Guide to Applying for an ESC Service Year

Every year, young adults from 21 to 32 are invited to apply to serve as a member of Episcopal Service Corps (ESC) for the upcoming service year. Understanding that applying can feel a bit overwhelming, this article is intended to help potential applicants understand the process.

The ESC application is based on an annual timeline beginning in the fall and has several components.

Prayer and a Call to Serve

Prayer is foundational to the life of ESC so every service year discernment process should begin and end with prayer practice. As each applicant engages the discernment and application tools below they, along with their families, friends, mentors, and spiritual leaders, are invited to join program directors and volunteers in ongoing prayer for recruitment and placement and for the well-being of the ESC network.

Here’s the ESC prayer for our common life:

Merciful God, you guide us each day by your grace and call us to create communities of faith, hope, and love in your name: Bless and uphold the ministry of Episcopal Service Corps and its member programs that we may do the work that you have given us to do, creating holy space in our communities for service, prayer, justice, and fellowship to your honor and glory and the coming of your holy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit on God now and forever. Amen.

We also invite you to pray for individual programs. Click here for our 2020-2021 prayer rota.

Discernment Quiz

Another resource for use during the application process is the optional Discernment Quiz, an online tool designed to help applicants consider the aspects of a service year that are important to them and to informally match them with programs that encompass their areas of interest.

“We tried really hard to get a good online quiz vibe,” said the Reverend Casey Dunsworth, a Lutheran Pastor, Campus Minister, and Program Director of Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network in California (on Sabbath for the coming year) and a member of the Episcopal Service Corps leadership Advisory Council. “The quiz is set up for applicants to indicate their interests and preferences and then the program names pop up that match those criteria. Applicants may well see the same program listed over and over. That’s a sign that might be a good fit.”

The quiz does not end with definitive ‘here’s where you should apply’ answers. It’s another tool for consideration as an applicant discerns their call to serve.

Open House

ESC hosts several Open Houses during the recruitment season to offer potential applicants an opportunity to meet current Corps members, alumni, and program directors and to hear directly from them about what a service year means. It’s also an opportunity to ask questions and hear responses from those who have served.

It’s a low-stress way to listen-in to the conversation and learn more about ESC. Anyone considering a service year is encouraged to join an Open House.

Common Application

The next step in discerning a service year is completing the ESC common application. Through this online form, applicants are asked to pick their top five ESC programs they would like to receive their application materials as well as respond to several open-ended short essay questions:

A Year of Service in an ESC Program incorporates a combination of living in community, intentional practice, local service, and vocational and spiritual discernment. Please describe what attracts you to an ESC Service Year.

In particular, what types of service opportunities interest you?

An ESC Service Year is 10-11 months in length. Describe a long-term commitment that you completed. What did you learn from that experience?

Describe your faith life and spiritual practices.

An “intentional community” is one in which all members commit to living together, sustaining healthy relationships, and creating and abiding by a Rule of Life— a living document that includes spiritual practices, practical guidelines on living together, and individual vocational and spiritual discernment. What does it mean to you to live in “intentional community”? How do you anticipate growing through this process? What challenges do you anticipate?

Describe a cross-cultural or significant transitional experiences you have had. What did you learn about yourself and how did you respond to a new situation? What made the cross-cultural or transitional experience meaningful?

The essay questions are not only meant to give programs a better picture of the applicant, but also to give the applicant a chance to really think about what it is they want from a service year.

The application also requests a resume and post-high school transcript as well as names/emails for 3 references.


Once an application is submitted, it is distributed to the five selected programs for consideration. Programs reach out to applicants within a week of receiving application materials to either set up a video interview or to decline moving forward. When applications are declined it is usually either because the applicant is outside the age range for ESC or the applicant’s qualifications do not match available site placements for that program.

“The interviews are a mutual discernment process,” said Denise Graber, program director for Circle of the Beloved in Minneapolis. “We ask targeted questions like ‘Give us a time when you succeeded’ and ‘How did it feel and why.’ ‘Talk to us about a time when you feel and what have you learned.’”

Some programs invite applicants to a second interview with board members or volunteers or with potential service site leadership.

After interviews are complete, programs wait for First Offer Friday (the first Friday in February) to make an offer.

After First Offer Friday, offers are made on a rolling basis and any applicant who does not receive an offer within 30 days of application may be contacted by an ESC program other than their top five with an invitation to consider serving through that program.


Applications are accepted until every program is full, which is usually sometime in June/July.


Have questions about the process of applying to serve through ESC? Check out ESC’s website,, or email us,