College credit, missions experiences are options for gap year

Let’s just say you’re a parent of a rising high school senior. (Maybe you actually are.)

What would you think if your teenager told you he or she was thinking about taking a gap year between high school and college?

Would you worry about the future? Be concerned about a lack of focus or drive?

Brent Fielder — an advisory board member for Impact 360 Fellows — said parents don’t have to be alarmed. It all depends on what your student means by gap year — because the gap year program he’s involved with is anything but an unfocused break.

Impact 360 Fellows “is not a traditional gap year in that it’s not a year off from school — it’s actually academically rigorous,” said Fielder, also an active member of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham. 

Students come out of the program with college credit and hopefully a better understanding of their faith before they go off to the  traditional college experience, he said.

Interested in hearing more? Take a look at what these Christian gap year programs have to offer.

Impact 360 Fellows

During Impact 360 Fellows students live on the program’s campus in Pine Mountain, Georgia. For nine months they spend time in intensive community getting to know Jesus more deeply and learning how to live a full life of Christian influence, Fielder said. 

Distinguished professors come in to teach weeklong modules on topics like biblical worldview, servant leadership and biblical calling. And through a partnership with Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, gap year participants leave the program having already earned several college credits.

They also spend a month serving in Brazil, something that helps them to gain a cross-cultural perspective, Fielder said.

They’re currently accepting applications for the 2020–2021 school year. For more information visit impact360institute.org.

Nehemiah Teams/Advance Operations Training (AOT)

With AOT the idea is to train up leaders who can be a part of overseas and domestic missions projects through Nehemiah Teams and Project 52.

The attraction

The idea of a year break isn’t the attraction of AOT — the cross is the attraction, according to Jess Jennings, an Alabama native and long-term cross-cultural worker with the International Mission Board in Southeast Asia, who founded Nehemiah Teams in 2004.

AOT has a three-month training phase at Nehemiah Teams’ 60-acre facility in Mentone, followed by a two-month-or-longer strategic assignment in North America or overseas to assist Southern Baptist representatives. 

During their time in Mentone trainees visit local churches on Sundays, sharing their testimony and challenging young people to join them in missions. They also are involved in ministry to refugees and unreached people groups in the area.

The program is “designed to disciple, develop and deploy this generation to finish the Great Commission in this generation,” Jennings said. “In both secular and Christian history students have always responded to a cause worth dying for. We believe that Jesus is worthy of our greatest effort to make known the greatest message to those who have not heard.”

For more information visit ntp52aot.com.

Global Year

This program goes straight for the field-learning experience, sending participants to spend time serving in Canada, Cape Verde, Italy, Honduras or Guatemala. 

It was founded in 2000 by First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia, but became its own organization in 2008. It’s mission is to challenge the next generation to grow in their relationship with Jesus by sharing the gospel with those who haven’t heard it yet.

‘Main emphasis’

“Every location is different ministry wise — some will serve in schools, orphanages or church planting networks,” said Codey Cline, director of domestic ministry for Global Year. “Our main emphasis in every location is to evangelize and disciple the local people. This is what we train every student to do before they head out.”

They’re accepting applications now for next year. For more information or to read student blogs, visit www.globalyear.org.

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Freshman tips for a great start to college

Get connected to a local church and campus ministry as soon as you get to campus.

Sean Thornton
Campus Minister, Auburn University 

Put the Lord first in all you do and invest your time and service in a local church.

Ryan Gray
College Pastor, First Baptist Church, Montgomery

Push through uncomfortable and awkward situations in order to make new friends. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Kim Andrews
Campus Minister, University of Alabama

Strengthen your faith foundation. Find your identity in Christ alone before you walk onto the campus. 

Jerrod Brown
Campus Minister, University of South Alabama