Julianna Shults speaks on LYAC. Photo courtesy of Grace O’Neal.
By Grace O’Neal
Director of Christian Education and program manager of the Lutheran Young Adult Corps at Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Julianna Shults came to speak on campus during a Mission Minded Students meeting.
Shults provided insight into her own path on how she came to serve in her current role and provided students an opportunity to discover and consider the wide range of opportunities that comes with joining the Lutheran Young Adult Corps (LYAC).
Shults, originally not intending to become a DCE, felt led to take interest in the area after her first mission trip at age 14 to Mexico. Later on, during her senior year of high school, Shults told her family and friends of her desire to attend Concordia University Nebraska to become a Director of Christian Education (enrolled in the DCE program).
After 21 short-term mission trips, service in Florida, Chicago, Peru and China and obtaining her master’s degree in social justice and community development, Shults had found her niche. She worked in providing training in asset based community development, meaning she sought to find the positive elements of an underdeveloped community and build off of their strengths rather than looking at what was not working well. Her studies centered around what role churches played in this system and came to the conclusion that they provide a wide variety of services to the community, “assets being everything from a copy maker to the Gospel.”
Shults’ experiences in urban, international and domestic areas equipped her to take the call as program director for LYAC. The areas she has worked in have ranged from relatively safe areas to more dangerous and consequential regions.
“In places like St. Louis there’s been such a divide where money and privilege get you outside of the city and the city becomes this place where you try to avoid it,” Shults said.
The urban churches where Shults served would often be need-based in the area of volunteers to work on and accomplish tasks, big or small, and provide relief and aid to areas in which then the pastor or other members of the community would have the flexibility to focus on various tasks at hand.
LYAC, a part of national synodical headquarters, was born in order for communities to focus on their assets so they can self sustain and grow while giving its 18-26-year-old participants the opportunity to receive a supportive, personalized experience, housing, training, mentoring and skill development in urban ministry, Lutheran theology and life skills as well as an opportunity to live out faith. The core values of LYAC include faith, community and service and the participants spend either 10 weeks in the summer or 10 months as a gap year to be a unique and integral part of the urban ministry area they are assigned to.
LYAC is funded on donor dollars, so the cost to serve is nothing for the summer opportunity and about $1,000 of fundraised money to serve the gap year.
“I served for 10 months in St. Louis,” sophomore, member of Mission Minded Students and participant in the LYAC program Nathan Leonard said. “I was partnered up with a Lutheran church in the area (Messiah Lutheran) so I helped them with a community center that they were setting up in their neighborhood. In addition to that, I also worked in an after school care that the church was partnered with so I’d go there during the days and just hang out with the kids; help them prepare stuff or do activities with them.”
The after school care uses federal funding to run schools out of buildings but asks local churches to provide faith-based care. It is especially valuable because it offers access to both a quality school and Christ-based care to a low-income area. It allows them to reach at-risk students with the Gospel. Being able to use the building in such a meaningful way is a poignant example of how churches can serve their communities through literally any asset available.
Mission Minded Students encourages other students to consider joining their club to hear about more mission opportunties like LYAC.
“It gives an opportunity to experience missions and different cultures and to learn about what it means to be a follower of Christ whether its local missions, international missions, wherever God places them,” MMS leader sophomore Faith Armer said.