What is “The Gap Year?” This is a term that I recently heard and I asked myself the same question. Simply put, a gap year is when a student graduates high school and then takes a year to collect their thoughts and make their plans before catapulting themselves into the great beyond. See, that’s what the future feels like for many high school graduates; this great mysterious, ominous, abyss that used to loom beyond them but now looks them in the face and honestly, scares the crap out of them. The great, scary, beyond. Things like college majors and/or careers feel like permanent decisions that will set them in place for the rest of their lives; and to an extent they are. It’s probably wise for graduates who are unsettled or unsure about the course they want their life to take to step back, slow down, and take a breather. Take a gap year.
As a fellow youth leader, I know that once a student graduates and we go to their party and eat their cake, they technically become no longer our responsibility. But after years of pouring into their lives the burden that we have for them doesn’t go away. We still want to see their relationship with God grow deeper and for them to pursue His will for their futures.
If a student is unsure of their future I am a huge fan of a gap year (I took one myself), but I want for that gap year to be filled with purpose, guidance, and for it to come to an end with a plan and vision of destiny. What I don’t want is for it to be a year of Netflix, squander, and indecisiveness which turns into two, and then three, and then a lifetime of purposeless wandering.
An awesome way to add purpose to a gap year is by being trained up and involved in ministry. There’s an old saying that it’s easier to steer a moving vehicle. We see this in Genesis 12 when God directs Abram to get up and START MOVING to a place that He WOULD show him. I believe that when someone musters faith to take a year to pursue God and do His work, they learn to hear His voice and are more likely to hear His direction for their next step.
Two great ways for a “year gapper” to start moving are missions trips and Bible school. Both provide spiritual training, experience, and the opportunity (and need) to pursue God and hear His voice. Elim Bible Institute & College offers a one year program, with a concentration called Crossroads, which is designed specifically for the purpose of finding the direction of your next step. Students can check out the school ahead of time too by attending a Discovery Days, where they can stay on campus, go to classes, and learn about the programs, finances, etc. The next Discovery Days weekendcoincides with Saturate, so your teens can get the best of the conference and a taste of the school in one trip.
Elim Fellowship’s Global Ministries Department also has a conference on October 29-31 called Ethnos. This conference is intended to equip missions minded people with the steps they need to be launched onto the missions field. They have a great line up of experienced missionaries to encourage young people spiritually, as well as 10 practical steps to get going and organizations with planned trips ready to be taken.
If you have any students in mind (I know I have a few), who are seeking direction after graduation, or feel overwhelmed by the future, check out these links for Discovery Days and Ethnos. And if you have any great ideas for not becoming stagnant in a gap year, leave them in the comments below!
By day Nikki is the receptionist and youth administrator at Elim Fellowship, and by night she is the youth director at Living Waters Church in LeRoy, NY. She loves laughing, summer camp, feeding people,and going on adventures with her fiance, Alex. Her passion is to inspire people (especially teens) to move out of their comfort zones to hear and then follow God's still small voice wherever He leads.