Youth With A Mission is an international, Christian missions organization operating from nearly 600 locations in over 130 countries. The organization includes more than 9,500 long-term staff members, and over 28,500 short-term workers. YWAM is involved in training
, and mercy ministries
. Whether you're a carpenter, a surgeon, a cook, a computer operator, or someone who's all thumbs, you can find one or more ministries in YWAM where can use your skills.
That said, though YWAM does lots of good work, the organization is not without its critics. At one time, a CRI
fact-sheet pointed out the organization's cultic
tendencies (primarily due to the many complaints received about abuses within YWAM's leadership structure).
, in his book "Unholy Devotion - Why Cults Lure Christians,"
(later renamed, ''By Hook or by Crook : How Cults Lure Christians'') wrote about his experiences with the organization:
Source: Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians, Harold Busséll, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983. page 116
In the early eighties, while dealing with the aftermath of my own experiences of abuse by a YWAM leader, someone suggested I interview Harold Busséll. Busséll confirmed that, while he does not mention them by name, the organization he referred to was YWAM.
At the time, I was interviewed by Brian Onken, who was a research associate with the Christian Research Institute (CRI). Onken assured me my own experiences were echoed by many others, and that similar reports had been received regarding YWAM bases around the world.
Problems with YWAM were not just limited to cultic behavior of some of its leaders, but included the teaching of aberrant theology.
, in his book "Lead Us Not Into Deception: A Biblical Examination of Moral Government Theology,"
wrote about YWAM's staunch support of the "Moral Government"
theology (said to no longer be taught within the organization), and in the process also addressed some of the abuses some were subjected to. While doing research for his books, Gomes himself was subjected to a smear-campaign directed by the highest leaders within the organization.
These are serious issues not limited to just a few isolated cases.
I, the publisher of Apologetics Index, have personally experienced spiritual abuse
within YWAM from Floyd McClung
, who at the time was one of YWAM's top world leaders. He demanded unquestioning obedience, claiming that God would bless us for our obedience to leaders, including himself, even when we knew them to be wrong. That is an unbiblical teaching found in many abusive churches. (See "Enforcing authority
While I have forgiven the spiritual abuse and accepted his reluctant apologies (he denied much of what he had said and done, even though there were a number of witnesses, including two other leaders) the abuse has had far-reaching consequences, the scars of which I still bear.
McClung later contacted me because he heard I was planning to write an article on YWAM's support for the Moral Government Theology
. While simple research showed that at the time it was promoted on several bases, he insisted it was taught at just one base - and suggested he was trying to deal with it.
More recently, the Momentus
training was popular at the YWAM Hawaii base.
As mentioned, YWAM does much good work throughout the world. Generally, most people have good experiences with the short-term ministry opportunities YWAM offers. However, it is best not to make decisions regarding further involvement with YWAM (e.g. commit to attend one of YWAM's schools) during or immediately after such trips. A long-term commitment to YWAM, starting with the attendance of one or more of its mandatory schools, is usually served in a foreign country, away from your family, friends, church and other familiar points of reference. Your lifestyle will be much different from what you are used to at home, with less personal freedom, independence and outside input than you are used to. You may not be able to communicate in the language of the country you are staying in. In such circumstances it is so much easier to give in to spiritual pressure (real or imagined, and from leaders as well as peers).
Two books that should be read by anyone joining YWAM or similar organizations, are The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
by David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen, and Healing Spiritual Abuse
, by Ken Blue.
At the very least, these books will help you be alert for potential problems (in YWAM or any other Christian ministry).
Again, all this does not mean such things are going on in all YWAM bases
. (Note that years after my negative experiences, I again volunteered at a YWAM base in Amsterdam, and had a wonderful time). One thing to keep in mind is that YWAM is a huge organization within which you can encounter many cultural and spiritual differences, as well as many leadership styles. Even in a small country like the Netherlands there are huge differences between the ''feel'' and approach of the various YWAM bases.
Should you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me
Is That Really You, God? Hearing the Voice of God
Evaluation, quotes and comments by Rev. Greg Robertson
My YWAM daze
Greg L. Robertson's testimony, as printed in Alan Gomes
' book ''Lead Us Not Into Deception
Saturated in Abuse at YWAM Maui
Walter Jones [pseudonym]
recounts his experiences at the YWAM Maui DTS
The ''Spiritual Mapping'' of YWAM
Collection of articles and links: "There are certain corner stones which have made the "casting about by every wind of doctrine" and "spiritual abuse" possible in YWAM. It is important to understand some of the things on this web page if you really want to understand present, confusing trends and movements in YWAM and other organizations."
Youth With A Mission and Theology: A History
by Walter Jones [pseudonym]
Youth With A Mission - YWAM
YWAM's official site
Includes a DTS (Discipleship Training School), various international outreach ministries, an excellent youth ministry, "Light The City" (Street Evangelism), and STEM (Short Term Evangelism Ministries), etcetera. Very nice base and highly recommended.
Walter Jones [pseudonym]
, a former YWAMer, provides a strong warning about "Youth With A Mission"
practices and theology. His site is currently offline, but two pertinent article are mirrored here: