Youth With A Mission is an international movement of Christians from many denominations dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world. Also known as YWAM (pronounced “WYE-wam”), our calling is to know God and to make Him known. Back when we began in 1960, our main focus was to get youth into short-term mission work and to give them opportunities to reach out in Jesus’ name. Today, we still focus on youth, and we also involve people of almost every age (even many people who choose to spend their “retirement” in active service). Our many ministries fit into three main categories: evangelism, training and mercy ministry. We are currently operating in more than 1000 locations in over 149 countries, with a staff of nearly 16,000.
History of YWAM
It all started when a 20-year-old American college student, who was in the Bahamas on a singing tour, spent some time in prayer. As he leaned back in his bed and looked up, he saw what he called a “mental movie.” He saw waves on a map. The waves turned into young people, going to every continent, sharing the good news about Jesus. “Was that really you, Lord?” he asked.
This radical idea, that young people could be missionaries, stayed with this young man, Loren Cunningham. Four years later, in 1960, he started an organization with that idea expressed even in its name: Youth With A Mission. Today, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has grown into one of the world’s largest Christian mission organizations. The story of how YWAM began and how it grew is a story of God’s direction and God’s grace in using ordinary people from countries all over the world.
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) encompasses thousands of people and hundreds of ministries in almost every country of the world. In every case, our passion is to know God and to make Him known.
We are a mixture of people from all over the world, from 149 countries in fact. In many of our locations, people from a wide variety of nations serve side by side. We come from numerous different Christian denominations and speak hundreds of languages. Nearly half of our staff come from “non-western” countries, such as Brazil, Korea, Indonesia, India and Nepal.
In addition to our full-time staff, many YWAM locations host short-term outreach teams made up of individuals, youth groups, families and churches who get to participate first-hand in “making God known” through both words and actions. We send out over 25,000 short-term missionaries each year.
There are three strands of ministry weaving throughout all that YWAM does:
Some creative tools used to present the gospel include drama, music, performing arts and sports camps. YWAMers want to share their faith effectively in ways that the audience–whether teenagers, elderly refugees, or an unreached people group–will understand. YWAM also engages in church planting among unreached people groups.
Mercy Ministry is the “hands and feet” of making God known. YWAM helps meet some of the practical and physical needs of about 400,000 people annually. Caring for street children in South America; aiding in the recovery of drug addicts in North America and Western Europe; feeding and housing refugees and women in need in Africa and Asia, and operating ships that declare the good news practically and verbally, are just some of the ways in which helping hands are extended.
Training and Discipleship
Training and Discipleship aim to better equip Christians to serve others in everything from agriculture and health care, to drug rehabilitation and biblical counseling. Through YWAM’s University of the Nations (U of N), missionaries can study in specialized areas such as science and technology, linguistics, the humanities, and Christian ministry. Most YWAM schools combine classroom teaching with relationship-centered discipleship and practical service.
The Discipleship Training School (DTS) is a requirement for applying as YWAM staff, and serves as a prerequisite to all other training programs.
Staff and Finances
Every YWAM worker, including the founder, Loren Cunningham, raises enough funds to meet his or her own financial needs. For most people in YWAM, these funds come from friends, family and churches who contribute financially. Other YWAMers rely on their own savings, part-time jobs, foreign employment, small businesses or even–in the case of some of our older staff–pension income.
YWAM has purposely chosen to emphasize personal support raising as the primary means of funding for our staff. Although we recognize there are many other valid ways of financing ministry, the way we have chosen is based on Biblical principles and has enabled us to include tens of thousands of people each year from over 130 countries in the task of fulfilling the Great Commission.
It’s also a financial model that enables many important ministries to exist in our world today. Just as the staff of a church or a community service organization relies on donations to pay their salary, so our staff also rely on financial partners to meet their financial needs.
We believe, and have experienced over and over, that personal support raising provides many benefits to our staff. It often creates a close bond between the financial partner and the worker on the field, it helps our workers experience God’s faithfulness in tangible ways, and when combined with a commitment to pray as well as to give, it provides powerful teamwork that results in encouragement for our workers and supernatural blessing on our ministries.
Each year some 10,000 students attend a U of N school at one of the 250 different locations.
Testomonies about YWAM
“Over the last 40 years, Youth With A Mission has become one of the premier missionary organizations in the world. Not only has it effectively spread the gospel and ministered to practical needs of the underprivileged around the globe, it has captured the imagination and energy of young people, infusing them with a vision–and providing a unique way–for reaching the lost!”
Bill McCartney, Founder & President, Promise Keepers
“Loren Cunningham has been one of the most adventuresome visionaries of our time. What he has accomplished staggers the imagination. God gave him a dream and he lived it out–very few of us do that. Wherever I go I seem to run into people who have been discipled into radical discipleship by YWAM. Those who have been a part of their program prove to be a great gift to churches around the world. Their spirituality, their ability to witness, and their commitment to take seriously the teachings of Christ have impacted Christendom. I can safely say that YWAM is one of the most important and effective movements in Christendom today.”
Dr. Tony Campolo, Professor of Sociology, Eastern College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania
“We congratulate Youth With A Mission on their vision and creativity in training youth to reach around the world for Christ in education, mercy ministries, evangelism and frontier missions. We rejoice with you in the faithfulness of God and of His people! May God continue to bless you and use you mightily as you invest in and contribute to the lives of Christian young people in your efforts to reach the world for Christ.”
Dr. David Yonggi Cho, Senior Pastor, Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea
“Whenever I’m traveling and speaking internationally and meet high-committed, servant-oriented Christian leaders, I think to myself, ‘Another YWAMer!’ I’m rarely mistaken. I am so grateful for the work of YWAM and for the intensity with which you do it.”
Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
For more information about YWAM check out the Internation YWAM website. www.ywam.org