Program Essentials

There is a wide range of faith-based gap year programs, program designs, dynamics, features, and locations, which is amazing. But the best Christian gap year programs share the same core commitments, and bake them into everything they do. Christian Gap Year Association program members all meet and champion the following standards.

Program Standards

The following are essential standards met by every CGYA program member.

Program Design Standards

Exceptional programs start with the mission-driven end in mind. The design standards below ensure the “why” drives the “what” and is clearly stated, so that the core purposes of a Christian gap year experience leverage on dynamic experiences, rather than simply taking a back seat to experiential dynamics.

Purpose-Driven: The program design starts with the three primary objectives — discover, develop, and deploy — of a Christian gap year, substantially and substantively.
Participant-Driven: The program design fundamentally celebrates and amplifies the God-designed purpose and path of every participant.
Outcome-Driven Design: The program has clearly stated outcome objectives (competency, capacity, and character) and has sufficient resource and design features to ensure pathways to those outcomes for every participant.
Integrated Learning: A core component of any gap year program is dynamic experiences. Integrated learning is the discipline that intentionally weaves instruction, experience, reflection, and mentoring together as mutually-supporting efforts to produce amplified growth outcomes. For programs that include college credit options, coursework must be integrated into the program design and rhythms such that it is not a separate effort for participants that competes for time and bandwidth with the core program.

Program Resource Standards

Plans are great. But a healthy program requires healthy resources. These standards help to ensure every CGYA program member can operate on purpose, for purpose, without leaking value due to lean or poorly allocated resources.

Site: The program location or locations have adequate housing and amenities to host each cohort of gap year participants safely and in such a way that supports the purpose and design of the program. This includes offsite locations used for outdoor experiences, missions trips, and other program events from time-to-time.
Staff: The organization has assigned one or more qualified staff members dedicated to shepherding the gap year program. A “qualified” staff member will have sufficient experience and training to facilitate program outcomes, as designed, for each specific gap year cohort, including strong Christian character and a strong capacity to facilitate spiritual formation for Christian young adults.
Budget: The program budget is well-designed to facilitate the program design and purpose while resourcing healthy program growth.
Risk Management: The organization has a healthy and robust risk management plan in place, including appropriate background checks for all staff members (not just gap program staff) and adequate insurance policies with coverage for every aspect of the program, onsite and offsite.

Program Value Standards

A key component of program responsibility is intentionally stewarding each participant’s return on investment (ROI). That investment involves precious time and money.

Recruiting: Helping participants find the ideal program to steward their purpose and path is essential. All recruiting, messaging, and communication, is clear, complete, and transparent, and aimed toward stewarding the student’s journey, not simply filling the program. Also, the application process is designed to identify a student’s fit with the program and the program’s fit within the student’s journey.
Duration: The program duration is sufficient to substantively facilitate program outcomes, and the calendar (start date, end date, and key events) is aligned well for that purpose, such that each participant’s time investment is efficiently and effectively matched to fit well between the seasons they are bridging.
Cost: Program enrollment costs do not exceed $16,000 or $1600 per month for programs less than 8 months, whichever is less, including any required tuition costs, if academic enrollment is a condition of gap year program enrollment or acceptance.
College Credit: If enrollment for academic credit is available through the program — whether required for program enrollment or optional — due care and coaching are provided as to the portability of the required courses to a participant’s potential target universities AND degree programs.
Work Experience and/or Work Study: A faith-based organization that offers and hosts a Christian gap year experience may design service and/or operating roles and responsibilities to program participants, provided those functions are both an intentional component for achieving program objectives AND participants are either directly compensated for their work at a fair market value or a fair market value for their work is credited to the program cost to reduce the participants financial investment.

Got Questions?

If your organization hosts a Christian gap year program, or would like to start a Christian gap year program, we would love to connect. The program standards above are distilled from over two decades of experience working with amazing ministry organizations running effective and enduring programs.

You can reach out to us via the contact form here.