A Gap Year Discipleship Program

Stop. Reflect. Grow.

Our culture often tells high school graduates they need to have it all figured out. In many cases, it's just not possible. Not without time to stop and reflect anyway.

Forest Springs' TRAILHEAD Program, a nine-month discipleship program, was born out of a desire to help recent high school graduates hit the pause button on life, plan their next steps, gain independence, and cement their personal faith before entering college or the workforce.

Gap Year - "Time off with a purpose.”

It is not a time to do nothing but an intentional time of reflection and discovery before a major transition in life.

We believe that our camp community is uniquely equipped to provide both SUPPORT (with biblical truth) and INDEPENDENCE during this crucial life transition. Upon completion, our goal and desire is that each participant will have:

  • Asked his/her biggest questions about life and studied the Bible's answers.
  • Assessed his/her gifting, interests, and skill set in preparation for vocational pursuits.
  • Understood the concept of worldview, and how Christian principles apply to all of life.
  • Cultivated the ability to perceive and evaluate the messages in media and culture.
  • Developed a strong work ethic while serving alongside our staff in ministry.
  • Learned the life skills needed for independent living (cooking, finances, laundry, etc.)
  • Experienced a year of strong Christian community and encouragement.
  • Had FUN together with friends on wilderness excursions and in life together at camp.

Gap Year Overview


From September through December, students will experience a wide variety of service and educational opportunities. The fall will begin with a wilderness adventure trip and will include classroom time focused on building community and foundational Christian principles. Life-skills training will be included along the way. When not in class, students will serve in support roles alongside camp staff for the various fall retreats and the very popular Forest Springs' Dinner Theatre.


Students will assume a variety of support roles during the busy winter retreat season. Responsibilities will include supervising sports areas, working in food service, helping on the dish crew, and assisting with housekeeping, and maintenance tasks. During this busy time, classes will be centered on Bible study and interpretation.


In the spring months, the priority will return to the classroom, as students build on what they have learned throughout the year. Discussions will be focused on applying the gospel to all areas of life and filtering movies, music, and news through a Biblical grid. Time will also be given for assessing the gifts and talents of each student and developing a plan for their "next steps" after TRAILHEAD. The year will end with a wilderness adventure trip geared toward reflecting on the year and preparing for the future.

Time Off & Holidays

TRAILHEAD students normally have one day off per week. Additional days off may be granted as the schedule allows. Holiday vacation is given for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter - each being approximately a week in length. Exact dates of vacation time are stated in the TRAILHEAD staff contract, which is provided two months prior to your arrival. The Director of TRAILHEAD must approve any additional time off for personal reasons ahead of time.

Optional Summer Opportunity

Even though the TRAILHEAD calendar does not include summer responsibilities, there are many opportunities to consider on Forest Springs' summer staff. Students could sign on for a summer job either before or after the program. From lifeguarding to food service, to the mini-farm, there are positions available every summer.

Application Process

To apply for the TRAILHEAD program, you need to:

  • Fill out the application here.
  • Visits to Forest Springs are welcomed and encouraged with an appointment.
  • Contact Dan Jacobson with questions by calling 715.436.7378 or e-mailing him here.

Please Note: TRAILHEAD students are not chosen because they are “good enough” but because they are a good fit for the program. There are many reasons why a student may be accepted or denied, and Forest Springs reserves the right to make this decision. Much prayer and thought are involved in this process, and a team of staff is involved. As students will at times represent Forest Springs to a guest, similar standards to those required for staff members will apply.

TRAILHEAD Courses and Topics

TRAILHEAD courses may vary slightly from year to year, but each year will include some configuration of the following courses:

What’s a Worldview?

Why do different people believe so many different things? What are the main questions that every human being asks, and how do we seek answers? What makes Christianity unique among the many worldviews? How do we interact with others who do not share the same worldview as us?

All About the Bible

Students will learn about the Bible’s origins and uniqueness among religious texts, and will also look at the evidence as to why we think it is trustworthy. We will also discuss the basic rules for interpreting and studying the Bible, which the students will practice all year.

