SERVE TEAM FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

HOUSING

Is housing provided?

Yes, the majority of our volunteers live with English host families from the church where they are based. A small number of volunteers live together in houses or flats provided by their host church.

What will my hosts be like?

Our hosts are typically families or married couples. Some are older and some are younger, but all of them are Christians from the local churches we partner with. We like our volunteers to live with hosts because it provides you with an extra level of support to get you through the year. Living in a host home gives the feeling of being part of a family, and that can be very valuable when you are far from home.

Where will my host home be?

We do our very best to house our volunteers as close as possible to the communities they’ll be working in, because incarnational mission is something we feel passionately about. Firstly, it creates greater opportunities to get to know young people when you run into them in the supermarket or out in the town. But it also sends a powerful message to young people and their families that you value where they live enough to become a part of their community.

Will I live with the same hosts for the whole year?

Some host families are able to commit to hosting a volunteer for the whole year, but others are only able to commit to shorter periods of time like 3-6 months. You may end up living with 2 or 3 families from your church over the course of the year, depending on circumstances.

When will I find out who my hosts are?

When possible, we will put volunteers in touch with their hosts before they get here. We can’t say that this will always be the case- some of our partner churches find it harder than others to find available hosts, so we may be working out the details of your accommodation until just before you arrive.

Will I have my own room in my host home?

Yes, we ask that all of our hosts have space for the volunteer to have a room to themselves.

Does Tees Valley Youth for Christ have any expectations about my behaviour in my host home?
We expect you to treat your hosts as part of your mission for the year, and to have a servant heart when it comes to how you treat them. This means helping around the house without having to be asked, keeping your room clean, helping with the dishes, and generally being considerate!

TRAVEL

What is the best way to travel to Teesside?
The closest airports to us are Durham Tees Valley and Newcastle. Manchester and London have the biggest UK airports, so it may be easier to find flights there that suit your needs. From Manchester and London, the train will bring you up to the North East. Trains from Manchester to Teesside are generally less expensive than trains from London.
Why isn’t the cost of travel included in the price of the year?
As the price of flights changes so regularly, it would be difficult to say exactly how much they would cost. Also, we want to give you the choice as to whether you visit home at Christmas or whether you stay in the UK through the whole year. We also know that for some people their family members work for airlines, or have frequent flyer miles to use, and we don’t want to build in costs when you could save some money.
When should I book my flights?
We strongly advise that you wait until your visa application has been approved before you book a flight. We don’t want you to have to pay extra fees to make changes if your visa hasn’t arrived before you planned to fly.
How will I get around while I am there?

The public transportation system is excellent, and you can typically get a bus or train to anywhere you need to be. Occasionally our team members who drive will be able to help with rides, but we do expect volunteers to learn to get themselves around. You will probably walk more during year than you ever have before!

Will there be breaks when I can go home or travel to other parts of the UK/Europe?
Yes, you will get two weeks off during the Christmas holidays, with an additional 11 days plus bank holidays to take throughout the year. You will need to arrange your times off with your church placement before you decide to travel anywhere. You may also have opportunities to travel with Tees Valley Youth for Christ or with your host church/family.

SERVE TEAM YEAR

What does a typical week look like for a SERVE Team member?
Each one of our teams looks a little different when it comes to their weekly schedule and the types of work they do. The basic structure is:

  • Monday mornings: meet with the Tees Valley Youth for Christ team for worship and prayer
  • Weekdays: schools and community work with your team
  • Evenings and weekends: help to lead youth and children’s activities at your host church
What does schools work involve?
Some of our teams spend the whole week in a single school, while other teams go into 3-4 schools per week. This is usually a combination of primary and secondary schools. They might be teaching lessons, leading assemblies, providing classroom support, leading lunch time/after school clubs, delivering mentoring sessions, coaching sports teams, or doing anything else we can use as a way to engage with young people in a school setting. If you have a particular skill or hobby, you might be able to use it to start a new club or get involved with activities that are already going on in the school.
Why do Tees Valley Youth for Christ focus on schools work?

