Faith Based Organizations Can Use AmeriCorps Alums!
Today’s guest post comes from Elizabeth Cronlund (AmeriCorps ’06, ’07)
Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) are a large part of the Third Sector and, for many AmeriCorps Alums, they may be the next step in a lifelong career in service to others. Some of the earliest legislation for charitable work charged the church with caring for those in distress (Elizabethan Poor Laws). Today, many 501c3 organizations are still faith-based. This is no surprise since there is such a natural connection between faith and service.
When it comes down to it, FBOs are nonprofit businesses. They have the same struggles that other organizations do. Beyond the reality of limited budgets and resources, all nonprofits are looking to create a dynamic team to tackle the barriers they face on behalf of their clients. Each organization needs people who are uniquely skilled critical thinkers who can adapt quickly and are willing to work hard. Sound like anyone you might know?
As an Americorps Alum, you have gained the benefit of a macro-view of the nonprofit world and skills that make you a fierce competitor for jobs across different fields in for-profit and non-profit businesses.
As a professional in vocational ministry, I can tell you, FBOs need more folks who have practical skills and non-profit know how that an experience like AmeriCorps and National Service can arm you with. FBOs are partnering with government agencies and other nonprofits to accomplish bigger goals. In the last decade there has been a decentralization and disbursement of federal resources to more local agencies through political action as well as incentive and grant programs (The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships). This is where FBOs shine. Churches and FBOs are in the heart of the communities and know the needs and assets of those communities better than a distant federal program. So right now is a great time to join in this movement as it grows.
For many folks, vocational ministry may not be where they are drawn, but if your drive to serve is in any way connected to your faith, I encourage you to seriously think about whether or not you are called to vocational ministry or a career with a Faith Based Organization. I say called, because like much of the work in the nonprofit sector, it will be some of the most difficult work you will ever pour yourself into. With the added faith factor, you will also have your faith and heart challenged constantly. You are guaranteed a heaping share of heartbreak and frustration. But I also guarantee it will result some of the most rewarding, life-giving work you will ever invest your life into.
If this sounds like a challenge you want to take on, the best first step is to find organizations that works within a cause or community you’re fired up about (a good place to start is your place of worship and community). Once you’ve done some research on each, volunteer with them if they have something available. Faith-based organizations, just like a family, want to know you well on a personal level before they let you care for the ones they love. If there isn’t an immediate opportunity to volunteer, request a meeting with the person whose job description at the organization best fits your skillset and passions and ask if you could learn more about what they do and how they got into the work they do. Each type of career path has different ways of breaking into the field, so find someone who can help you learn the ropes.
Some faith-based organizations will post to nonprofit job boards and that can be a place to start. But the reality is that most FBOs, especially Churches, do not do broad recruitment and prefer those who are a part of their community or recommended by members of their community. Word of mouth within their network is how open jobs are filled. Also, with many organizations, once someone proves their competency and effectiveness towards an area of need for the community, that is when an organization will create space and shift resources to invest into a paid position for that person.
Vocational Ministry and careers with FBOs are not easy to land, but genuine care, relationships, determination, and a heap-load of prayer will help lead you on the right path.
To learn more:
Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ofbnp
Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) http://www.ccda.org/index.php
Christian Service Charities https://www.christianservicecharities.org/charities.php?gclid=CJTssIqFvLgCFVNo7AodExYAlQ