Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is LVC?
Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) is a one-year national volunteer service program. It is for people who want to explore their spirituality while working for social justice, living in intentional community with other volunteers, and practicing sustainability in all aspects of their lives.
LVC was founded in 1979 by Luther Place Memorial Church (Washington, DC) . Since its beginning, Lutheran Volunteer Corps has matched over 2,700 volunteers with social service organizations in thirteen cities across the country.
What is intentional community?
As a community of four to seven individuals, volunteers meet for community business and fun once a week. Each community also meets together once a month for spirituality and faith dialogue. Volunteers decide together how to handle finances, when to meet, how to make decisions, how to resolve conflict, and who is responsible for which household tasks. Through these conversations and activities, the household becomes a support system–an intentional community. Together, volunteers are able to cope with the challenges as well as celebrate the joys of the volunteer year.
How simple is simple? What is the LVC lifestyle like?
LVC provides for the basic needs of volunteers so that they can live out their passion in the world. In an act of solidarity and consciousness, volunteers are asked live within the personal stipend each month. Because intentional community takes time and energy, volunteers are also asked not to work for pay outside of their placement or to take classes for credit. Many volunteers bring musical instruments, computers, cell phones, bikes, etc. Each volunteer must ask for themselves how they would separate their “needs” from their “wants” during this year of simplicity and sustainability.
Living simply is one of the harder challenges that the volunteers face in our world of plenty. This is because living simply is much more than living on a “modest” volunteer stipend. One must also consider the use of time and resources. The LVC experience invites individuals to embrace a year of simplicity and sustainability in order to open their hearts and minds to the needs of their local and global communities.
How are faith and spirituality lived out?
LVC is open to people from all spiritual journeys. About one-third of volunteers come from Lutheran backgrounds. Some may not identify with a particular faith or denomination. Some may be outwardly disciplined in their religious practices while others may not.
LVC requires that volunteers be open to exploring and experiencing faith and spirituality with others. Each house community has a spirituality mentor who walks with Volunteers as they share in a faith/spiritual centered activity with one another at least once a month. LVC also requests that Volunteers be willing to participate in worship services at orientation and retreats. Volunteers are encouraged to seek outside spiritual communities as well.
What is LVC's affiliation with the Lutheran church?
Founded in 1979 as a ministry of Luther Place Memorial Church, and sustained and nurtured by that congregation, Lutheran Volunteer Corps is a Christian ministry steeped in Lutheran traditions and theology, but open to persons of all faith traditions. It is the intent of Lutheran Volunteer Corps to maintain affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). On this firm foundation Lutheran Volunteer Corps continues to grow and serve the community. (From LVC Bylaw, Section 5)
Recently about one-third of LVC Volunteers are Lutheran, one-third are from other Christian denominations and the last one-third come from a variety of other religious and spiritual traditions, and atheism or agnosticism. LVC is also not under the authority of any particular church organization and is governed by an independent, national board of directors (most of whom are Lutheran and some of whom are not).
Check out our primer “About the ‘L’ in LVC” for more info about about Lutheranism, and the role of Lutheran theology and practice within LVC.
How is LVC different from other volunteer programs?
LVC’s Journey to an Inclusive Community
stands out as an aspect that sets LVC apart as well. This emphasis means that an intentional part of the program is deeply exploring racism and other forms of oppression as well as ensuring that placements and LVC houses are not only open, but affirming of LGBTQ persons in all aspects of life and work.
Additionally, LVC has long been known as a program that provides a year of service in a larger context of support and reflection.
An LVC staff member serves as a support person to volunteers in each region. This staff person is a listening ear, conflict mediator, and facilitator of communication between volunteers, placements and staff. In addition, each city has a group of local supporters composed of former volunteers, pastors and other interested individuals. This group supplies information, addresses practical needs, and provides other resources for volunteers. Each house community has community mentors who meet with them to discuss community issues throughout the year. This is especially helpful as communities set goals and expectations for the year.
LVC also schedules retreats each year. These retreats provide time for reflection, discussion, and recreation.
Application Process & Requirements
What are the qualifications for being a volunteer?
LVC welcomes applications from persons who are 21 or older and who are self-motivated, mature, and stable. Volunteers should want to grow in the areas of spirituality, justice, community, and simplicity/sustainability. Volunteers often find themselves in new and unexpected situations, so flexibility, openness, and a sense of humor are essential.
LVC is open to persons from all spiritual traditions. LVC does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race, creed, age, culture, disability, economic class, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
Because of the nature of the service and community life, applicants are requested to be in good physical and emotional health. Those in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse are requested to have a minimum of two years sobriety before applying.
Volunteers are also expected to engage the core practice of financial sustainability by participating in LVC fundraising activities through peer-to-peer fundraising and community-building events during their LVC year.
What skills do volunteers need?
People from all skill backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Some programs have specific skill needs (ex. spanish fluency), and others look for a bachelor’s degree (ex. nursing) or a few years of related volunteer or job experience (ex. childcare).
What are the chances of getting in?
