Auxano: Gap Year Program Interview

Auxano2Auxano is the gap year discipleship program of Camp Imadene, located on Vancouver Island off Canada’s west coast. Students live together with their leaders in a large house overlooking the local community, and travel each day to the camp for classes and service opportunities. This way, they keep one foot in the community and the other in the environment of learning and ministry. The focus is on learning to follow Jesus in all of life, becoming like him and joining him in his work. What follows is an interview with program director, Jim Badke.

What is the mission of your program?

Auxano is the Greek work for “grow.” Our mission is discipleship in the community through biblical training and service.

How many students participate?

The program is designed for eight to twelve students, age 18 to 23. This past year we had eight students and two peer leaders.

What are the basic elements of your program?

Community is essential to this program: the small student community acting like a “rock tumbler” as each is shaped by the lives of the others; the surrounding believer community of camp staff and church family who encourage and challenge them; and the broad local community that is touched and included in the lives of students as they live out their faith.

Biblical teaching takes top priority, providing a comprehensive understanding of most books of the Bible, and engaging students in discussions of burning issues like social justice, Christian worldview, spiritual formation, First Nations reconciliation and environmental stewardship. Rather than focus on assignments and grading, students interact with gifted teachers from the local area and the books they recommend, which allowed us to offer 23 modular courses of two to five days in length this past year.

Camp Imadene has a long tradition of volunteer service, hosting 500 to 600 volunteers during its summer camp season, and this heritage spills over into the Auxano program. Students are trained to care for the physical property of the camp and to facilitate activities with guest groups. There are also opportunities to serve in the local community with agencies that care for the homeless and ministries to the local First Nations community.

Life as a student includes several adventures along the way, starting with a canoe and hiking trip as the setting for the first course, rappelling and caving in the local mountains, surfing on the west coast of the Island and enjoying several days on the slopes of a ski hill that measures snow in meters. Students love Auxano House, which is their very comfortable retreat and residence.

Why are you passionate about your work?

There are few privileges better than helping people transition into adulthood. Young adults are emerging into their own system of beliefs, values and principles, and I love it when they take time out of their educational and occupational pursuits and devote a year to listening to God. A student once told me, “This program has ruined my life!” He explained that he was ruined for the ordinary, and that the path he once thought he would pursue was no longer satisfying. God had something more for him.

What do you tell parents who might be reluctant to have their child take a “year off” before going to college?

What is the greater risk? That students might join the work force a year later than their friends, or that they might spend four years getting a degree that has nothing to do with who they really are and that they will never use? Most young adults enter college years with no firm grasp on who they are and what God has in mind for them to accomplish in the world. I have seen many students completely alter their direction in life as a result of a gap year program. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Here is an opportunity for students to discover the purpose for which God designed them.

Related Resources:

Article: “God in the Gap Year: The Benefits of Taking Time Off Before Going to College” by Derek Melleby (a list of similar gap year programs)