay engaged in the Church for years to come.

Young Adult Corps participant Lara McComack helps distribute food with Cecelia Andres to homeless men and women early Thursday, April 19, 2018, at Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Louis.

In 2017, LYAC had participants in four cities: Boston, MA, New Orleans, LA, Baton Rouge, LA, and right here in St. Louis, MO. St. Louis hosted two summer interns (10-week terms) and four school-year interns (10-month terms). These participants partnered with St. Trinity Lutheran Church, Christian Friends of New Americans, Lutheran Development Group, Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, KFUO Radio, Intersect Arts, and Compass Educational Programs.

As with anything new, not everything went exactly as planned, and LYAC leadership learned much from this first year to help them improve the program for year two (which begins soon!). Shults says one of their biggest learnings was that young adults are incredibly passionate and excited to work, and they are always looking for more to do. To lessen the likelihood of boredom and light work loads, LYAC plans to better manage participant expectations, while also having community partners keep a back up list of additional tasks. Another key learning was thinking about ways they can better support and equip future participants – “This is the first time many of these young people are living away from home, living with people they might not naturally be friends with, and working full-time. We want to think about how we can better support them in this time of transition to ensure they get the most out of their experience.”

For those afraid to try something new and fail, Shults encourages, “As the Church, we should be able to dream big and learn as we go. Many pastors and ministry leaders focus so much on success that they struggle to say “yes” and try. The Gospel is all about grace, about forgiveness!” And, when it comes to working with youth, she adds, “Young people can be a huge asset – empower them into leadership roles. Don’t underestimate them and the long-term impact they can have if you take the time to invest in them.”

*Photos courtesy of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod/Erik M. Lunsford