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'Christian Gap Year - what's the difference?' by KJ Duursma


Gap YearGap Year Philosophy

The term 'Gap Year' refers to a time out of education and/or work. This 'Gap Year' is usually between secondary school and university or college, but a gap year can also be used to take a break between college/university and the commencing of work, or during some time off from work or between jobs. Gap Year opportunities are found all over the world and, though now available for adults of any age, have become very popular amongst young people from western nations.

Many young people use their Gap Year as an opportunity to travel. This form of Gap Year is often referred to as 'backpacking', where they will travel the globe, often with a friend, visiting places like South-East Asia, Australia, and of course the USA.

Other people like a more structured approach. Rather than just travelling, they take part in a gap year programme where they spend time supporting a local project somewhere in the world. The things they learn will probably help them gain a more holistic view of life, and this experience will have many other benefits in years to come. For example, a meaningful Gap Year on a CV will impress prospective employers more than if someone just simply travelled around the world.

What makes a Gap Year 'Christian'?

"There is a vast range of gap year possibilities available today with many Christian organizations offering a whole variety of jobs in a variety of countries all over the world."

Christian Gap Year opportunities differ from secular gap year opportunities in that the work is related to Christian faith. These days there are many Christian Gap Year opportunities which give young people a chance to express their faith in a number of ways. These may involve administration, youth work, evangelism, working with children, working in the community, working in school or teaching English in foreign countries.

Alternatively, the Christian Gap Year could involve having other practical duties with a Christian Project in either a Western or a developing country.

There is a vast range of gap year possibilities available today with many Christian organizations offering a whole variety of jobs in a variety of countries all over the world.

Training

One major reason why it's good to join an established Gap Year programme is training. Many organizations now offer well-planned and structured training which adds great value to the Gap Year experience. For some organizations the training simply revolves around the work they are to be involved with, whereas other Christian Gap Year programmes involve well-structured discipleship training.

Pay

Traveling around the world is rather costly and many people find themselves returning home when their money runs out.  Organised Gap Year opportunities do not cost that much, since many organizations will provide free lodgings and sometimes even offer a small amount of pocket money.

Many of the larger organizations will expect their recruits to raise the funds themselves.  However, they will provide some training in how to do that, and they will also explain the benefits of recruiting the finance.  People who support an individual on their Christian Gap Year trip will often feel more involved in the work. So the raising of funds goes hand in hand with raising moral and prayer support, which in turn benefits the overall Gap Year experience.

Time Commitments

The term Gap Year implies the duration of twelve months but many Gap Year opportunities are not that long. Some are limited to three months, due to visa restrictions, whereas other projects are even shorter.

Many organizations also provide short taster programmes which allow the prospective recruit to have a go without committing themselves for a long period of time.

Skills

Many Gap Year opportunities do not require particular skills but there are some where professional experience is greatly valued. Some of the larger organizations are always on the lookout for people with IT and media skills, bookkeepers, carpenters, electricians and other building skills. 

Other organisations have a very distinctive focus to their work. For example, Operation Mobilisation maintains ocean going vessels like Logos Hope and Doulos. These floating communities have a permanent need for many skills including hairdressers, catering staff, medical people, dentists, skippers, engineers, mechanics, and more.

For some, other skills are learnt during the Gap Year, which inevitably look good on the CV when that person returns or prove to be useful in their future Christian service.

Finding Christian Gap Year opportunities

Going online is the best way to find these opportunities, but a general search on 'Christian Gap Year' brings up mostly a list of individual organisations who run their own programme. How can you find a broader overview of the opportunities available? There are a number of secular websites who deal with gap year opportunities for a variety of other organisations, but what about Christian Gap Year opportunities? Fortunately, there are a few resources out there that provide this 'umbrella' service. Year for God and OSCAR are two of these and are both good places to start your search.

 

KJ Duursma runs Year for God, a UK based non-profit Christian website advertising Christian gap year opportunities. Year for God and OSCAR are partnering to offer mission organisations the chance to advertise their gap year opportunities across both websites. For details, click here.

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