Derek Melleby is director of academics for the OneLife Institute, a gap-year program based at Lancaster Bible College. He is also an associate staff member with the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and the Coalition for Christian Outreach. He lives in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, with his wife and three sons.
Why a Gap Year?
Gap-year programs are growing for graduates. In fact, they are a valuable next step for a large number of young people. There are lots of programs out there and it is not always easy to know which ones are worth a young person’s time. My friend Derek Melleby, author of Making College Count, is the director of academics for one of the best gap-year programs in the country. Below is a guest post from Derek. Check out OneLife’s website and consider bringing awareness to this powerful opportunity to your juniors and seniors and their families. – Shane Stacey, director of ReachStudents.
It’s that time of year. Many students will be graduating from our youth groups and many may not have a clue what they will be doing next year. Listen up, youth pastors. You can be a HERO to parents and students by letting them know about a growing trend: Christian gap-year programs!
David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith, is a must read for helping the church think more deeply about how to reach young people with the gospel. The last chapter of the book features 50 ideas from 50 different leaders. Contributors were asked to consider these questions: How can we prepare the next generation to live meaningfully and follow Jesus wholeheartedly in these changing times? And how can the next generation rise to the challenge of revitalizing the Christian community for our mission to and in the broader culture?
Here was my suggestion: Take a Gap Year
Taking a gap year before college creates a remarkable opportunity for students to think more deeply and intentionally about the person God is calling him or her to be. Many students who struggle in college do so because they are not able to articulate reasons or explain goals for going to college. College has become the assumed next step after high school, with very little thought about why.
A growing trend among Christian camps, churches and parachurch ministries is to provide a gap-year experience for students that forces them out of the routine of “schooling” and into a deeper relationship with God. These residential programs typically last nine months; focus on worldview, identity and service; and
include a cross-cultural experience. While not for everyone, many students who participate in gap-year programs are far more prepared for the transition into college and adulthood.
As followers of Christ, we are challenged to “not conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). This is a reminder that the church is shaped by a different story with a different definition of success. Too many students and parents allow the “world’s story” to direct their higher education decisions and fail to think critically and biblically about the best steps for life after high school. Participating in a gap-year program is a helpful way to counter this trend.
Here are a few more resources to learn more about this growing trend:
Video: Why OneLife?