Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) offers its legacy program — a one-year service experience — and starting in 2020, Flex Semesters with virtual volunteering starting in August, January, and June. It’s for people interested in social justice work, careers, and values. LVCers are motivated to explore justice work while living in intentional community with other Volunteers if serving a year, and while working closely with a virtual Volunteers if serving a Flex Semester. Together Volunteers explore the intersection of spirituality, simple and sustainable living, anti-racism/anti-oppression towards a strengthened leadership skillset — as part of leadership development and values to live by.
LVC was founded in 1979 by Luther Place Memorial Church in 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 are the benefits of the LVC program?
An LVC service experience can be defined in many ways: an opportunity to develop real-world skills through hands-on experience; an altruistic activity where a person gives for the benefit of another; time given to improve the quality of life for those served and the greater good… However you define it, each service program and experience is different. The LVC program provides a unique experience unparalleled by other programs, with the following benefits:
For people with a strong need to make positive change in communities, countries, or across the globe — entree into a social justice organization is an entree to understanding how nonprofits, advocacy, communities, and citizens interact and advance behind the scenes and front facing.
Opportunity to respond to a social justice calling, or learn more about social justice work, without needing prior experience.
Valuable building of employment-related skills for work after service.
Unique training/development around broad social justice topics and anti-racism/anti-oppression necessary for leadership competence.
Experience practicing the values of living with others in intentional community (commitment to supporting one another in daily living), simply and sustainably (intentionally using few resources).
Immediate ways to serve in leadership capacities with LVC after the service year, as mentors to Volunteers, on local support networks, and on national advisory networks.
The skill and development over the LVC service experience catapults a Volunteer’s full-time work preparedness; and instills values-based leadership principles for contribution to public and private life.
What is intentional community?
For the year program — As a “community” of four to seven individuals living in a house together, volunteers meet for community business and fun once a week. Each community also meets together 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 to live within the personal stipend each month. Because intentional community takes time and energy, full-year 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. Flex Semester/Virtual Volunteers will also consider community, living simply and sustainably when they come together to explore these values.
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 conversations weekly; and 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. Flex Semester/Virtual Volunteers might explore faith perspectives with their cohort without a spirituality mentor. 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 today is steeped in Lutheran traditions and theology — evidenced by the values of living in intentional community simply and sustainably — while being 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), as well as other service year programs. On this firm foundation Lutheran Volunteer Corps continues to grow and serve the community.
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 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. This emphasis means that an intentional part of the program is deeply exploring racism and other forms of oppression as a foundation for social justice, 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.
LVC now offers virtual Flex Semesters, as part of its 40th Anniversary re-invention, providing options for people that wish to participate for shorter terms without housing.
An LVC staff member serves as a support person to volunteers in each region. While helping Volunteers learn to navigate challenges on their own as a community, the LVC staff person facilitates understanding as a listening ear, conflict mediator, and liaison of communication between Volunteers, placements and staff. In addition, each city is building a Local Support Network composed of former volunteers (alumni), churches/pastors, host families, and friends. This group supplies information, addresses practical needs, and provides other resources for Volunteers — and local support in each city offers different resources. 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 annually.
LVC schedules retreats each year, providing time for Volunteers to meet with other Volunteers in their region for reflection, discussion, and recreation.
LVC also initiated Program Days in September 2020, featuring a different social justice topic each month, hosted by LVC and facilitated by experts, researchers, and practitioners on various topics.
Application Process & Requirements
What are the qualifications for being a volunteer?
Applicants must be 21 or older and self-motivated, mature, and stable. People from all skill backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Volunteers must be interested in social justice work; want to grow and engage with their housemates in intentional community or cohorts around community, living simply/sustainability, exploring spirituality, and social justice; and want to expand their anti-racism/anti-oppression and broad social justice skillset by participating in leadership learning experiences throughout the year. 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 encouraged to build new skills in all ways possible, and LVC will provide opportunities for Volunteers to engage and lead as the priorities shift annually.
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.
International Student Applicants: LVC welcomes applications from international students who are currently studying in the US, and as part of their education are living in the US. Due to visa extension requirements issued by US State Department and Immigration Services, all international applicants are required to take the necessary steps to secure their visa extension (LVC is unable to assist with this process). Please contact your on-campus international student office for assistance and read more information about F-1/OPT next steps on the U.S. Visa Guide, or International Students and Employment. You and your on-campus international student office should determine your eligibility, the process for participation, and steps to receive your Visa paperwork in time to start the LVC program (please be aware that in 2019, the Visa process for our international students took 4-6 months after application to receive approval).
Do you accept couples into LVC?
Yes, LVC accepts married couples and couples in committed relationships. Please submit a completed application for each individual noting your relationship, and desired LVC situation. Each applicant is accepted or denied based on their own merits.
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.
Does LVC welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender applicants?
LVC does not discriminate due to ethnicity, race, creed, age, culture, disability, economic class, gender identity, or sexual orientation. As a Reconciling in Christ organization, LVC strives to be actively welcoming and supportive of volunteers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Our culture of acceptance supports our “Journey to an Inclusive Community,” and we ask that our placements join us in this effort.
Does LVC welcome People of Color applicants?
LVC does not discriminate due to ethnicity, race, creed, age, culture, disability, economic class, gender identity, or sexual orientation. More importantly, our “Journey to an Inclusive Community” (JIC) means we seek to actively identify, recruit, welcome and include People of Color — and seek to increase representation within our program, staff, board, support networks, and placements.
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.
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.
Volunteers adhere to the vacation policies of their placement organizations and are granted a minimum of two weeks vacation per year if they serve with the year program; and less if they serve with the Flex Semester. LVC also has time for retreats or workshop days for volunteers; this is not counted within the vacation time.
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. Some houses are fairly new, while others are quite old.
Volunteers in the virtual Flex Semester program are not provided housing, and are expected to work virtually. (Note: virtual positions are limited. Most positions are in-person.)
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 (alumni) 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. In 2020, about 28% of volunteers continued 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.