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Podcast explores 30 years of service by more than 1,900 Young Adult Volunteers


YAV Coordinator Destini Hodges is the guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’

July 27, 2024

Destini Hodges

Destini Hodges, coordinator of the PC(USA)’s Young Adult Volunteer program, took to the “Between 2 Pulpits” airwaves to describe and celebrate a ministry of social justice and faith transformation that’s produced more than 1,900 alums over the last three decades.

Listen to the 35-minute conversation among Hodges and “Between 2 Pulpits” hosts the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder here.

One week every August, the year’s crop of YAVs ages 19–30 “come together for a process we call ‘disorienting the YAVs,’” Hodges said. “We don’t want you coming in with a preconceived notion of what you think the year is going to be but allow the process to shape you.”

YAVs, who spend their year of service at one of four U.S. sites or one of six international locations, “get immersed in the community,” Hodges said, including going to church and attending sporting contests and other activities in addition to their service. About 40% opt to stay in their community long-term once they’ve completed their year of service, Hodges noted.

“Our slogan, ‘A year of service for a lifetime of change,’ is really true,” Hodges said. Even though she herself was never a YAV, “I love the way the young adults are transformed” through their service.

Wilkinson said he appreciates “the notion of vocational discernment. It may be an odd thing for me [a longtime pastor] to say, because I love it when people go off to seminary. But at the same time, our theology is ‘the priesthood of all believers,’” he said. “I don’t think you need to go to seminary in order to discern a vocation and to serve in the world. I love the notion of people using this year as a way to clarify some values or get a sense of where God is calling them beyond service in the church, as important as that is.” He asked Hodges how the YAV program helps young adults in their discernment process.

“Between 2 Pulpits” is hosted by the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder.

People who come to the program are increasingly involved in the social justice realm, Hodges replied. “This is not your grandma’s faith-based program,” she explained. “You get the theology, but more so why our theology tells us to move in social justice ways.” The message is, “Keep up the work that you’re doing because our programs matter for the future of bright young adults,” Hodges said.

Being embedded in YAV work for a year is part of the discernment process, according to Hodges. “We tell YAVs there’s really no mistake they can make during their placement year,” she said. “This is a way for you to learn more about yourself and give back to the community, and also to discern whether this is for you or not for you.”

Each YAV site is equipped with a spiritual leader, and site coordinators “do a really good job getting to know the YAVs so they are vocationally stimulated in their communities,” Hodges said. “A lot of what we do in the U.S. connects across seas and within the U.S. We like to say we’re a connectional church, but we’re also a connectional world.”

Like everyone else, YAVs face “different isms around race, sex, class and environmental concerns,” Hodges said. To get insight into what YAVs are working on in their communities, Hodges recommend people read their blogs, which are here. Apply for a YAV position here.

“The year is rewarding, but it can be hard for a YAV,” Hodges said. “They’re in a context they’re not used to being in.”

Traditionally, many YAVs have been white women from middle-class backgrounds. But over the past decade or so, Hodges said, more and more men and people of color have volunteered for the year-long program. So long as the young adult meets the age requirement “and you’re willing to explore a Christian identity through the lens of social justice, come apply,” Hodges suggested. “Journey with us.”

Listen to previous editions of “Between 2 Pulpits” here.

 Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: YAV Coordinator Destini Hodges is the guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’ podcast

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Andrea McNicol, Manager, Budgets & Forecasting, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 
Melody Medley, Lead Customer Service Consultant, Presbyterian Church (USA)  

Let us pray

Gracious God, thank you for igniting the fire that burns within those who serve you. As you have called us out to model your love and infinite possibility, bless us to stay the course as you shape us. Amen.

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