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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’

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Destini Hodges

LOUISVILLE — 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. Hodges’ appearance coincides with the Pentecost Offering, which congregations in the PC(USA) will receive Sunday. The Pentecost Offering supports the YAV program and others. Learn more 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.

Two episodes of the “Between 2 Pulpits” podcast dropped last week.

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.

Other ways to support YAVs include praying for them and supporting the Pentecost Offering, which can be done 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 last 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.”

Asked by Snyder to name her hope for the church, Hodges recalled the day when churches were “truly intergenerational.” Now, “a lot of programs are tailored to young adults or for older members of the church. My hope for the church is that we continue to be Christlike, and that doesn’t have to be within the four walls of the church or within a structured ministry. You don’t have to be a YAV to do great work.”

“My hope is that we don’t need to be defined by institutional powers,” she said. A former city council and school board member, “I love democracy and I love institutions, but they aren’t at the forefront of why we are the church.”

Listen to previous editions of Between 2 Pulpits here.

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