What to Do During Your Gap Year
I showed up to orientation at Candler School of Theology two months after turning 22 and three months after graduating college. Before this, I felt called to ministry or teaching and knew graduate school was the next step, either way. I made good grades, diligently applied to school, and accepted the best offer. And now here I was in Atlanta, sitting in a room listening to classmates make their introductions.
We were going around the room saying why we were at Candler. I remember thinking, “What a stupid question! We’re all here for the same reason—to get a degree for whatever else we want to do after this.” Obviously, I had a keen mind and an engaged heart. The first new student began speaking. She was there because she’d spent the year interning with young women in rural Appalachia and wanted to work on issues of justice for women. Another person had been a missionary in Africa for two years and wanted a deeper theological education. Another was involved with prison reform. Another spent time in AmeriCorps and while engaged there, began reading the books of a professor at Candler and came to study at his feet. I knew my turn to speak was coming and it was dawning on me that I had nothing to say.
I was there…because. And my “because” felt so lame compared to the people speaking.
They were knowledgeable, strong in their purpose, and passionate about things I had never encountered. I felt young and out of my league. I don’t even remember how I answered. I just remember my brain racing to come up with something, anything, that didn’t belittle the work of my classmates or make me look small and naïve. I wished then, and many times after, that I’d taken some time before coming to Candler to have better, wider answers for what I was doing.
There is a way to have some life experience before school or before entering a career path. It’s what my many of my classmates from Candler did: a gap year or two. Gap years are an intentional time-out from the traditional learning setting before going to college, after finishing college, before graduate school, or before embarking on a career path. People do this when young because generally, the pay is very low (or non existent) and responsibilities are few. Young people can use this time to delve deeply into a topic such as studying a language (often by living abroad), learn a trade, travel, participate in an internship, join an AmeriCorp program, engage in missionary work, etc.
Some countries around the world actively support their young people growing during gap years with funding and special programs. In other nations, like the United States, a person generally needs to have their own funding and support. Thankfully, there are some United Methodist ways to engage in ministry and discipleship during a gap year, for those in the USA and internationally, some of which have funding!
General Board of Global Missions:
Who may apply: Those ages 18 and up, USA applicants only but places to serve internationally
Length of Service: 2 months-2 years
Funding: No, person must his or her own funds
About: The opportunities for volunteers are diverse, including such positions as case managers for refugees, teachers, pastors, camp directors, children and youth assistants, and health care administrators and practitioners.
Who may apply: Those ages 20-30, for people from all over the world, placements all around the world.
Length of Service: 2 years
Funding: Yes, fully funded
About: Young adults are invited to engage with the local communities, connect the church in mission, and grow in personal and social holiness. This program allows for transformation and leadership development to take place while addressing roots of social injustices with other young people from around the world.
The Global Mission Fellow program has 2 tracks: US-2 and International. Both tracks offer candidates the opportunity to be part of a cohort of other Global Mission Fellows. You will train and regroup with the same young adults throughout the 2 years of service, and always have a support group to walk with you through your journey!
General Board of Church and Society:
Who may apply: Those ages 18 and up
Length of Service: 11 weeks and up (depending on how many internships are awarded)
Funding: On a case-by-case basis
Who may apply: Those ages 18-22, must identify as a person of color
Length of Service: Summer
About: The General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) Internship Programs provide a unique opportunity for emerging leaders to gain valuable professional advocacy experience, increase leadership skills and deepen their Christian walk and witness.
Applications received on a rolling basis depending on start date.
Who may apply: College age students
Length of Service: Summer and year-long internships
Funding: Yes, often with housing
About: Discover your calling through giving yourself to others and reflecting on how God can use your gifts and passions to live a life of purpose. Through building relationships with underserved children and youth, leading summer day camps or after-school programs, living in intentional community, and exploring a variety of vocational paths in ministry and service, young adults who serve with Project Transformation leave the program forever changed. They grow as servant leaders, experience racial and socio-economic diversity, develop life-long relationships, and discern where God is calling them to be in ministry and service to the world.