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How to Take a Christian Gap Year

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by Abbie Thiebaut Abbie is a full-time member of the EM staff who uses her experience leading mission trips to encourage others to serve in communities across the U.S. and around the world.

You’re about to graduate from high school or college. During this exciting time, you’re being told you can finally pursue the college or career you want...so why do you still feel stuck? From picking a college major to actually jumping into the workforce, graduation can often be a time of challenging decisions where none of the choices feel right. Do you really know yourself or what you want to pursue?

As college tuition prices rise and students face unprecedented debt after graduation—still without a clear vision for what they hope to do after college—Gap Year trips have become increasingly popular. While gap years can take many forms, this “Year on Pause” is a chance to pursue your passions, discover your unique gifts, and hopefully, mature and grow in your faith.

Is a Gap Year right for you?

While a Gap Year program isn’t right for everyone, most people could benefit from taking a year to travel, serve, and “unplug” from normal life pressures. As a young follower of Jesus, pursuing a Christian Gap Year or Gap Year Mission Trip offers a new chance to center your future choices around your faith. By taking a year to build relationships with diverse people around the world, you’ll grow in your understanding of God and the world around you—making you a more effective student or employee no matter where you go next.

If you’re a relatively unattached young adult, and you feel like you could wait one more year before college or taking a traditional job, a Gap Year might be the best investment you can make for your future.

5 Steps to Beginning Your Gap Year Adventure


1. Know Why You Want to Go

As you begin your gap year search, ask yourself: “Who do you want to become?” If you can nail down why you want to do a gap year and what you hope to get out of it, you’ll be able to narrow down which program is right for you. For example, are you hoping to grow personally, spiritually, or in some particular skill? Are you hoping to experience something new or deepen your expertise in a field you’ve already started pursuing? Some common answers to these questions from IMMERSION Gap Year participants are:

“I want to be a person of influence”
“I want to face my fears”
“I want to learn to love others unselfishly”
“I want to learn to serve others in every area of my life”
“I want to trust God with everything”

2. Find the Right Program (and Apply for It!)

Once you’ve decided why you want to explore a gap year, where do you go next? How do you ensure that your year is not wasted and that you walk out of it feeling more whole and ready for the future than before? While there isn’t one right way to do it, a great place to start is to explore established gap year program options. Find out how many programs exist and which ones resonate with your reasons for taking a year off. When you partner with an established organization, you get accountability and structure, which can ensure that you are intentional with your time and have others invested in your growth, experience, partnerships, and safety. Most programs require an application to get started, and that’s a great next move. Apply to any that check all or most of your boxes. Applying for a program does not mean you’re committed. It’s simply a step forward letting people know that you’d like to know more. 

3. Make a (Tentative) Plan for What Comes After

There’s a common myth that taking a gap year will make colleges and future employers take you less seriously. This is not true. Taking a gap year can actually help you grow as a person and a leader while gaining highly-sought-after, “real world” experience—and decision-makers notice those things. All that to say, your gap year will come to end eventually, and it’s great to have an idea of what comes next. You may not need to know your exact next steps, but highlighting how your trip will help you pursue your future school or life goals will help you get friends and family on board in supporting your year away. To be better prepared, research your desired school’s deferral policy or prepare your resume before you go, ready to apply for jobs as the year winds to a close. You'll be less distracted during your gap year experience knowing you have options to pursue once it’s over.

4. Get Support from Loved Ones

This can be the most challenging step, but having friends and family in your corner will help make this season a success. Start early. Include your closest circle in the process from the beginning. Let them know why you’re excited about a gap year and why it makes sense for you right now. That way, when you join a program and it’s time to fundraise, you’ll already have a team of people cheering you on.

Are you nervous about fundraising for a Gap Year? Download EM’s IMMERSION Fundraising Guide here!

5. Begin Your Gap Year Adventure!

Your Gap Year is going to be a season of new challenges and personal growth, but also one of developing deep, life-long friendships and growing closer to God. On an EM Gap Year Mission Trip, you’ll join a team of your peers and an experienced team leader as you explore communities around the world. Experience different cultures, meet new people, and serve others with your life, as you grow in your faith and discover who you were created to be. Expand your world and you learn what it looks like to live out your faith, day-in and day-out. A gap year is all about learning more about who God created you to be and living into that reality. Who will you become?

Does a Christian Gap Year sound like a good fit for you? Start by exploring our Gap Year Programs or get in touch by filling out an interest form for an upcoming year. Our team is here to walk you through any challenges and questions that you might face. Don’t miss your opportunity to join a life-changing gap year program in 2020 and 2021!


More IMMERSION Stories

How to Approach Your First Mission Trip
EM staff member, Heather Reynolds, sat down with Sydney Lange after she returned from from 3-month South Africa IMMERSION.
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13 Books to Help You Love Your Neighbor (and grow in your faith!)
If you are looking for ways to grow in your faith and understanding of God and serving others, check out these recommendations.
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Start Your Own Gap Year Journey!