On average, LVC accepts 90% of those who complete the application. LVC is about including, rather than excluding people. If you are open to being challenged and are flexible about where you will serve, then your chances for a match are very good. It’s fine to have very particular preferences about the location and type of placement site, but know that those stricter preferences may make for a more competitive matching process. Each application is carefully screened by a member of the LVC staff to make sure the applicant understands the commitments, is well motivated, and is emotionally stable.
Do volunteers have to be United States citizens?
No. LVC welcomes applications from U.S. permanent residents, international students studying in the U.S., DACA recipients and other foreign nationals within the U.S. At this time we are not able to accept applications from foreign nationals who are not currently in the United States unless it is via our partner organizations in Germany and the United Kingdom.
- International Student Applicants:
LVC welcomes applications from international students who are currently studying in the US. Due to visa extension requirements issued by US State Department and Immigration Services, please contact Elizabeth Bier, Recruitment & Outreach Manager, at 612-787-8844 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your application. All international applicants are required to take the necessary steps to secure their visa extension. Please contact your on-campus international student office and read more information about F-1/OPT next steps on the U.S. Visa Guide.
- International Partner Organizations:
LVC also has partnerships with service organizations in Germany and the United Kingdom. If you are a German or British citizen, please contact Elizabeth Bier at email@example.com to learn more about how to apply to LVC through our partner organizations in these countries.
Do you accept couples into LVC?
Yes, LVC accepts married couples and couples in committed relationships. Please submit a completed application for each individual with a cover letter explaining your relationship status and desired LVC situation. Each applicant is accepted or denied based on their own merits. Once accepted, LVC will match each person with the organization that fits them best with the intention of matching couples in the same region, city, or house if that is the desired situation.
Can people do LVC with dependent children?
Due to the amount of time and energy that it takes to build intentional community, applicants with dependent children are strongly encouraged to defer their application until they no longer have dependent children.
The Volunteer Experience
What about student loans during my LVC year?
There are several options to affordably pay your student loans during a year of service. For details, read our blog post about loans during your year of service AND this doc on Student Loans and LVC.
In that doc, we particularly lift up income-driven repayment plans & the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP) for those with federal direct student loan debt. There are also deferment or forbearance options, in addition to standard repayment plans. If you have private loans, you’ll need to talk with your lender about repayment options. If you have a co-signer on any loan, it’s also important to discuss any loan repayment plans with them.
A year of service with LVC also provides you with valuable work experience to help you get a job after your year of service and/or makes you eligible for many generous graduate school scholarships.
Stay up to speed on student loan news here:
For budgeting and handling other debt (credit card, home, car, etc.)
Where do Volunteers serve?
Volunteers serve within their communities to tackle challenges in dozens of areas including education, public safety, human needs, and the environment. Each placement organization must provide a substantive and meaningful service experience for the Volunteer and must be broadly committed to goals of social justice. Many programs offer the opportunity for hands-on direct service. Others look to Volunteers to help coordinate, develop and manage projects by fundraising, recruiting volunteers, or creating systems that change communities.
Placements are varied and include schools, environmental organizations, shelters, programs for women and youth, medical and legal clinics, refugee services, public policy organizations, community organizers, senior service providers, food banks, and general social services.
LVC works with the Applicant’s preferences; however, applicants need to be flexible about going where there is a need. To finalize a placement, the Volunteer must choose the organization and the organization must choose the Volunteer.
Read LVC’a placement city descriptions.
Explore LVC’s Placement Position Directory.
Do volunteers get vacation?
Volunteers adhere to the vacation policies of their placement organizations and are granted a minimum of two weeks vacation per year. LVC also has time for retreats or workshop days for volunteers; this is not counted within the two weeks of vacation.
What are the placement schedules like?
The schedule at your placement depends on the position description. Most follow a 40-hour week with weekends off; however, some positions require some evening, overnight and weekend hours.
Where do volunteers live?
Volunteers live in low to middle income, racially diverse communities with three to six fellow volunteers. When deciding upon the location of each house, local supporters and staff consider many different factors including access to public transportation, proximity to work sites, and safety.
Volunteers often share bedrooms, but in some cases have their own rooms. Homes are adequately but simply furnished with donated kitchen supplies and furniture. Volunteers are required to bring their bedding and personal items.
Are the neighborhoods safe?
As in any city, crime happens in LVC placement cities. Volunteers are encouraged to explore the cities they live in and get to know their neighbors. Volunteers’ most common experiences with crime are petty thefts of things like iPods and bikes.
There are some built-in safety factors. For example, Volunteers discuss personal safety during their national and local orientations. Additionally, living in community means that someone in the community will more likely be around. Local support networks and former volunteers are neighborhood resources as well.
What do most Volunteers do after their LVC year?
For many, the LVC experience is the beginning of a life-long commitment to working for justice and peace. About ten percent of volunteers decide to do a second year of LVC, many of whom stay at their placement organization. About one out of every five volunteers continue on as salaried employees at their placements. Some volunteers seek out positions at similar social justice-minded organizations. Some take positions in the private sector or government and gain new perspectives on complex issues. Last, several LVCers go on to graduate school
to pursue careers of service (social work, education, law, medicine, ministry).
In general, volunteers gain valuable work and life experience that is well respected and helpful in whatever they choose to do next.