We believe that relationships are key to seeing young people come to know Jesus. Going into the schools creates opportunities to build relationships with young people in their own environment. Whether your team ends up leading a lesson or simply being around at break time, we have an incredible chance to show young people what Jesus looks like through how we treat them. Many of the young people you will meet in schools come from difficult home situations, and you might be the only person who asks them how they’re doing that day. We want our volunteers to be salt and light in every school they walk into, and so much of this comes down to small, everyday encounters with students and staff. Hopefully occasions to invite them to events like café church or a youth club will organically come up, so that you can build on the foundations established in school.

I heard that the UK schools run year round?
The UK does operate a year-long school calendar, with time off spread throughout the year. Every six weeks the schools break up for a week (this is called half-term), and there are two-week breaks at Christmas and Easter. The summer holidays are six weeks long, and go from mid-July to the end of August.
What will my role with my church placement look like?

Your host church will be where you worship on Sundays and your primary church community while you are here. The majority of the churches we work with have a youth worker on staff, and you will be working with them to run youth and children’s activities. This will probably be a mix of activities for young people who attend the church, and outreach events for those who live in the community. Some of the churches we work with don’t have a youth worker, and your role would be focused more on developing youth activities for the church. We tend to place older, more experienced volunteers in these type of placements.

What is Café Church and will I be involved?

Café Church meets in coffee shops across Teesside in different locations each week. It’s an informal setting to invite young people to where they will get to experience elements of worship and testimony in a non-church setting. Tees Valley Youth for Christ works with local churches to run Café Church, and we encourage our team members to get involved by leading worship, sharing their stories, or simply being around to talk to people.

What will my host church be like?

We work with churches of many denominations, sizes, styles, and backgrounds. You may be placed with a host church that looks very different to your church at home. Even if it looks very similar, you will be experiencing church in a new cultural context which can take some getting used to. This is part of the SERVE Team, and we want you to learn and grow from the church that you’re placed with. All of the churches we work with are committed to following Jesus and seeing others come to know Him. That’s why they want volunteer youth workers in their churches- to have extra help to be able to do so! Another aspect of the experience is learning to work in a church, and not just attend. You could be leading a Sunday School class or helping in some other way during the service, which means that you will need to seek out opportunities to be poured into and spend time with God yourself. We recommend that each SERVE Team member starts spiritually preparing themselves for this as soon as you know you’re coming, as you will definitely have to rely on God more deeply!

Will there be many people my age in my host church?

Honestly, there will most likely be very few. With generations practically missing from the church in the UK, Christians in their teens and 20s are the exception, not the rule. For some of our volunteers who have come from thriving youth groups or university ministries, this can definitely be a hard adjustment to make. However, the congregations we work with are great! You will have the opportunity to get to know Christians from different walks of life who will be able to pour into you spiritually, and who will be a support system to you while you’re here. We do recognise the need for community with Christians of a similar age, which is why we put such a focus on our Monday team meetings and encourage our volunteers to set up accountability groups together.

Do the churches in Teesside ever work together?
Yes! We are so excited to see churches working in unity to reach their towns and villages for Christ. Groups of youth workers from different churches who work in similar areas and schools have teamed up to work together to make an even bigger impact on their young people. Also, a number of ministers locally meet to support and pray with each other every week.
How do you decide which team and church I will be placed with?

We spend a lot of time prayerfully considering where to place each SERVE Team member. We think through personality, gifts, experience, age/gender, the needs and work of the churches, and the overall dynamics of each team. Sometimes friends will choose to apply to the SERVE Team at the same time. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that you will be placed on the same team or in towns that are near to each other. Similarly, if you have been on a mission trip to Teesside in the past, we may or may not place you in the same church/town that you have visited.

How many people will be on my team?

Ideally, every team should have at least two SERVE team members, although there may be a few months of the year where this is not the case if we are waiting on additional volunteers to join us at the next intake. Our bigger teams have 3-4 members; it depends on how many churches in an area choose to host volunteers that year.

What type of training is provided at the start of the year?

We begin the year with two weeks of training as a whole team, and specifically focus on getting ourselves ready for the year ahead. Every morning we start with worship and a Bible study, and then spend the rest of the day in different seminars. This past year, our training covered:

  • The basics of UK youth work
  • Practical workshops- how to plan and lead lessons, assemblies, after school clubs, and individual talks
  • Youth work contexts- working in schools, churches, communities, and mentoring situations
  • Team dynamics & Enneagram Types
Is there any on-going training during the year?

Yes, we build time in to your schedules every month to provide additional training or relevant and topical issues. Our staff and volunteer team are also all very willing and able to meet with you one-on-one should you ever need help or guidance.

What is the conference in January like?
During the first week of the school term in January, all of the Youth for Christ centres from across the UK come together for a time of worship and teaching. It’s exciting to get to see how Tees Valley fits into the wider picture of the Youth for Christ movement, and is an excellent time to recharge and spend some quality time with God and the team before diving back into work. There are usually services in the morning and evening, and the opportunity to attend different seminars during the day.
Is there a dress code for schools work?
You will need to look professional to go into schools as a representative of Tees Valley Youth for Christ and your host church. How the school perceives us as youth workers can make an impact on what we are allowed to do in the schools. All UK schools have uniforms, and many of the schools locally have adopted blazers and ties in the past couple of years. It would be inappropriate for you to turn up in jeans and a t-shirt when the students are dressed so smartly.
What do SERVE Team members do about phones while they are in the UK?

The majority of our volunteers bring their US cell phones with them, and have them unlocked in the US. This way you can insert  a sim card from a UK mobile phone company. Alternatively, you can buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you get here. You will need to use a pay-as-you-go plan because you won’t have a UK bank account or proof of address to set up a contract. There are some great deals around, where you might pay £10-15 per month for unlimited texts, etc.

FINANCES

How much does the year cost, and what is included?

Before you join the SERVE Team, you’ll need to pay £3000 to Tees Valley Youth for Christ to cover your housing, food, training, and admin costs. On top of this, we recommend that you raise at least £3000 to cover your in-country costs (phone credit, local transport, and around £20 per week spending money). This will be enough to live off of, but you will need to be careful with your spending. We do recommend you raise more than £3000 but that is up to you. If for any reason you depart early from the UK all funds contributed to Tees Valley Youth for Christ will remain with the charity.

What isn’t included in the cost of the year?
The costs of your visa, health surcharge, international travel, and FBI background check aren’t included in the £6000. Any travelling that you might want to do around the UK/Europe is also your responsibility to pay for.
Can individuals commit to supporting me monthly?

Yes, a number of our volunteers have monthly supporters. We suggest that this goes towards your £3000+ that covers monthly expenses. If for any reason you depart early from the UK all funds contributed to Tees Valley Youth for Christ will remain with the charity.

Who can I contact with questions about finances?
Our treasurer, John Belmont, can help with any questions about finances. His email address is johnbelmont.tvyfc@gmail.com

VISAS

Will I need a visa to travel to the UK?

Yes, depending on the length of time you commit to serving with us, anyone coming from outside of the UK or Europe will need either a Tier 5 charity worker or Tier 5 religious worker visa.

Will Tees Valley Youth for Christ help me through the visa application process?
Yes, when the time comes to apply for your visa we will send you detailed information about how to go through each step of the process, and we can help to answer any questions you may have.
What does the visa application process look like?
The first thing we’ll do is issue a certificate of sponsorship that basically just says you’re coming to work for Tees Valley Youth for Christ and what you’ll be doing with us. You’ll then complete a visa application online, and at the end you’ll be asked to make a biometrics appointment. This is an appointment to have your fingerprints and photos taken. Once you’ve been for your appointment, your completed visa application gets mailed off and the wait begins!
How long will it take for my visa application to be approved?
Currently, the UK Border Agency says that it is processing 99% of Tier 5 applications within 15 working days. Things can get delayed if you haven’t completed your paperwork properly or included the right size photos; the Border Agency will typically contact you to request that you send the right information to them before they can proceed with processing your application.
Is there a priority service for visa applications?

Yes, if you have applied late in the year and need to process your visa application quickly, there is a priority service available to purchase at extra cost whereby the Border Agency will put your application on the top of the processing pile as soon as they receive it.

What type of background check will I need?

We ask every volunteer coming from the US to obtain an FBI background check through the Live Scan service to confirm their place in the program. At your appointment, you will have your fingerprints taken digitally and sent off to the FBI. This service costs around $50, and results generally take up to a week to come back. Once we have received your background check and other paperwork, your place on the SERVE Team will be secure.

I had my fingerprints taken at my biometrics appointment for my visa, do I need to get them taken again for my background check?
Yes, your visa application and FBI background check are separate and you will need to be fingerprinted twice.

Any Questions?

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