What is a Christian Gap Year?

An intentional period of time devoted to personal and spiritual growth, focused life skill development, and direction-setting in an active ministry environment, with deep community and personal mentoring.

Gap year programs, gap semester programs, and service learning years — secular and faith-based — are sprouting across the US and around the world, particularly over the past decade. According to the Gap Year Association (secular), the number of young adults taking a gap year doubled to 130,000 in the 2021-22 school year from just a few years earlier. Most are independent programs run by a variety of organizations. Some are directly connected to colleges. But the original concept of a gap year involves taking intentional time between two seasons of life — usually between high school and college, trade school, military service, or entry into the workforce — to focus on personal growth and enriching experiences.

Some young adults use a gap year to unplug and float, to downshift pressure they feel about the transition to next steps in life. Others use a gap year to plug in… to grow and tool up for the next steps in life. The best Christian gap year programs focus on investing in young adults committed to plug in and grow.

What makes a program “Christian?”

Great question. Aside from the obvious, which we’ll address in a minute, the Christian Gap Year Association defines the essential aim of a faith-based gap year program is to intentionally steward the God-designed purpose and path of every program enrollee. That “why” flips the “what” of program design and delivery to one that is not focused on experiences as an outcome, but as a set of opportunities to discover, develop, and deploy on purpose, for a God-designed purpose.

What do we mean by that?

Discover your purpose and path.

Every young adult has a powerful and unique God-designed purpose knit together with an array of gifts, talents, personality, and life experiences. Christian gap programs prioritize discovering (and celebrating!) this unique design, and explore how it shapes or informs a young person’s path or direction.

Develop essential life skills with a biblical worldview.

Life skill development — from processing challenges and opportunities to decision-making, healthy relationship-building, applied critical thinking, personal spiritual formation, and leadership — is essential to thriving in the next steps of life, regardless of the young person’s path. Christian gap programs help young adults develop a toolbox for integrated active learning and growth that multiplies the value and impact of every step for the rest of their journey.

Deploy to the next steps of your journey with confidence.

Gap year experiences are great, but they are not an end in and of themselves. A key feature of the best Christian gap year programs is helping Christian young adults affirm and/or find the ideal next step in their pathway and successfully launch, whether to college, trade school, or the workforce. For students that step into college, discovering their purpose and path accelerates average graduation times and developing essential life skills improves academic and social outcomes.

Biblical Worldview Foundations

The best Christian gap programs help participants build key skills for reading and understanding the Bible, applying it to their personal spiritual growth, and developing a strong biblical worldview. This usually involves regular personal and group Bible study time, teaching skills like inductive Bible study, and weaving biblical principles through the full array of community-building and experiences. They don’t simply teach conclusions from the Bible, they help participants learn to be active self-feeders able to draw biblical conclusions and integrate them into their learning, decision-making, relationships, ministry, and life work.

Key Outcomes

  • Bible Study Skill: Identify and practice sound interpretation methods for understanding Scripture, including analysis in light of historical background and biblical context.
  • Christian Living: Build a philosophy and strategy of godly living that will guide them for a lifetime, including a Biblical worldview, ethics and patterns of behavior; prayer; and making Biblically-informed choices.

Life Skills as Stewardship

Gap year programs use a range of teaching resources and methods combined with dynamic experiences to help young adults develop essential life skills. These may include applied critical thinking, emotional intelligence, understanding team dynamics, financial literacy and planning, decision-making, and leadership, among other things. All of these are powerful multipliers for future investments in education, family, ministry, and professional pursuits. But that’s true for anyone. Christian gap year programs highlight and amplify the role of these life skills in the stewardship of the time, talent, and treasure each individual person’s God-designed purpose and path.

Key Outcomes

  • Active Learning: Develop an active learning discipline — a curiosity — that views every experience and circumstance as an opportunity to grow.
  • Integrated Living: Actively apply competency, capacity, and character, to both grow and invest on mission in every season and circumstance of life.

More Unique Features of a Faith-Based Gap Year

  • Mission-Driven Environments: An array of amazing ministry environments — like Christian camps, mission organizations (domestic and international), churches, and other nonprofit organizations host gap programs. Generally, participants actively participate in the ministry and mission of the organization in meaningful ways, producing eternal impact while having life-changing experiences.
  • Mentors That Shepherd: Ministries staff their gap programs with ministry professionals committed to personal discipleship and spiritual growth, not simply hosting an experience. The small community environment of most programs is immersive and intentional, and set up to facilitate connected investment in each participant.
  • Christian Community: The relationships built around dynamic faith in dynamic experiences often endure for a lifetime, and can be a critical lifeline in the next seasons of life. And they help young people catch and cast a vision for pursuing the same faith-driven community in their next season — at college, at home, and/or in the workforce.


Christian gap year programs are a powerful and effective opportunity for young adults to grow spiritually, build Christian community, gain valuable mentoring, and develop life skills that will multiply in value in their next steps. The diversity of faith-based gap year opportunities allows each unique young adult to plug into a program that will steward their God-designed purpose and path.

The Christian Gap Year Association is committed to helping Christian ministries and other faith-based organizations build and launch dynamic gap year experiences that help Christian young adults discover their purpose and path, develop essential life skills with a biblical worldview, and deploy into the next steps on their journey. And we are passionate about helping Christian young adults find a Christian gap year program that fits their unique story.