Mennonite Voluntary Service is shifting responsibilities to individual units as it transitions from a program model to a network model.
Under the new model, units assume administrative and payroll duties.
MVS director Marisa Smucker said the changes do not mean Mennonite Mission Network is “giving away” MVS. The goal is to give units and congregations more autonomy and flexibility, freeing MVS to envision and adapt new ways of ministering in communities.
Many things in MVS will continue. MMN will provide recruitment and application processes, spiritual direction, harassment prevention and safety training, among other things. Students will continue to receive student loan scholarships to make the transition from MVS to the workforce easier.
Orientation and retreat will continue. Through the new network model, these activities will be expanded to include not just participants but also people closely connected to the unit communities.
“While we know it can be hard to implement change, we are optimistic about the future,” Smucker said.
Nine active MVS units continue. The Seattle unit closed last fall. The Kansas City unit had no participants this year and is closing. An online celebration will be May 9. The unit in Elkhart, Ind., has one remaining participant and will close after that term ends at an unknown date due to COVID-19.
Congregations supporting units that are closing told MWR declining numbers of volunteers drove their decisions.
During online meetings March 27-28, local MVS leaders shared concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their units.
The national MVS office has given no mandate for units to close due to COVID-19. However, MMN has recommended units encourage participants to work from home.
Since early March, many participants have developed work-from-home practices with their placements and continue to serve. So far, seven participants have returned home. Some of these participants are continuing placement work from there.