God in the Gap Year: The Benefits of Taking Time Off Before Going to College

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students and parents at Franconia Mennonite Church in Telford, PA. It was an honor to share with the group ideas on how to make the most of these formative years. At one point in the evening, a current college student gave a presentation on his cross-cultural “gap year experience” with a mission’s organization. Now a student at Cairn University, he explained how taking some time off before going to college has really paid off.

I have been a huge advocate for students considering taking a gap year before heading off to college. Here’s what I suggested in my contribution to David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me:

“Taking a gap year before going to college creates a remarkable opportunity for students to think more deeply and intentionally about the person God is calling him or her to be. Many students who struggle in college do so because they are not able to articulate reasons or explain goals for going to college. College has become the assumed next step after high school, with very little thought about why.

A growing trend among Christian camps, churches, and parachurch ministries is to provide a gap year experience for students that forces them out of the routine of “schooling” and into a deeper relationship with God. These residential programs typically last nine months; focus on worldview, identity, and service; and include a cross-cultural experience. While not for everyone, many students who participate in gap year programs are far more prepared for the transition to college and adulthood.

As followers of Christ, we are challenged to ‘not conform to the pattern of this world’ (Romans 12:2). This is a reminder that the church is shaped by a different story with a different definition of success. Too many students and parents allow the ‘world’s story’ to direct their higher education decisions and fail to think critically and biblically about the best steps for life after high school. Participating in a gap year program is a helpful way to counter this trend.”

Related Resources:

Visit to see a list of Gap Year Programs.

Download the article “God in the Gap Year: The Benefits of Taking Time Off Before Going to College” (PDF) here.