You, school graduate, have the world at your feet, a buffet of opportunities are before you. This next season of your life has the potential to chart the course for the rest of your life with god. How do you feel? Excited? Scared? Nervous? Need a GAP Year?
During my last year of high school, I had this innate fear of backsliding from my faith. Can you relate? I had just become a Christian earlier that year, which completely changed my life. Suddenly instead of thinking about how I could build the best life for myself, I began to think about how I could change other people’s lives. I began to ask God, “what are your plans for my life?” I’m guessing that this is your question too.
When my first university acceptance letter arrived in the mail, I felt like a door had opened to the first path I could choose, and then another two arrived a few days later. Here I was with a decision to make – which university was I going to choose? But there was something about going to university straight away that I didn’t feel right about. I felt so young, so vulnerable, and so impressionable. Moving to a new city with the pressures of making new friends and adapting to a completely new life while learning how to be an adult just seemed to be too much too soon.
The bible talks about not building on a foundation that has cracks. This is what I felt cautious about – if I put pressure on my newly formed foundations, would I crumble? It was then that I started considering a gap year. A gap year is about taking a year “off” in-between stages of your life. Gap years that are centred upon developing your relationship with God can be utterly life-changing. A gap year for God isn’t just about having an experience or letting your hair down for a year, it’s about strengthening the foundation that you will build upon for the rest of your life. So, how do you take a gap year with purpose? How do you take a gap year for God?
1. Be Intentional with your GAP Year
It’s important to make a plan. Hoping for the best isn’t a strategy; it’s important to take action and decide what actions you need to take to set yourself up for success. Make your year count, do something that will challenge you and push you to go to new levels in your faith. Consider choosing a structured program that’s outside of your comfort zone to ensure you make the absolute most out of your year. You might be surprised at how many great gap year programs there are out there!
2. Include a missions trip or community service project in your GAP Year
God has designed you to serve others! We experience life and life abundantly when we put others before ourselves. There are so many ways you can serve; sign-up for a missions trip, serve at your local church or volunteer with a local Christian charity. Trust me, you will be amazed at what God reveals to you about your passions and gifts just by giving it a go!
3. GAP Year Travel (with purpose)
There is something about getting out of your usual environment that changes your perspective. Travel can open our minds and hearts to new possibilities, it helps us think differently. Make sure at least a portion of your gap year includes some travel time, but don’t just travel for the sake of it, do it with purpose. Attend a conference, go on a missions trip, or visit someone who encourages you in your faith.
4. Find a GAP Year mentor
A critical part of taking a Gap Year for God is discipleship. Make sure your year includes input from others who are further along in their faith journey – people who will ask you the hard questions, encourage you, and keep you accountable.
5. Develop spiritual discipline during your GAP Year
Developing any great relationship means investing time. Imagine if you were married and you only spoke to your spouse every once in a while? The distance between you would soon become great. The same goes for our relationship with the Lord. Decide how you are going to be intentional and disciplined in spending time with Him. Some people call this a “quiet time” where they do a devotional and pray – but spending time with God might look different for you. Maybe you connect with Him best on a hike, or playing music, or reading your bible at the beach. Whatever it is, decide how you will make spending time with Him a priority.
6. Go on a GAP Year media fast
Reckon you could survive without Netflix or Instagram for a year? 😱 I challenge you to give it a go! We live in a world where we fill every waking moment with something. When we are waiting in line, we usually go straight to our phones. Or if we have some downtime, we turn on the TV and watch a show. Imagine if these weren’t our go to’s? What if we created a margin in our lives just to think and take in our surroundings? What if we created more space for God to speak to us? I challenge you to try a media fast and see what happens!
7. Pray about your GAP Year Options
As you research and weigh up your options, ask God to lead you to the right gap year program. It is also a good idea to include your parents or other people you trust to give wisdom as you make decisions. Trust that Psalm 32:8 is true; “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
As you search for the right gap year for you, a YWAM Gap Year program in Townsville, Australia is a great option. There are 6-12 month options that include travel, life-changing teaching, missions trips, and mentoring. You will have the opportunity to set aside time to grow in your relationship with God while getting a greater understanding of your unique calling.
Anna van Winden
Anna joined our staff team in January 2017 and is very passionate about working on the ship/ helping with health care in Papua New Guinea. She loves seeing people from all over the world come together to volunteer on the ship. Anna enjoys baking, good coffee and early mornings!