Does Your Faith-Based Gap Year Program Have Gaps? Here’s How to Know

Maybe your faith-based gap year program is in need of a complete overhaul. Maybe it’s in great shape and just want to dial it up a level. Wherever you find yourself, we have experience in helping ministry leaders like you fill the gaps in their gap year program. Here we’ll walk you through the three areas where most programs will find at least a few holes.

Mission: The “Why” of Your Faith-Based Gap Year Program

The biggest area of concern for any faith-based gap year program is a clear mission. These questions will help you discern if you are missing clarity and purpose.

What is the mission of your organization?
This is the first question you must ask yourself before you even consider updating or changing anything in your faith-based gap year program. Most ministries that offer a gap year program have other projects and programs going on as well. Knowing why any of it exists will be vital to bringing your gap year program into alignment. Without a clear, organization-wide mission it is impossible to know if any of the changes that you make will move you forward in the right direction. Once you can articulate this mission, ask yourself if anything has shifted–either in the broader organization or the program–since the program was initiated.

How does this program fit within that mission?
Next you need to consider how your faith-based gap year program helps the broader organization achieve its mission. Does your program feel like it’s in a silo? Then you might be lacking clarity on this question.

What is the mission of the gap year program?
Knowing your overall mission and the part that the gap year program is meant to play should then help you clarify exactly what mission the program itself should aim for. But you will have to fill the gaps listed above to get clarity here.

Target: The “Who” of Your Faith-Based Gap Year Program

Next, it’s time to dig down into the mission of your faith-based gap year program, even further, by defining exactly who you intend to serve, train, or develop.

Who does this program aim to serve?
Think through the sort of person that you want to see come through your program. This could be a question about demographics. This could also be a question about finding leadership caliber people or young people still searching for their purpose in life. Having an unclear picture here, could leave big gaps in your marketing, program design, and outcomes.

This is one area we’ve seen that requires regular evaluation and calibration over time. Depending on your goal for the gap program and how it is woven into your program and staffing strategy — in addition to its missional purpose — you will find that finding and filtering applicants gets dramatically easier when you have clarity here. And you will likely find that who God brings to your program from year to year will demand programmatic adjustments over time.

What do you hope they will do upon completion?
Now imagine the above group of people completing your faith-based gap year program. What do you hope they will do next? If you do not have clarity here, you will struggle to build a complete curriculum. Your graduates might end up with gaps in their skills and knowledge base, as a result. For faith-based gap year programs in particular, many students enroll hoping to find clarity for their life’s direction through the course of the program. A key goal you will likely want to help them achieve, then, is finding that direction. You will also want to weave in a lot of foundational skills that are useful in a broad range of next steps (university, trade school, workforce, etc.).

Where will your students serve God in the future?
Faith-based gap year programs tend to attract students who have not yet answered this question themselves. You want to build a program that is sensitive to this reality. Thinking through the broad range of places where the Lord may take them can help make sure your program focuses on foundational skills that travel well into all the places that God might send them.

Objectives: The “What” of Your Faith-Based Gap Year Program

Knowing what your mission is, who you are trying to train, and where you are trying to send them, you can now clarify the objectives that will get them there. Here’s what you need to think through:

What do you want each student to know?
Most students enrolled faith-based gap year programs are still discovering God’s specific call on their lives. Think through what they need to know in order to discover that calling. Compare what your program currently offers with what a student might need to find clarity in their life. Are you missing anything?

Who do you want them to be?
Think outside of the classroom and ask yourself what kind of person you want each graduate to become. What is their character like? What traits will they be known for? This question gets missed more often than not in many other environments. But Christian gap year programs are particularly well suited to fill this gap. While your students may still be figuring out their future career, personal spiritual formation and character development will travel well regardless of which life path they end up following.

What do you want them to be able to do?
This is the set of skills or tools that your graduates will leave your program with. It may also be things like get a job or complete a degree. Essentials like active critical thinking, problem solving, financial management, and biblical decision making, are value multipliers across the full range of potential next steps, from college to the workforce. And the opportunity to cement these “soft skills” in real situations with personalized coaching is a huge advantage.

If you are hoping to connect your Christian gap year program to higher education institutions, there are some keys to shaping and writing your objectives that can enable your program to offer college credit to your students. Offering credit can dramatically increase the likelihood that your students go on to successfully complete a degree and saves them money. Be sure to consult with a partner like Eleven:6 who can help you craft these appropriately.

Faith-based gap year programs can be a key launching pad for many students to find their mission and prepare for the next stage of their life. Filling in your program’s gaps can make a big difference in how prepared they are for what comes next.

For over twenty years, Eleven:6 has been helping ministry leaders build immersive training programs that can also earn students credit towards a degree. If you are working to make this transition, then schedule a call with us, today.