December 16, 2011

What's Your Next Step?

What are you doing after graduation?

Do you remember this question? Did you dread it like I did? I confess that 15 years ago I was one of those college seniors who had no idea what I was going to do with my life after leaving the safe confines of higher education. Not knowing how to begin a job search, I applied to the Peace Corps and took graduate school entrance exams instead. But really there was a deeper question nagging me as I dropped the graduation party invitations in the mail, I was not sure who I was supposed to be.

Often that deeper question goes unasked as we try to encourage young adults in their journey after college. In our slow economy there is increasing pressure to secure one of the few positions out there, and true discernment feels like a luxury. Even for those a few years out of school, finding the way from work to vocation can be a challenge. The church is not often viewed as a resource during this transition from student to adulthood, yet it can be.

For the last 20 years, the programs of the Episcopal Service Corps have offered young adults in their 20s the opportunity to engage in meaningful work at paid internships while living in Christian community. Whether harvesting organic celery in southern California, rebuilding homes in New Orleans, tutoring kids in New York City, or working with a youth in Boston, Episcopal Service Corps volunteers live out their faith while discerning who God is calling them to be. A year of service with Episcopal Service Corps often becomes a life of service, both in the church and in the world.

Episcopal Service Corps programs are patterned on ancient monastic models, but with some modern twists. Volunteers live together, sharing meals and chores and a common prayer life. They are matched with a service site where they gain practical work experience while serving the needs of the community. Regular retreats and workshops provide volunteers with the tools of faith to understand their place in the world as 21st century Christians. The commitment is for about 11 months and the invitation is to learn from life’s experience and people rather than from textbooks and professors. This video offers a good overview of what the experience is like. 

I eventually found my way, but it wasn’t at the corporate job I landed a few months after graduation. I discovered my way when I was 24 years old, during a year of service in Chicago working with homeless women. The year taught me how to integrate my faith life, work life, and home life. I learned how I wanted to live, not just what I wanted to do.

Have you done a year of service? What impact did it have on your life?

Do you know a college senior or 20something interested in a year with Episcopal Service Corps? Young adults can apply for the 2012-2013 volunteer year now