Operation Year Best Practice Document

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Operation Year Best Practice Document. Version 1 - May 2001

Why a Best Practice Document?

This document has grown out of a need to clarify and tie down exactly what makes Operation Year the programme that it is. After more than 15 years of teams it is time to clearly state what Operation Year is and what is the best possible way to do it.

The aim is therefore to highlight the best way to run Operation Years. It is not an exclusive definition of Operation Year, neither does it comprise a definition of a University of the Nations training school. It goes a stage beyond these by providing an interpretation of how to put those things in to practice with excellence. It is recommended that the reader is familiar with the standard requirements of what a DTS is, its current curriculum and syllabus and the Operation Year leaders manual.

It is hoped that this document will give clarity and guidance for the leaders who have the difficult task of delivering a life changing, quality programme. As Operation Year develops it is trusted that the level of quality will continue to rise and produce young men and women whom are active in building the Kingdom around them. Many team leaders past and current have given their insight and opinions on the document and I wish to thank them all for their contributions. Also I wish to thank Stephanie Tasker for all the typing and editing of the document to get it into shape.

This document has three main sections each encompassing facets of the Operation Year programme. It is long but hopefully helpful... comments questions, queries, ponderings all accepted!

Kevin Colyer

May 2001

Part 1: Ethos, Location Strategy and Leadership

1 Ethos

1.1 A chief learning outcome of an Operation Year is that students should gain the bigger YWAM picture

1.2 Operation Year students are considered as honorary staff and are treated as such (e.g. invited to go to staff conferences and HOPE days etc.) portraying the value of a 'Joined Up YWAM'. (a political term that means to be a full part of the whole, knowing what is happening and participating in all aspects) Students have the same privileges as staff

  • Students are given a lot of 'real' responsibility (responsibility that matters)

1.3 Operation Year disciples students for the 'marketplace'(university, the world of work, normal church life etc.) and aims to equip for life

1.4 Operation Year is fun, challenging and life changing

1.5 Operation Year allows students to have a life outside the team and encourage students to be involved in church life, community life and a social life whilst not distracting them from the main purpose of the year

1.6 Operation Year provides students with a wide range of opportunities and settings to enable them to explore their gifts, including preaching and teaching and being directly involved in evangelism. This exceeds the DTS syllabus minimum requirements

1.7 Staff empower and encourage students to take the initiative to start/setup outreach and evangelism opportunities

2 Location Strategy

2.1 Operation Year is an Urban programme in locations of more than 100,000 people. Thought is given to the distance from other YWAM works, the strategic value of working in the location, any other organisations working in the location, how well the programme will fit into a greater YWAM strategy, ample outreach opportunities for the students and on Gods calling

  • New city locations require a lead in time of several months to allow YWAMers to build relationships with the local churches. Links to local churches are evaluated using the question of whether the Operation Year will work with one or many churches in the city.

2.2 A team will have a marketing and recruitment strategy with identified cut-off dates and levels

2.3 When assessing the viability of a new team location attention is given to the following points:

  • Accommodation - Where will the team live? What are the Transport need? (Public Transport, Minibus, Parking.) Are there suitable facilities for Training? (In the accommodation or elsewhere) How will the food and catering be organised? What administration and support needs are there? (computers, financial accounts, e-mail.) What pastoral support structures are in place?
  • Is there an experienced Operation Year leader/Co-ordinator in place to offer expertise to a new eam location?

2.4 Operation Year teams value staff training highly and makes use of some of these tools:

  • Informal training, On-The-Job mentoring, BLS, Be the Leader God wants you to Be (B2B), Portfolio/Joshua Track

Notes: It is recommended that more remote teams get the majority of their training before the Year team starts. Locations with good support may find On-The-Job mentoring the most useful. Setting of up to half a day a week for consultation/training with a leader from outside the location should be considered

3 Leadership

3.1 The primary leader is an evangelist/visionary and who has a heart for mission and urban work

3.2 Operation Year will have a leadership team, which is balanced in sexes and gifting - (Visionary/Apostolic, Organisational and Pastoral)

3.3 The primary leader has had previous Operation Year experience or other suitable training

3.4 There is a leader to student ratio of at least 3:8, with a minimum of 2 leaders (one of each sex)

3.5 Leaders' styles are relational, personal and discourage any student/staff divide. Friendships are developed with the students whilst maintaining the integrity of a leadership role.

