Directors of Mennonite Mission Network's service programs reflect on how service opportunities pave a stronger pathway for the future Anabaptist church. Five options for service through Mission Network include:
• SOOP (Service Opportunities with Our Partners): Participants use their gifts and skills to work alongside others in a network of ministries across the church. Flexibly designed for retirees, adults 25+, and families.
• Youth Venture: Participants aged 15 to 22 join with other young people for up to three weeks to serve, learn, worship, and build relationships in local communities around the world. They discover and experience the transformational work God is doing across the globe.
• Service Adventure: High-school graduates 17 to 20 seeking a gap year between high school and college invest in faith formation and grow in leadership while spending 10 months with peers and unit leaders in a household that relates to a local community and congregation.
• MVS (Mennonite Voluntary Service): Participants aged 20+ join with peers in intentional community for up to three years to serve with a local nonprofit while plugging into their neighborhood and local congregation.
• DOOR: Participants aged 13 to 30 engage within a faith-based network of cities that provides opportunities for service, learning, and leadership development within the urban context. Its programs include Discover (one week/ weekend) and Discern (summer leader).
Question: What are the important gifts that Mission Network's service programs contribute to the wider church?
Director of SOOP and Youth Venture
Time and time again, I have seen SOOPers offer their gifts and skills in ministry across the church, and in turn be transformed by the experience. For many participants, working with marginalized populations for the first time shatters their preconceived notions, and they take these learnings back to their homes and churches.
Director of Service Adventure
I think that Mission Network's service programs strengthen the mission capacity of the church. For example, if a high-school graduate takes a gap year with Service Adventure, they make significant connections across the church as well as better identify their strengths and gifts. New mentors can help nurture aspects of participants' giftedness that longtime family and church family may not perceive because of familiarity.
Director of Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS)
There are many examples across the United States where MVS units turn into congregations. Post-service, participants sometimes remain in the unit's community and form a congregation from their ongoing fellowship. Additionally, MVS sometimes ushers its participants into a better fit for their gifts and they switch career aspirations. MVS is also often the first time a young adult has found a sense of centralized community that can endure for a lifetime.
DOOR executive director
The world is hurting, and our DOOR programs operate in our city centers where people are looking for God, love, friendship, connection, purpose and investment. DOOR helps with that, because its greatest assets are its people. For example, during the summer months, DOOR connects church groups with ways to love and serve their neighbors within communities that are needing volunteers.