The following is a guest post from Jonathan Morrow who is the founder of Think Christianly. You can follow him on twitter here.
2 Reasons Why a Gap Year is a Great Idea for Students
While there are many reasons I’m a fan of students taking a gap year, in this post I will briefly mention two. But before I get to them, I want to say a few words from the perspective of one who wants to see students flourish as Christ-followers’ in college and beyond. I have the privilege of working with high school and college students both in the local church setting and as I speak around the country. I’m more convinced than ever that this generation of Christians is not prepared for the spiritual, moral, relational, and intellectual challenges waiting for them on campus.
Here’s just one of the new realties students face. In 2010, a LifeWay study revealed that 72% of 18-29 year olds self identify as “Spiritual but not religious.” What this means is that an increasing number of young adults have detached truth from religion and replaced it with feelings and experience. Not only is this inconsistent with biblical Christianity (cf. Rom.12:1-2), it also leads to painful consequences because knowledge—not mere feelings—is the only sure foundation upon which to build a life. And if spiritual and moral questions are reduced to private feelings, then the answers to the biggest questions in life will be ever changing (e.g., Is there a God?, Who am I?, and What is life for?).
In addition to this trend of ‘Have it your way’ Christianity, many students who grew up in Christian homes are simply walking away from Christianity all together after graduating college (cf. You Lost Me by David Kinnaman). But I’ve got good news; it doesn’t have to be this way! I’m convinced that a gap year experience grounded in the Christian worldview provides at least two key ingredients a student needs to flourish in college and beyond.
First, students need to cultivate wise relationships. I wish every student would memorize and apply Solomon’s words: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). A gap year program allows students to form deep relationships with mentors and peers who share their desire to walk with Jesus Christ. We all need people to run the race with and to spur us on. There are many challenges in life, and it’s easy to cave in or give up. Listen to Paul’s admonition to young Timothy: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
Students also need to develop a compelling vision for college. As I talk to students (and parents) I see a lot of confusion about what college is actually for. Here’s what I mean—what does it mean to be an educated person and how does one know? One answer reduces education to data acquisition. But my smart phone can access mountains of data. The more foundational question is what is a human being for? This is where a student’s answer to the most important question in college comes into play—Is Christianity actually true? Because if it is then I am part of a grand adventure story that God is writing in my life and college is just another opportunity to grow and participate in the mission of God. However, if the ultimate goal of existence is to satisfy all of my desires, then college will look very different indeed. Confusion about the purpose of college—and God’s relationship to it—will bleed over into every other area. So getting this question settled is hugely important. A solid gap year program is a great place for a student to reflect and discover that there is good evidence that Christianity is actually true and that because it’s true, it speaks to every area of life.
If you are considering a gap year program, I don’t think you will regret it. If you are reading this and have never considered it, I would encourage you to give it some thought and prayer. A gap year could make all the difference in setting the trajectory for a life well lived.
 Two outstanding and distinctively Christian gap year programs are Kanakuk Link Year (www.kanakuklinkyear.org) and Summit Semester (www.summit.org/institutes/semester/).
*Jonathan is also the author of Welcome to College: A Christ-follower’s Guide for the Journey, Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture, and Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (with Sean McDowell), and contributed the chapter “Introducing Spiritual Formation” to Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ. Jonathan also contributed several articles to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He graduated with an M.Div. and an M.A. in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology and is currently the equipping pastor at Fellowship Bible Church. His books have been featured on shows like Family Life Today, Stand to Reason, Breakpoint, Frank Pastore, The Janet Mefferd Show, and Apologetics 315.