Some helpful things to get you started:
- How healthy is your youth group?
One of the reasons Destiny Team has been so successful is because the youth group is strong. This provides the main stream of people who will perhaps participate in your gap year. To have a good idea of how many people you might have in each grade is essential, as this will give you a good indicator of possible attendance of your gap year program.
- Do you have the staff?
Leadership of this gap year is imperative. You’ll need to ask yourself whether you have the right staff to lead the gap year program and whether you have the finances to provide salaries for them.
- Learn from relating churches in the area
If you have churches to which you relate in your area, chat about the possible challenges and successes of starting a gap year program in your area.
- Who is your target market?
If you have boarding establishments and schools in your area, then make the most of advertising in these areas as well as in your church.
- Go international
You’ll be surprised at the result of having just one or two international students join your team for a year. Word-of-mouth tends to be a powerful communication tool in seeing even more international students joining your program the following year.
Our leadership structure consists of
- A young visionary
- Senior head who is the elder who oversees the young visionary
The senior head plays a vital role in all the major decisions which the young visionary will make. The visionary and senior head will meet every 3 weeks to discuss such decisions and keep accountable with the leadership of the team. The elder also creates space in which the visionary can dream and becomes a support system to remove the barriers which might be in the way of those dreams. As well as being a mediator between the young visionary and the parents, the elder also protects the entire team from burn-out and facilitates the fluid running of the team
- Deacon to mother and mentor the girls
Our young visionary is a man, which is very helpful for the guys on the team to keep accountable to. However, there are some gender-specific issues which we believe a woman would be more helpful in addressing. For this reason, we have a ‘mom-away-from-home’ for the entire team, but especially for the mentorship of the girls on the team. Her role includes leading devotions, counseling, seeing to the smooth running of the girls’ digs and has she an important relational role. When choosing a deacon to be a mother to the girls, it is important that you choose someone who is younger so that the relational gap will not create a barrier for her to relate to the girls’ problems. This deacon facilitates group counseling sessions with the girls and can then address girls one on one if she feels the need
Who should your young visionary be?
- Someone who is Involved in the youth group
Although this is not essential, it tends to be quite helpful in that if the chosen leader for the gap year has an idea of what is happening in the youth group, he/she will be more in touch with what is current within your particular culture.
- Someone who is flexible.
- Someone who can communicate well.
- Someone who is very comfortable in their leadership role.
- Someone who understands and supports the underlying theology of the church.
- Someone who can work closely with the eldership team. Better yet, someone who is on eldership.
The ‘vibe’ of your gap year program.
Destiny Team aims to find a balance between a bible college feel as well as put a large amount of emphasis on the importance of service. You will need to find your own unique ‘vibe’ and feel of your team. Try to find a healthy balance between input and output.
What does a usual day at Destiny Team look like?
- 8:00-8:30 Corporate Devotions
This part of the day includes breaking into groups and sharing vision, dreams and praying for each other. A time of worship is also shared in this part of the day
- 8:30-9:00 Coffee and fellowship
This part of the day allows team members to catch up with each other over cups of coffee as they share their experiences.
- 9:00-11:00 Study
This part of the day includes study and research. The team is assigned 7 assignments with dead-lines to complete during the course of the year. This time leaves the students space to research and contributes to the bible college feel of the program.
- 11:00-12:00 Service
This hour includes basic service at the church. This could include card drops, setting up an auditorium for a meeting etc. This exposes team members to the real feel of serving within the church.
- 12:00-12:30 Lunch
- 12:30-2:00 Training
This time consists of lectures from our eldership team on some foundational biblical theologies.
- Keep your team in the same place/area
As far as possible, it is much easier to keep your team in the same area. This makes logistics such as the sharing of food much easier and encourages unity within your team. Try to find someone in your church who might have a varsity digs into which you can place you team members. These digs should have close proximity to church members who will voluntarily mother and father your team members.
- We would encourage an elder to play the role of a mediator between the leader of your gap year program and the eldership team, if the leader of your gap year is not already on eldership. This elder should assist the leader in making financial decisions which would affect the budget of the church.
- This elder also plays the role of keeping your leader accountable in his/her financial decisions.
- A fee is charged to each member which includes food, electricity and lights and accommodation as it is difficult for international team members to organize their own accommodation and food. This fee assists in making the distribution of these resources much more practical. We suggest that you budget and plan the cost of your gap year program before you decide on a fee to charge to each team member.
- The fee which the members pay will include the cost of their mission trips to places within the country. One international trip does include an additional cost.
- The sundry fee charged to each member includes what we call ‘visionary expenses’. This could be any purchase which the leader of the gap year program might feel necessary.
- Having a set sundry fee assists parents in their own financial planning.
- An inability to pay the sundry fee should not be a hindrance to team members who want to join the program. Team members should be encouraged to find part-time jobs to which they can attend after their official gap year program day is over at 2:00pm to fund themselves.
- Our gap year program also provides funding for those who would like to join the team but don’t have the funds to do so. Giving scholarships to members is another way in which we reach out to the community.
How to advertise a gap year program:
- Not the newspapers
From past experience we have realized that advertising for this gap year program needs to be very up-to-date in terms of the medium it aims to use to advertise and market this program. For this reason, we strive to use cutting-edge videos to reach a technologically-orientated youth. These promotional videos are played in various schools, Sunday church meetings and our youth group meetings.
Hints and tips to successfully run a gap year program:
Routine is pivotal and if not adhered to could result in your team members doubting the entire gap year program. As important as routine is, flexibility is just as important. For example, when the church hosts a conference, the team might be asked to serve for days at a time for longer hours. At this time, service would be the primary agenda.
- Putting your team members in the right places
Exposing your team members to all areas of ministry such as media, child care, worship, dance and drama, atmospherics, leading a homegroup and preaching (among others) and then placing them within an area where they will be most fruitful is really important. Challenge your team to find their gifting and grow in it by concentrating on serving in those areas.
- Exposure to conferences and mission trips
Exposure to large conferences gives the team an accurate idea of what large amounts of service go into a larger conference. This also exposes them to different preachers and provides a platform to meet Christians from all over the country. Missions are important to establish a mission mindset. From what we experienced, this is a really important team building time, because challenges must be practically overcome.
- The importance of an orientation week:
This provides a time for the team to get to know each other and share their personal testimonies. This is a pivotal bonding time for the team. For this reason, this week focuses on team building activities, most of which include outdoor activities.
- Serving at Sunday meetings
Each team member is assigned a site at which they will serve on a Sunday morning. This gives team members a good idea of all the logistics which are involved in running a Sunday morning meeting.
- Know the elders
Many church members may have quite an inaccurate view on what eldership is about. We find that our team really appreciates getting to know the eldership team and getting to know their families. This gives them great examples of godly families and the role of an elder.
- Break the ice
It is important that vision and expectations of your team are posed clearly by your visionary who heads up the team within the first week of the program.
- Year of your life…. Not a year of your wife
Although being strict on a ‘no dating’ policy might seem stringent, we have experienced how romantic feelings between team members can contribute to the decay of a team spirit. If you intend to have a ‘no dating’ policy, ensure that you are strict so that the policy will have integrity and be respected by your team members.