President's Pen - May 2023
Introducing the Gap Year Program
Northwest is pleased to announce we are piloting our Gap Year program this fall. Gap Year is a one-year program designed to help recent high school graduates grow in their faith and discern the path God is taking them in life. Through mentoring, instructional seminars, and learning experiences, students develop the knowledge, skill, and character essential for service and leadership in and outside church ministry contexts.
The Gap Year program is the first step in a layered approach to an undergraduate degree from Northwest. As a program designed on competency-based theological education, we are proud to announce that we will work in partnership with Fellowship Pacific, Camp Qwanoes, and Fellowship International to offer various steps through our undergrad program.
We have at least three compelling reasons why we believe that now is the perfect time to attempt this new initiative, particularly the Gap Year program.
First, it is crucial that those coming out of high school are provided with experiences that will enable them to grow in their faith, rather than drifting away from it. A study called "Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church" looked at 2,049 young people between the ages of 18 and 34, and uncovered some troubling statistics. For example, only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as a child still do so today. Even more concerning is the fact that of those who no longer attend church, half have also stopped identifying themselves with the Christian tradition in which they were raised. With Northwest's unique competency-based education model, students will study the Bible while being surrounded by mentors and serving in a ministry that shapes their character, gifts, and skills. We hope this kind of experience will reverse the trend of hemorrhaging faith and raise up a new generation of committed Christ-followers.
Second, we are in a unique cultural moment where those graduating high school want to take a gap year. Back when I graduated high school in the mid-90s, taking a gap year was highly discouraged and considered unwise. As a result, very few students pursued it. However, today I listen to my teenage children talk with their friends and the question is not, "Are you going to take a gap year?" but "What are you going to do for your gap year?" With our program's flexibility in terms of where it is done and its requirement of 25 hours per week, students can work part-time while placing their focus on the growth and development of their faith.
Third, as we think about reaching British Columbia and Yukon for Christ, it is strategically important that we develop our leaders from a very young age, so as not to lose them to other opportunities outside our province or denomination from which they do not return. When Northwest Bible College stopped taking new students in 2000, it in many ways restricted the leadership pipeline that fed our churches and movement. Yes, the seminary remained open, and we had those who participated in our Youth Leadership Training Program, but our ability to directly train graduating high school students diminished immediately. We are seeking to rebuild this part of the pipeline through our undergraduate programs, in order to raise up the leaders for this next generation who can serve our churches and the wider Kingdom within our province.
I encourage you to learn more about Northwest’s Gap Year program - particularly our program objectives in the areas of Bible, theology, formation, ministry and culture – by visiting our Gap Year webpage.
Together with you in Fellowship Pacific’s vision of ‘Boldly Forward. Never alone’,