All should do Year 13, says Archbishop

Jodie McNeill

Over these past few days I've had three independent reminders of the significance of gap years.

Firstly, whilst directing an HSC Study Conference last week, I was overwhelmed with the popularity of gap years for students finishing their Year 12 study. Many of them spoke of their intentions to take a year off next year before undertaking further study.

When I finished school back in the good old 1980's, gap years were a strange anomaly. Why waste a year taking time off from work or study?

But given that it's such a popular activity at the moment for school leavers, it is even more important that we take advantage of this golden opportunity for lay ministry training, whilst also providing an alternative that protects our Christian youth from the temptations that pervade the common overseas journey to the unknown.

Secondly, an article in yesterday morning's Australian Financial Review made the observation that the gap year concept "is taking hold" in Australia, and that "research suggests students who take a gap year come back better prepared for study." (p. 27)

Furthermore, it notes that some universities, such as the University of Canberra, are even providing academic credit for the learning undertaken during the gap year.

The article also includes an important quote from Matja Mikhailovich, associate professor in community education at the University of Canberra, who states that for gap year students, "the main gains are in maturity, more confidence in themselves, in terms of things like better organisational skills, independence and actually being ready to learn." (p.30)

Thirdly, and what was the primary motivation for me to write on this topic, was the recognition by our Archbishop during last night's Presidential Address of the importance of our own Sydney Diocesan gap year program. I quote him in full:

With much foresight Synod last year provided for the Year 13 program to be expanded. Our younger people need the training and fellowship which will help equip them for a life time of living for Christ. This year there are 41 enrolled: surely our aim should be for all of our school leavers to do it. One of the glories of our Diocese is the number of mature and well-trained lay men and women who are true partners in the gospel. Their servant hearts, their fervent prayers, their acts of mercy, their ministry amongst children, teenagers, the elderly, in the community, their witness for Christ in the workplace, their support of ministry with clarity and theological acumen, their generosity of time and money, their willingness to help in the work of the Diocese, their leadership of their own families, their independence of spirit, their work as lay readers and preachers - all this and so much more make it so often a joy to minister in our churches and constitutes one of God's richest blessings to us. The Year 13 program is going to continue and even improve that rich tradition. From it will also come those whose life-work for fifty years ahead will be in the ministry of God's word.

Need anyone say more?

Jodie McNeill was the founding Director of Year 13 back in 2006, but is now the Executive Director of Youthworks Outdoors. Details of the Youthworks Year 13 gap year program can be found here.

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