Gap Year Options: Making Your Life Matter
We live in a world where our ethics and values are being tested and challenged on a daily basis. In South Africa alone, one can walk from a community of destitute, needy people into a suburb that boasts an abundance of wealth. Within these opposite realms of life, there is a tendency to numb oneself to the harshness of this reality.
But as Christians, we cannot ignore the fact that we have been called to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16), to clothe those who are naked (Matthew 25:37-40), and to be a vehicle of God’s love to every person (Matthew 28:16-20).
YOUNG PEOPLE WITH VISION
For young adults, this opportunity to fulfil the role of bringing God’s love to people is even more pressing. Young adults have the benefit of having a host of energy, time availability, and a deep-rooted passion to make an impact on the world.
They desire to live lives that matter and this intent, coupled with a God who is passionate about His Creation, results in an explosive team.
CONSIDERING THE OPTIONS
It is important to know what you want when considering a gap year. Too many people waste their post-matric year sitting at home on a couch watching cartoons - because they don’t know exactly what they aim to achieve. Leadership coach John Maxwell once said, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”. Teenagers who do not plan what to do in their gap year, will waste this opportunity.
Parents may feel extremely negative towards a gap year, seeing visions of their lazy teenager sleeping till noon for 12 months - however a gap year can actually be the best thing for your child, if you help them identify their intentions for the year ahead. There is nothing worse than a young adult being forced to study at varsity for several years (only to drop out after thousands of rands have been spent) because a parent forced them to ‘do something’ after school.
KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT
Instead of pushing your teen towards tertiary education for the sake of getting a degree, rather consider what they want out of life, how they can discover their purpose in Christ and make a success of the skills and talents God has given them. Many people have gone on to study the right degree for them and achieve great things in their lives after a year of ‘discovering themselves’.
Investigate the various Christian and secular options, weigh up the value vs the outcome. Pray about the choice together and you will get the right answer! There are various options people can undertake for a gap year. In this feature, we will explore some of them, including: Extreme adventure leadership programmes, internships, Bible Colleges and overseas trips abroad.
Each option carries its own benefits to you/your teen and we encourage you to pray about it and place the year ahead before the Lord - as He knows the plans He has for us.
(1) ADVANTURE PROGRAMMES
Extreme adventure programmes (such as those run by Beyond Adventure) offer girls and guys practical, fun and challenging opportunities to learn more about themselves and the world around them. Often important life skills are only gleaned through physical lessons where your boundaries are stretched and your paradigms shifted.
‘Beyond Adventure’ situated in the Eastern Cape, offers leadership training, extreme education, spiritual development and a micro M.B.A. Run by Christians, it is an ideal programme for the more ‘physically wired’ teen and is guaranteed to provide one with leadership life-skills in a fun setting! Please see the site
Are internship programmes relevant and effective options? Yes, as long as they are specific, targeted programmes that provide the student with hands-on experience. A Christian internship/ministry opportunity carries with it various essential aspects that make it a good choice:
• Internship programmes provide an opportunity for young adults to grow in their worldview and make experienced decisions about their beliefs.
• Maturity levels and expertise increase dramatically as they go through a series of challenges and have to learn how to overcome obstacles. Their life skills and ability to function within their unique God-given personalities are also areas of great development.
• Most interns gain knowledge, a firmer grasp on their identity, and life experience through the journey on which they embark.
• If one works in a secular company, this could be more challenging and at times difficult (as one has to deal with office politics and intimidation), however it could offer practical experiences in a specific field (like law or engineering) that is vital to an intern.
• Interns who have the privilege of working in a Christian programme become ambassadors for Christ, bringing healing, life, and hope to people who would otherwise be untouched.
Christian interns can be a true blessing to a world that has largely become indifferent in its treatment of others. In turn these recipients go on to continue the life-changing work. A word of caution though - many interns expect a free ride - and this is not at all what they will experience in the ‘real world’!
THE LEADERS OF TOMORROW
As these young adults infiltrate back into their communities and the Church, they bring with them vision and inspiration. The interns of today are the leaders of tomorrow – they are the ones who will be called to carry the torch and keep it ablaze. They will be able to strike the balance of being inward focused as well as outward focused thereby ensuring that the Church of the future is a Church that leaves an invaluable impact on the world.