  • The role of a leader comes before that role of a friend

3.6 Leaders treat students with equality, impartially and without discrimination also avoiding co-dependency

3.7 Leaders model servant leadership and empowerment so that the whole team shares the responsibility of accomplishing the evangelism and outreach goals. The leaders encourage and model coaching, mentoring and delegation, avoiding an authoritarian leadership style

  • For example, delegation of projects and tasks to allows students to grow and develop leadership gifts and abilities

3.8 Leaders model appropriate openness to the team

3.9 The leaders strive for 'team cohesion' - with fun aimed for both within and outside the team environment

3.10 Leadership is assessed a least once a year to provide support and identify areas of need for further training. Student feedback is sought through '360º appraisals' (a way of appraising a person taking into account leader above, themselves, people they lead and their own peers) Leaders are given adequate support and training, by providing opportunities for staff development through tools such as the B2B, BLS, Portfolio and access to mentoring

3.11 Leaders have a high degree of accountability. Leaders actively seek a suitable support network to provide them with discipleship, stimulus for personal growth, passion and vision. Leaders are not finished works, they are works in progress

  • It is advised that Operations Year leaders need to be accountable to a line level leadership or some external leadership structure

Part 2: Outreach, Evangelism, Discipleship, and Administration

4 UK Outreach and Evangelism


4.1 A clear evangelism strategy is in place before the Operation Year starts. This will be assessed regularly by the team to ensure that it is within University of the Nations (U of N) time limits, strategic and adequate for healthy team life (i.e. not to much or to little)

4.2 There is a constant tension between Operation Year being an 'Evangelism Team' with a strong emphasis on discipleship and Operation Year being a 'Discipleship Year' with a strong emphasis on evangelism. Evangelism is focused on being personal and relational rather than preached

4.3 Operation Year has a strong emphasis on evangelism. All Operation Year teams model evangelism as a lifestyle. Students have the opportunity to experience a variety of types and styles of evangelism during the year

  • If the staff cannot motivate the students in this then other evangelists (Evangelists: we are referring here to people who use their gift to motivate people into evangelism by enthusiasm and example in a variety of ways. e.g. street preacher may not have this ability!) from within YWAM and the local church should be invited to input so that the students are stretched and equipped in evangelism.

UK Outreach

(in this sense used as one or two weeks away from the normal location working e.g. Church mission, Summer of Service)

4.4 The local outreach fits within the long term vision and should compliment that of the local churches and YWAM. Outreach opportunities fall within the teams aims, goals and objectives. Outreach opportunities are tailored to match students and leaders gifts, abilities and calling.

4.5 Outreach is a positive and constructive environment for students where their safety is not unreasonably jeopardised. Quality team times and free time are included in the programme to provide support for the students

4.6 Staying with host families is strongly encouraged on UK outreach

4.7 Clear communication is a key element in the planning and preparation of any outreach to ensure that the expectations of both parties (host and team) are clearly identified. Meetings are arranged between the leaders of both parties if at all possible and any financial responsibilities covered

5 Overseas Outreach

5.1 The overseas outreach lasts between 4 and 8 weeks and adheres to the outreach best practice guidelines set out by the Best Practice for Short Term Missions Teams (see Operation Year Manual appendix B) and the practices outlined in the (STORM)

5.2 The outreach location will fall within the base/team strategy

  • e.g. linked to an adopted/targeted unreached people group (not be a 'pin on the map' decision)

