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A Brief Introduction to YWAM

January 29, 2021

Youth With A Mission, or YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), is a global youth missions movement dedicated to knowing God and making God known.

We do this in 3 main ways: evangelism, training, and mercy ministry. Everything we do falls into one or more of these categories. Emphasizing these areas allows us to be fruitful in our endeavors while leaving a long-term impact in the places we minister.

With over 18,000 full-time volunteers and more than 1,200 operating locations, YWAM has effectively been training and mobilizing young people into missions for more than 60 years. 

Our movement is unique because we are held together by our shared vision, beliefs, values, and relationships with one another, rather than a set of rules or policies. Because of this, we continue to be a fast-growing, apostolic, all-volunteer mission led by young “YWAMers” from all over the world.

This blog will only scratch the surface of all that YWAM is, but here are some key things to understand about this God-led missions movement.

It’s YOUTH with a mission

In 1956, a young man named Loren Cunningham received a powerful vision from God while on a mission trip in the Bahamas. He saw a vision of waves of young people crashing over the continents of the world, preaching the gospel to everyone until all nations had heard it.

Loren was just 20 years old when God revealed this to him, and it resonated deeply with his passion for world evangelism. Imagine! Young people from everywhere going to everywhere, carrying the message of Christ’s salvation for all to hear.

Contrary to popular belief, Loren believed that young people could be missionaries and that they could be missionaries NOW! It was a revolutionary idea because if you wanted to become a missionary at that time, there was usually a large list of requirements you had to meet in order to be sent out. Unfortunately, this often excluded young people from joining the mission field because the requirements were simply too much.

And so, in 1960, YWAM was born and the deregulation of youth missions began. YWAM would be different from any other mission organization before it because everything that was done in YWAM hinged completely on hearing the voice of God. On top of that, YWAM would be multigenerational, but always with youth as the majority.

Guided by the voice of God

YWAM’s founders are often asked (usually by businesspeople) how an organization as big as YWAM has continued on for over 60 years and still remained true to its original vision and values.

The answer is simple: YWAM is committed to hearing the voice of God and seeking his direction in detail in all we do. This answer is often met with surprise by those who’ve seen YWAM’s success and want to know the secret. But it’s true—God is the one who leads YWAM, not man. YWAMers hear God’s voice, obey it, and never give up.

YWAM Value #3 states: “YWAM is committed to creating with God through listening to Him, praying His prayers, and obeying His commands in matters great and small. We are dependent upon hearing His voice as individuals, together in team contexts and in larger corporate gatherings as an integral part of our process for decision making.”

As believers, not just YWAMers, we must have the utmost respect for the voice of God. We must trust him when he speaks and incorporate hearing his voice into everything we do. For YWAM, this is a defining attribute as we seek to bring God glory through evangelism, training, and mercy ministries.

Evangelism

YWAM is committed to world evangelism because we believe that everyone on earth has the right to hear the gospel message in their own language. Many people are surprised when they find out that there are still tribes and indigenous groups that don’t have a Bible in their own language, let alone have never even heard the name of Jesus.

We refer to these people as “unreached people groups” and often concentrate our efforts on making sure that we reach them. We’ll fly to any location, sail to any island, and walk any distance if it means that we can help ensure that no one misses out on the chance to make Jesus their Lord and Savior.

Training

In order to be effective in our evangelism, YWAM runs a wide variety of missionary training programs. We put a large focus on training students so they can become better equipped to use their unique calling to share the gospel with anyone they come in contact with.

At the end of each of these programs, we commission our students into that unique calling and mobilize them to be an effective agent for the Kingdom of God in any sphere of society he’s called them to.

Everyone in YWAM goes through an intensive, half-year discipleship program called a Discipleship Training School, or a “DTS”. This program usually consists of a 3-month lecture phase study on location at one of our campuses, followed by a 2-3 month outreach phase in some other region or nation of the world.

Following DTS, graduates are then able to further their missionary training in one of our secondary schools such as the Bible School for the Nations, the Art Evangelists School, and the School of Justice and Advocacy.

Mercy ministry

As passionate as we are about evangelism and training, we recognize that we must also address the physical and emotional needs that people experience every day. Yes, we must preach the gospel to every nation; but we must also extend compassion to the poor, the sick, and the exploited.

One of YWAM’s guiding directives from God is what we call the “Christian Magna Carta”. This document outlines 6 basic rights that we believe all humans have. Among these 6 rights is the right to have the basic necessities of life: food, water, clothing, shelter, and health care.

This commitment leads YWAM to be involved in establishing ministries that reach out to prostitutes, refugees, the hungry, and the orphan (to name a few). Two notable ministries are Homes of Hope and YWAM Ships, as they address not just the spiritual needs that people have but their felt needs as well.

Conclusion

In summary, YWAM’s goal is to mobilize missionaries from every corner of the planet to join in the effort of completing the Great Commission. YWAM believes its calling is to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15) and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). 

Guided by God’s voice, this global, youth missions movement will continue to use evangelism, training, and mercy ministry to spread the gospel until the whole world knows.

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