A Christian organisation that offers Christian internships is 3D-Outreach. They have a ‘Missions Internship Programme’ that consists of three months intensive training in areas such as ‘Personal Development’, ‘Practical Skills’, and ‘Theological Instruction’.
After this time of preparation, teams are sent out into communities within South Africa and across borders to work with established missionaries. The course offers young adults an opportunity to mature spiritually and personally while making an impact on the world. For more info see www.3d-outreach.com
Another great programme is the 3D Midlands Campus that offers 1 Year 4 Jesus where you are exposed to ministry areas like Evangelism, Missions, Music Ministry, Children’s Ministry and Leadership Training. www.3dmidlands.co.za
If you are in Gauteng you can look at 3D Revelation Campus in Benoni as they offer a ‘Year of Your Life’ Leadership Development Programme for school leavers. As an ACE initiative, you can be sure that your children will recieve Biblically based training and instruction. 3D stands for discovery, discipleship and destiny. See www.3drevelationcampus.com for more.
(3) MINISTRY TRAINING COLLEGES AND ACADEMICS
A ministry training college (for lack of a better word) is an organisation that provides some type of ministry and/or theological training together with practical life-skills and study. For people who are considering a practical ministry career, or just want a ‘once-off’ year experience, this could be a great programme to embark upon.
‘Maraneman’ is Christian organisation based in the Vaal area that runs various courses for 17-25 year olds.
According to their spokesperson, Maraneman, “offers a program that will expose students to opportunities in ministry and the Tourism and Business fields. Our Adventure Academy offers a compass to these youngsters by directing them into the areas they are passionate about, but have not yet discovered.“ www.maraneman.co.za
DISCOVER YOUR PURPOSE
REAL Team in Plettenberg Bay is a year of your life programme run by the Plettenberg Bay Community Church. Their programme is widely recognised as an impactful Christian course that advances the Kingdom by raising up disciple makers through times of worship, training, evangelism, ministry and teaching.
Students will spend their time in Plett and partake in a variety of activities. For info see www.realteamplett.co.za
MINISTRY AND COUNSELLING COURSES THAT ADDRESS UNDERLYING ISSUES
Doxo Deo also offer a ministry training type course known as Metamorpho, a one-year potential and character development year for 18-25 year olds. Their course covers a couple of areas including: emotional healing and intelligence, spiritual life and Christian foundations, character development, leadership development and personality analysis, how to handle conflict, etc.
Their process is based on both Biblical and industrial psychology principles that will produce results. For info please see their website www.metamorpho.co.za
The Waterberg Regeneration Center based about 2 hours outside of Johannesburg offers a variety of courses and programmes. The organisation has very helpful information about gap years on their website and one will note that they also run a rehab facility for youngsters suffering with drug and alcohol addictions.
They have several summer programmes (made up of fun yet meaningful summer camps) that help students heal emotional issues and false beliefs that cause them to become addicted to things. For more information on how to work with them or to participate in their camps (which vary in duration) see the site www.waterbergregenerationcenter.co.za.
(4) BIBLE COLLEGES
2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that we “Must do your utmost to present yourself to God approved, a workman...correctly analysing and accurately dividing the Word of Truth.” The best way to do this of course is to attend Bible College where you are given the tools to study God’s Word. Cornerstone Bible College in the Cape, is a respected Bible College that offers Bachelor Degrees in Theology as well as a gap year course in Christian Ministry and in Community Development. For more info please see www.cornerstone.org.za
(5) OVERSEAS TRAVELlNG
Spending a year working and travelling abroad is another gap year option. Though it is costly (and obtaining VISAS can be tricky), time spent overseas can be a wonderful growing experience. Learning to fend for oneself, to navigate around a foreign country and deal with different cultures will definitely broaden your horizons!
Going overseas is not always affordable though so perhaps an African Gap Year is better. See www.africangapyear.co.za for all your local options.
For more gap year info see our website www.joymag.co.za or search the net.