5.3 The cost and location of the outreach is decided and communicated as soon as possible before the start of the year. A maximum cost limit is clearly communicated at the selection stage and adhered to

5.4 A key objective for the students of for the outreach is to provide a positive experience of missions, and other cultures. Staying with host families is encouraged in order to maximise the cross-cultural experience

5.5 The team is provided with quality briefing and debriefing. In addition leaders are debriefed. Debriefing is conducted by someone external to the team

5.6 Very clear communication and liaison must occur between the team and the hosts, including any local YWAM bases at the outreach location, to ensure that the aims of the team and expectations are matched

  • It is recommended that a pre-visit is made by the outreach leader to the location if the location has never been visited and then report back to the rest of the leadership team and the students
  • It is recommended that the outreach should be arranged through churches at the outreach location rather than through a local YWAM base
  • It is recommended that any under spend from the budget should be put back into funding the school rather than returned to students

5.7 An overseas outreach report is completed and reviewed centrally to assess the effectiveness of the outreach (see Operation Year Manual appendix F)

  • Feedback on negative experiences are considered equally valuable to positive ones

6 Discipleship

Discipleship is worked out at many levels such as: Private Growth, One-To-Ones, Small Groups, Normal Team Life and Teaching

Discipleship (General)

6.1 Discipleship on Operation Year aims to form the foundation of future decisions producing people who are capable of following Jesus personally. Training and discipleship is more informal, non-formal and relational than intensely academic

6.2 Operation Year students are primarily discipled through relationship with leaders and other base staff in a 'Jesus Style' discipleship model (discipleship at the kitchen sink)

  • It is preferable that students and staff live together so they can 'live and learn'

6.3 The value of informal peer discipleship and same sex accountability is recognised and encouraged within the boundaries of exhortation, encouragement and consolation


6.4 One-to-Ones provide a stimulus for change rather than an environment where a leader enforces change. A One-to-One is for discipleship not counselling

  • If a need for counselling arises then they should be referred to an outside agency. Confidentiality should be respected but communication with the outside agency maintained

6.5 Students have the freedom to contact other staff members in search for discipleship and have the right to appeal outside the line within the rule of common courtesy

Small Groups

6.6 Operation Year essentially is a small group and application happens both formally and informally. Operation Year students meet about once a week in a formal small group


6.7 Training is consistently interspersed throughout the year with outreach and evangelism. More teaching takes place at the beginning with more freedom at the end for evangelism

  • Teaching is not to be expanded just to fill the programme

6.8 Teaching is well planned with topics building on each other so the basics are covered first and additional topics tailored to students needs. There is at least 120 hours teaching on core U of N syllabus subjects

6.9 Lectures are to be intimate, relational and incorporate creative learning styles. A variety of lecturers in terms of age, experience, nationality, sex are used. Lecturers and leaders are sought who practise their subject with integrity

6.10 Operation Year draws on a wide teaching resource base, and incorporates local churches, local YWAM bases and the wider YWAM world

7 Structure and Administration

7.1 Operation Year leaders are given the administrative support needed for the team, along with adequate resources and administrative training needed to enable them to do their job

7.2 Operation Year leaders are given partial or full responsibility for their budget

7.3 Operation Year fulfils all Heath and Safety requirements

7.4 Students work duties are meaningful and can relate to looking after, and caring for, their house and also be wider in scope

  • (e.g. serving a YWAM base or the local community)

7.5 Operation Year teams are well organised with a clear delegation of responsibilities amongst the whole team

Part 3: Student Enquiry, Selection, After Contact and Ongoing Relationship

8 Enquiry, Selection and Acceptance

8.1 Enquiry, selection and acceptance of students is the responsibility of the school staff to which the student is applying

8.2 Enquiries receive a prompt reply that is clear, concise, personal and consistent

  • A checklist is followed to ensure that all relevant information is sent to the enquirer, including base information

