Recently, I and several other YAV Alum attended the Dallas II Mission Consultation, organized through World Mission of the PC(USA). We were gathered to discuss mission, especially around the Critical Global Initiatives, and how we might as individuals, congregations, and a denomination engage mission more effectively moving into the 21st century. Much of it was truly great, and many good ideas came from our discussions, but that belongs to another post.
Also recently, around twenty YAVA were present at Ghost Ranch, NM, to help the returning class of YAVs process and integrate their experiences from their time of service. We discussed what was uplifting and what was challenging about their service and their sites, we listened to and told our stories, we supported one another in the stark beauty of the northern New Mexico desert. And then we all, once more, went our separate ways.
A common question that comes from both of these events is, “Now what?”
“Now that ______ is finished, what do we do? How do we proceed forward?”
At Dallas II, Rick Ufford-Chase commented that, in the past, a dedicated and gifted staff in the denominational offices would take what came out of the conversations and run with it, eventually passing the strategies on to presbyteries, congregations, and individuals. That no longer works, and for two reasons: 1) Such staff doesn’t really exist anymore, and 2) Such a model defeats the understanding that we are all called, and thus all a part of bringing the conversations to action.
The same holds true for us, as alumnae/i of this program we know as YAV. It is not up to a small group of people to continue the work (though I can speak for the Alumni Leadership Council in saying that we are very glad to help coordinate such efforts); it is up to all of us. The Alumni Network will be what we make of it, and the YAV program itself will continue to be strengthened because of the efforts we continue to give to it.
Which leads me to a thought: What if each one of us took it upon ourselves to recruit one young adult, just one, into the program during this next year? What if we made the effort to recruit a person every year, or two people every three years?
We know, first-hand and intimately, the benefits and the offerings of what a time of service in the YAV program can bring, not just to us as individuals, but for the churches and communities we serve, and for the denomination as a whole. The PC(USA) is recognizing this more and more, as well, as evidenced by their decision to put emphasis on raising up young adult leaders, including the YAV program. One of their goals is to increase the annual number of participants to upwards of 250 over the next five years, and they will even be hiring an Associate for Recruitment to aide in such an endeavor.
But what is stopping us from likewise helping? We all live somewhere; chances are there’s at least one of the following near us: A church with a senior high youth group, or college-age young adults; A campus ministry program; A young adult group, perhaps with members who are spiritual & service oriented; A Presbytery, who would benefit from hearing about the YAV program, and can connect to us to interested individuals. What is stopping us/you/me from contacting one of the above and setting up an appointment to spend one hour…30 minutes…20 minutes talking with a young adult about this shining star of a program?
And if even a fraction of alumni from the past 18 years of YAV were able to recruit one young adult to serve, the goal of increasing the program would be met within two years. (By my own rough estimation, there are 1200 alums out there in the world).
The YAV Office is poised and ready to take off, and it wants all of us along for the journey. More so, it wants us to be actively involved in the journey, and is ready to assist and equip us as needed to reach out and invite others to experience the richness of service and community that we have experienced.
Consider this your commission to go out and spread the good news!