Personal Finance

We will learn the basics of financial management as a single person and within a family. Debt, saving, home ownership, giving, buying, and methods for budgeting will be discussed and practiced.

Individual Assessment

This is a practical component of the year. Students will undergo assessments for skills, gifting, and interests that can begin to narrow the focus toward a future vocation. Students will learn a lot about themselves and how they interact with others.

Media Filtering

We will assess the messages in all forms of media. Everything we watch, read, and listen to has a message, and a Christian must be able to recognize and interpret it. We will study the perspectives and worldviews found in media, and compare them to the Bible's teachings.

A Christian View of Work

Work will always be a part of our lives, and we should seek to glorify God in how we approach our vocation. Much of this course is experiential, as our staff members work alongside each student and deliver feedback, challenges, and encouragement.

The Local Church

Students will attend a local church, and serve alongside its members throughout the year. We will discuss their positive and negative experiences in church, and prepare them to find and serve in a church in the future.

Foundations of Christian Leadership

Students will learn the theories and practices related to ministry and spiritual leadership.

Life Skills

In addition to the above classes, students will learn a variety of practical things. These will include everyday skills such as cooking (both personal and hosting a group), time management, basic auto care, running a chainsaw, and many more unique and interesting skills and hobbies.


College application/financial aid applications for students preparing for college.

The TRAILHEAD Lifestyle is NOT for Everyone

Students need to approach this experience with a desire to grow, work hard and learn from others. It is our goal to create an experience that is free from distraction and division.

Applicants should carefully reflect on the following lifestyle standards, and be prepared to adopt them for the duration of the year.

Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco

Forest Springs serves thousands of children every year, and much like a school, we maintain a staff and campus that is alcohol-free, drug-free, and tobacco-free to the greatest extent possible. TRAILHEAD students will be living and working within this facility and therefore, subject to these guidelines. Applicants should discuss questions with the TRAILHEAD director if concerned about their ability to comply.


Laptops and smartphones are part of all of our lives, and students are welcome to bring them. When properly utilized, these are invaluable tools for communication and ministry. On occasion, however, these items can become a distraction and actually hinder healthy community. Students will be expected to use these computers and phones appropriately as advised by the TRAILHEAD director and other staff.

Work Standards

Every employer has standards, and each company expects its staff to approach their responsibilities with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. As a service organization, Forest Springs seeks to serve each visitor in a way that is encouraging and uplifting. TRAILHEAD students, while working alongside our staff, will be expected to maintain the same standards of follow-through, honesty, attitude, and appearance to those maintained by other organizations, and to those demonstrated by our staff.


None of us is perfect. We are still learning and growing, just like you. We are committed to consistently improving the program and we want to know what you think and what you struggle with. However, doubts, questions, and disagreements can be voiced with respect. TRAILHEAD students are expected to treat all staff and students with dignity. Bullying, harassing, hazing, or belittling of others will not be allowed.

This is not an exhaustive list of guidelines. For a complete list of guidelines, contact the TRAILHEAD director.


TRAILHEAD is a work-study program. For this reason, housing, utilities, internet, consulting fees, and course hours are included at no charge to the students.

Fees are needed to cover the extra costs of the student’s experience during the year. This will include fuel costs, trip expenses, books, materials, equipment rental, food, and other costs associated with the program.

This fee will be due at the beginning of the school year and will be used throughout the program for these purposes.

The fee for the 2024-2025 school year is $3,500.

A Note to Parents

We are excited about the TRAILHEAD program because we believe that our camp community is uniquely equipped to provide both SUPPORT (with biblical truth) and INDEPENDENCE during this crucial life transition This is important as we seek to help students prepare for the challenges of independent living in their culture.

We ask that you allow TRAILHEAD to be a step of independence. Please ask your son or daughter to...

  • Decide Independently: We want students who want to be here!
  • Apply Independently: We aren’t looking for perfect answers, but we do want to know what they really think.
  • To Live Here Independently: Of course, visits are welcome, but please respect their schedule and don’t do their laundry!