8.3 Operation Year use the standard DTS application forms

  • Available from the UKI training CD, with appropriate modifications

8.4 All potential UK students are invited to an 'Enquiry Weekend' (days set aside to invite a candidate to come visit the team, hear the YWAM vision, local vision and Operation Year information. Candidates get the chance to meet with real Operation Year students, experience team life first hand, including outreach if possible, and have the opportunity for an interview and to take things further.) or to visit the team location for a day

8.5 All students are interviewed. International students are interviewed by phone

  • A £10 international phone call is money well spent in this case

8.6 A selection decision is made a soon as possible after the interview. A constant stream of communication is kept between staff and enquirer in case of delay

8.7 Prayer is a key part of the acceptance process

8.8 When selecting students the balance of the team is taken into consideration. A team has not less than 5 students (3 at the very least but only in a start-up year). There is a balance on the team of both sexes and nationalities.

  • Teams are recommended to use a waiting list procedure (to ensure that teams are not all American and female for example!)

8.9 Teams only have one 'Risk Case' (someone who may struggle to thrive in the team environment or who may damage it. e.g. someone with an unstable background, high emotional needs or a very new Christian.) per team

8.10 All paperwork, including references will be in place before acceptance

8.11 Students who do not have the support and backing of their home church will not be accepted. A student will not be accepted on to an Operation Year if they have a large number of loans or debts

  • It is recommended that the Church leader is always telephoned to discuss the reference

8.12 Accepted students secure their place with a minimum £100 non-refundable deposit

8.13 Final acceptance is based on student arriving with £1,500 with a worked out strategy to pay the remaining fees. The Students financial responsibility is clearly communicated

  • e.g. balance by December or balance distributed monthly throughout the year

8.14 Each student receives an Operation Year Information Handbook a minimum of 6 weeks before they arrive. This is an essential mechanism to build the expectation of the students and reassure parents

8.15 Accepted students are placed on the base mailing list for news etc.

9 Leaving, After Contact and Care

9.1 Students are given adequate debriefing and re-entry teaching to prepare them for returning home

9.2 Students are given the opportunity to evaluate Operation Year to other YWAM staff, including the quality of the school and the leadership (feedback to central office)

9.3 Job and future references are prepared and discussed with the students before they leave

9.4 Students churches are sent pastors letters containing feedback and appreciation.

9.5 Students are given a choice of having further contact once they have left. Staff aim to continue relationships with students after they have finished

Failure to Complete the Operation Year (Voluntarily, or Asked to Leave)

9.6 The matrix and line leaders are informed before a decision is made

9.7 Letters of explanation are be sent to the students and their church

9.8 A written report is made and copies sent to the central office

  • It is advisable that confidential personal notes are made concerning the decision. These notes are personal and must not be kept on file


9.9 Prevention is better than a cure. Therefore, staff and students live a lifestyle that models good stewardship and sacrificial living

9.10 Debts are a discipleship issue

9.11 When debts arise then a clear strategy for repayment is talked through and agreed with the student

  • This could involve withholding the certificate of completion or not allowing a student to go on outreach
  • It is recommended that if a student reveals prior debts then the priority to repay the YWAM debt should take precedence

10 Ongoing Relationship With Student Churches

10.1 Operation Year has an attitude of partnership with the students home church

10.2 Students churches are written to a minimum of twice during an Operation Year. The church is given realistic feedback on the students changes, experiences and growth to prepare them for the students return

10.3 Students are encouraged to regularly keep in contact with their home church through newsletters etc., and to not neglect the relationship. The communication should be regular, clear and consistent

10.4 The Operation Year team is encouraged to visit students home churches as a team

  • As well as essential PR this benefits the local church in their evangelism

10.5 Students churches are sent literature regarding the work of the Operation Year and local YWAM team. The bigger YWAM picture is communicated by sending copies of the Advance magazine, Global Perspectives Video, invited to HOPE etc.

  • A 'parents and pastors day' (a chance for a visit to the team to see a presentation of the work and view the premises, experience team life etc.) might be integrated into the programme

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