What did you want for the holidays?
Given the economy, you might ask for a job after you graduate.
Maybe what you’d really like isn’t just any job, but one where you can engage in the world for a year and explore and deepen your spiritual life!
Back when I graduated from college (yes, a long, long time ago) service jobs were few and far between, mainly available through the Peace Corps or VISTA. Most parents didn’t encourage their kids to pursue service placements. After all, why would someone spend all that money on college to get a job that doesn’t pay very well or might not have the prestige of a “regular job”?
Today, the environment is different.
There are tens of thousands of service jobs available. And more and more young people — and their parents — are recognizing the opportunities for personal growth and the benefits of engaging in our communities.
These days, you get a job with AmeriCorps, City Year or Teach for America, and folks say “Way to go!” and “Nice job!”
Keep in mind that getting a job with AmeriCorps is not a slam-dunk. In a recent article by Michael Brown, co-founder and president of City Year, as many as 580,000 individuals apply for the 80,000 AmeriCorps positions that are available annually.
There are other service options that are particularly designed for those who want to integrate their passion for service with their spiritual exploration. Many placements include a stipend, as well as education awards and plenty of ways to gain new skills and experience.
These programs recruit talented, energetic and committed individuals who want to engage in the world and explore their faith. Many offer opportunities that are very similar to AmeriCorps, but have added elements, including:
These programs offer other advantages, such as:
These programs are highly regarded and capture the attention of future employers. Many offer a second year of employment; some employers hire volunteers on a full-time basis with full salary after they complete their service.
But do you have to be religious to serve with these organizations?
My first repose is: What does it meant to be religious? My other answer is that it depends. Some are very intentional about their faith roots and expect members to be part of that faith community and live accordingly. Others merely ask participants to be faithful seekers and to respect and honor the different paths of others.
There are other differences between these programs. Some require you to raise funds, while others do not. All offer small stipends, each month ranging from $50 to $500. Most provide some type of food allowance that is on top of the stipend. Many offer AmeriCorps education awards, but some don’t.
Some of these programs are very competitive. I know of one program that receives more than 100 applications for a site in New York City that only has space for five residents. But not all of them are over-subscribed, meaning your odds of getting a placement and having the possibility of a great year of service, personal growth, resume-building and growing up is within your grasp — if you start working on it now.
So think, research, pray, talk and apply. Tell them Rev. Wayne sent you. It might help. You never know!