10 Things you need to know about YAV

  1. YAV stands for Young Adult Volunteers.

The Young Adult Volunteer Program is a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and is a year long service program open to young adults, ages 19-30. YAVs serve at sites all across the United States and even internationally! YAVs serve communities in need for one academic year while living in intentional Cristian community and discerning God’s call for their lives.


  1. You don’t have to be a Presbyterian to be a YAV.

The YAV program is run by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) but you don’t have to be a Presbyterian to spend a year as a YAV! YAVs should have a desire to live in intentional Christian community as they serve and deepen their faith, but identification with the Presbyterian denomination is not required.


  1. The YAV program operates on 5 core tenants:
  • Intentional Christian Community
  • Simple Living
  • Cross-Cultural Mission
  • Leadership Development through Faith in Action
  • Vocational Discernment

The multifaceted nature of the YAV program is a big part of what drew me to apply and accept a placement for a year of service. YAVs are exposed to issues such as poverty, violence, natural disaster, gender and social issues, and much more. As they face and explore these complicated issues, it is important that YAVs examine how these issues reach beyond the community they are serving and into their own lives.

  1. There are service sites all over the U.S and abroad!

The YAV program works with partners in communities in need across the U.S. and all over the world. Each site caters to the needs of their community and will focus on different issues, giving YAVs at each site a slightly different experience.  Housing is provided for all sites either on site or nearby, and in some cases with a host family.


  1. You have a say in your placement.

The YAV program uses a mutual discernment process to decide where each YAV will serve. This means that the needs of each site are considered alongside the YAVs interests and strengths. It is important to keep an open mind as you go through the discernment process. I wasn’t considering Little Rock as a possibility until it was suggested as a good fit for me. After interviewing with the site coordinator, I fell in love with their program and have accepted a placement in Little Rock at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center. The YAV staff have placed many people and know what they are doing, trust the process and consider every option presented.


  1. YAV is not a program for voluntourism.

YAVs will live in and explore a new city during their year of service, but traveling to a new city is not the end goal of the YAV program. Each YAV will immerse themselves in the culture of the community they serve and live in communion with its members. The programs focus on simple living aims to have YAVs live at a similar socioeconomic level as the people they will be serving, helping YAVs understand and be connected to the community they serve. The goal is to deepen your faith, learn how to fight for justice, and discern God’s call, not get a free trip across the country.

  1. You don’t have to speak another language to serve in another country.

There are many international service sites in the YAV program but you do not have to speak a second language to serve there! Some sites do require a willingness to learn the native language, and at many sites(both nationally and internationally) a second language may be helpful, but do not let it be a barrier that keeps you from stepping out of your comfort zone!

  1. Being a volunteer doesn’t mean you can’t buy groceries.

The Young Adult Volunteer program is just that, a volunteer program, meaning that YAVs are not paid during their year of service. However, living expenses are covered including room and board, transportation, and a living stipend. Health insurance and student loan assistance are also available to all YAVs. The living stipend will be different at each site, as this is designed to have each YAV live at a similar socio-economic level as the community they are serving.

  1. Yes there is fundraising, but no, it’s not scary.

YAVs are required to fundraise to help cover the costs of their year of service. International YAVs are required to raise $5,000 and national YAVs are required to raise $4,000. Fundraising is an important way to gather a community of support, financially and in prayer, as you carry out your year of service. YAVs are also required to write a blog to stay in touch with those who are supporting them!

Fundraising Tree

  1. A YAV year is more than just a year of serving others!

Service is a huge part of your year of service but a YAV year will be so much more than that! A YAV year is a fun and challenging way to step out of your comfort zone, deepen your faith, practice justice, and discern God’s call in your life!


If you are interested in more information about the YAV program or are considering pursuing a YAV year yourself, visit their website at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/yav/.


For more information about my journey as I begin and carry out my YAV year in Little Rock visit my blog at KristenSommerfeld.wordpress.com.


Kristen Sommerfeld
Senior Animal Science Major
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville