If you’re anything like me, figuring out the future can be scary. After high school, I felt like there were a million options and it was impossible to predict how they would turn out. I was overwhelmed by all the choices and the responsibility to define the rest of my life as a 17 year old. It felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and one wrong choice would destroy the rest of my life.
With the pressure mounting, I decided to take a step back and figure out what really mattered to me in life before deciding what I wanted to become. I signed up for a gap year at Youth With A Mission and enrolled in Discipleship Training School (DTS). It was an incredible missions experience that changed my life. I discovered so much about God, myself and the world that totally changed how I think about life and what I want to become. I would highly recommend that everyone take a gap year. These 7 questions can help you decide if spending part of your gap year in a YWAM DTS is right for you:
1. Do you want to really know God?
My whole life, I heard about knowing God in church. But I had no idea how to get there. Sometimes, I would read my Bible or pray. But it never felt like a real relationship. When I decided to take a gap year, discovering friendship with God was my top priority.
I went to YWAM DTS in Madison, Wisconsin and spent the first 3 months living in a missions community and learning from gifted speakers. I discovered how to hear God’s voice. I learned that God truly wanted to be near me. I learned that His character is altogether good and His heart is broken by sin and suffering. And this changed everything for me.
I realized that I used to be afraid of God. But now, I actually liked Him and loved spending time with Him.
2. Do you want to see lives changed?
God is freely invited into every DTS, so it’s not unusual to see your new friends change before your eyes. People who arrived with lingering addictions, feelings of shame or worthlessness suddenly realize that God has declared their value and freed them from guilt. They experience God’s deep love for the first time and it transforms them from the inside out.
3. Do you want more than just Voluntourism?
After completing 3 months of training in Madison, the DTS outreach immerses you in another culture for 8+ weeks. When you spend day after day with the nationals, you start to love them the same way Jesus does. While a short term trip can be an excellent way to get a taste of missions, an extended experience helps you see beyond the culture shock, different foods, and language barriers to who people really are, and how desperately Jesus longs for them. And as you get down in the dirt to serve the hurting and lost, you see God do miraculous things!
4. Do you need a break from school?
Often, high school grads go straight into college just because it is the cultural norm. Many don’t know their career path and just take general classes, change majors and pile up school debt while trying to discover what they want to become. But did you know that taking a gap year is the norm in Europe and is gaining steam in America? Forbes reported a 20% increase since 2006 in high school graduates taking a year off to travel, volunteer and develop personal interests. And many universities including Harvard are now encouraging students to take a gap year.
“Burnout is an inevitable result of trying to live up to alien goals. Time out can promote discovery of one’s own passions.”from Harvard College's Admissions Page
A YWAM Gap Year is an incredible missions experience that will change your life and change the world. Over five months, you’ll encounter Jesus in deeply personal ways, make incredible friends, and travel to beautiful locations, all while investing in a movement that truly is helping the hurting and the lost.
A YWAM DTS is unlike any school you’ve ever known. Your life is the lab. Teachable moments happen over dinner, or while washing dishes. You’ll have late night conversations with the staff or your classmates that shake up your stale ideas and show you a fresh perspective. Your experiences will uncover new facets of who you are and equip you to make decisions about your future because you better understand yourself. And you will have a deeper understanding of the needs of the world and how to hear God’s voice, which will help you process your career path.
5. Do you feel called to missions?
Youth With a Mission has over 1800 centers around the world. Whatever your passion — anti-trafficking, orphans, education, counseling, farming — someone in YWAM is probably doing it, or wants to get it started! DTS is the gateway to join any YWAM ministry around the world. And because every YWAMer has done a DTS, you’re shared foundations will make it easy to make friends wherever you go. Whether you feel called to serve for a couple years or a lifetime there is room for you and your dreams in YWAM.
6. Do you want to make a difference in the world?
Everyone faces difficulties. But sometimes our lives are too easy. Wake up. Go to school. Go to work. Eat dinner. Sleep. Repeat. Day after day. This routine can suck the life out of us.
Deep down, we all want to make a difference in the world. Encountering Jesus in a DTS and serving the hurting and the lost transform your world into hi-def technicolor. When you see with God’s eyes, and love with His heart, everything is more intense. Whether you decide to stay in YWAM after DTS or return home, nothing will be the same because YOU are different.
7. Ready to Jump In?
What are you waiting for? There’s no time like today to sign up for a YWAM Gap Year. With a new DTS starting every 3 months, you can choose the perfect dates for your schedule & even specialize in an area of passion like children at risk, refugees, or the arts.
3 month discipleship course + 3 month mission trip = Life forever changed