Do Your Students Need a Gap Year?


This week, Ed Stetzer posted an article/commercial explaining a gap year program sponsored by Wheaton college, and more broadly advocating for gap year programs in general. What do you think of gap years? Do you recommend them to your students and parents?


Structure and Purpose: Many students who ‘do’ gap years are not entering into specific programs, but are simply reacting to various factors ranging from financial difficulty (holding off on college to save money for something) to desires (want to travel, serve, grow in a specific skill, etc.) to simply feeling anxiety and lack of direction and not wanting to spend the increasing amount of money it costs to go to college without a definitive plan. Gap year effectiveness is greatly increased by some form of deep planning with specific, achievable goals that sets a student up for mature, healthy transition into the next stage of their life.

  • How might you and your students and parents work together to ascertain what healthy goals each stakeholder desires for a gap year?

Cost/Benefit: Cost of living, temptation, being left behind by friends, lack of support structures, and many other factors can negate the ‘worth’ of a gap year. Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about this concept if there were not a host of potential benefits as well. But these things need to be taken into account.

  • What are possible costs to taking a gap year for your students (even within a program)? How might your ministry continue to support students who are on gap years in your church, without simply extending their youth ministry experience?

Control: Gap year programs are not neutral; they are run by real people and are shaped by real theologies and philosophies. As a result, there may be disconnect between what a student believes they need and what parents believe they need. Parents can sometimes use programming to ‘fix’ perceived weaknesses in a student; this objectification is often felt and resented by the student. The decision to enter a specific gap year program must be a ready partnership, supported by both student and parents.

  • Do you have knowledge of gap year programs to help families select programs/options that all parties can get behind together?

ArticlesStephen Yates