UPDATE: To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 the MVS local leaders' gathering will now be held virtually instead of in person as previously stated.
ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – Mennonite Voluntary Service staff and local unit leaders plan to gather Mar. 27-28 for the annual local leaders' gathering in Elkhart, Indiana. This opportunity is always a time to hear from local units, support one another, and present new initiatives.
This year presents a unique opportunity to help shape the future of MVS, as the program undergoes some internal restructuring.
Marisa Smucker, interim MVS director, shared about the visioning for MVS. As MVS continues to be a resource for service opportunities and adjusts to the realities of how people are choosing to serve, the goal is to provide a network that will have more autonomy, flexibility and creativity for local units as they continue serving alongside their communities. This opens the possibility for new partnerships that maybe couldn't happen before and refocuses the agency goal to resource and encourage local units. Such resourcing might be assisting with human resource processing, providing resources through webinars, coaching, assisting with raising support, etc. And through Mennonite Mission Network, MVS will continue to promote service that has been valued over the years based on our Anabaptist values.
Smucker clarified that as MVS moves from a program model to a network model, Mission Network is not "giving away" MVS. These changes are only meant to expand the possibilities for local units so they can explore opportunities in unique and creative ways.
While this allows for more flexibility and autonomy for the local units, it does mean that local units and congregations are asked to take on the employer role – holding insurance, payroll, and workers comp.
"While we know it can be hard to implement change, we are optimistic about the future." said Smucker.
Throughout MVS's 75-year history, units have gone on sabbatical or closed. Built into the handbook of the MVS program are policies for beginning, times of sabbatical, and ending of units. This year, the Elkhart, Kansas City, and Seattle units have decided not to continue being MVS hosting congregations.
Smucker shared, "We recognize that beginnings and endings are part of the natural rhythm of ministry. Those choices are always difficult but made with careful discernment and gratitude."
MVS has and will continue to provide opportunities for participants to experience faith, service and community in new ways, and for giving congregations the freedom to cultivate those opportunities in their communities.
Sandy Miller, senior executive of Resourcing and Mobilization, said, "Mennonite Mission Network is committed to walking with local units through these changes, and looks forward to new partnerships in the future."