Youth with a Mission
|Motto||To know God and to make Him known|
|Founder||Loren and Darlene Cunningham|
|Type||Christian interdenominational missionary association|
Founded in 1960, the group's initial focus was to get youth involved in missions. Today, while maintaining its original youth-oriented ethos, the group has expanded its membership to those of older ages as well.
Founded by American missionary Loren Cunningham and his wife Darlene Cunningham in 1960, YWAM's stated purpose is to "know God and to make Him known". The institute has faced a number of controversies over doctrine, the behavior of its members, including sexual assault, and numerous former members have accused it of being a cult. 
Youth with a Mission was conceived by Loren Cunningham in 1956. As a 20-year-old student in an Assemblies of God College, he was traveling in the Bahamas when he had a vision of a movement that would send young people out into various nations to share the message of Jesus, and which would involve Christians of all Christian denominations.
In late 1960, the name Youth with a Mission (YWAM) was chosen and the group embarked on their first project, a vocational mission trip. The result was that YWAM sent two men in their early twenties to Liberia to build a road through the jungle to a leper colony. This was the organization's first official mission trip.
Loren Cunningham married Darlene Scratch in 1963. By this time, the new mission had 20 volunteers stationed in various nations, and the Cunninghams were planning the mission's first "Summer of Service". Later in the year, YWAM teams were being sent to West Indies, Samoa, Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America.
In 1964, the organization became non-denominational. 
In 1967, Cunningham began to work on his vision for the first school. It was to be the School of Evangelism, which was held in Chateau-d'Oex (Hotel Rosat), Switzerland in 1969 with 21 students. A second school which was twice as long, ran from the summer of 1969 through the summer of 1970 just outside Lausanne, Switzerland (in Chalet-A-Gobet). The students' lodging and classes took place in a newly renovated and leased hotel. By the end of the year, YWAM purchased the hotel and made Lausanne its first permanent location.
The School of Evangelism was formed in 1974 in New Jersey as well as Lausanne. With a focus on biblical foundations and character development as well as missions, much of the material from this course is now taught in the present day Discipleship Training School (DTS). A format of three months of lectures followed by two or three months of outreach is still used in most Discipleship Training Schools (sometimes known as the Discipleship Training Course or "DTC") today.
By 1970, YWAM had a total of 40 full-time staff. In early 1972, a small team headed to Munich, Germany, to begin preparations for an outreach during the 1972 Summer Olympics. YWAM had about 1000 people there for the outreach. This was the first of many YWAM Olympic outreaches.
The University of the Nations online magazine has stated that Cunningham met scientist and professor Howard V. Malmstadt at a conference in 1974. They started giving educational seminars together, and Cunningham asked Malmstadt to help expand the training arm of the mission. In 1977 YWAM purchased the Pacific Empress Hotel in Kona, Hawaii, and began renovations to turn it into the campus for what was initially called the Pacific and Asia Christian University—the forerunner of University of the Nations.
By 1978, YWAM's Mercy Ships ministry was launched with the commissioning of the ship "Anastasis" (the Greek word for Resurrection). In 1984 the m/v Good Samaritan was added, in 1990 the m/v Pacific Ruby, then in 1994 the m/v Caribbean Mercy and then in 2001 the m/v Pacific Link. Mercy Ships was pioneered by YWAM but in 2003 was released as a separate organization. A New Zealand-based YWAM ship ministry, formerly a part of Mercy Ships called Marine Reach, which owned and operated the m/v Pacific Link continued to remain within the YWAM family and, over time, a number of ship equipped ministries sprouted up as part of the YWAM Ships network.
By the end of the 1980s, YWAM changed the name of its university to University of the Nations (U of N). The concept of a YWAM university that would encompass training programs in hundreds of YWAM locations was developed by Cunningham and Malmstadt. When communist regimes in Eastern Europe began to fall in the early 1990s, Youth with a Mission began outreaches to countries there, including Albania.
By 2000, YWAM had over 11,000 staff from over 130 countries and had become almost 50 percent non-Western. Reflecting this diversity, in 1999, New Zealander Frank Naea, who has Samoan and Māori parentage, was chosen to become YWAM's first non-white president in 2000, replacing Jim Stier, who was to continue as international director of evangelism and frontier missions and national director for Brazil. In 2000, YWAM developed a new role of Executive chairman, which Jim Stier stepped into, and made the presidency a three-year rotating position. However, at a meeting in 2011 the organization's elders did away with the titles director, chairman, and president, in reference to all leadership roles except at the local level. By 2006, YWAM had joined the International Orality Network (ION), a multi-agency outreach effort to "the world's non-literate masses", employing verbal and dramatic means to introduce the Gospel to populations which do not read. In 2008, a number of mission organizations and church mission departments, including YWAM, started the Call To All movement, dedicated to completing the Great Commission in our time.
Sports camps, drama presentations, musical events, volunteering, and other creative and performing arts are among the avenues through which volunteers and staff share their Christian faith.
International sporting event outreachesEdit
- 1972 Summer Olympics, Munich: It is believed 1,000 volunteers were part of the outreach effort, which included 50 Dutch volunteers under Romkje Fountain (who later founded YWAM Holland)
- 1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal: The outreach included street evangelism.
- The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow were heavily boycotted and afforded little opportunity for evangelism because of Communist precepts. YWAM is presumed not to have participated.
- 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles: YWAM notes they performed street theater during these games.
- 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona: YWAM conducted open-air church services and performed gospel drama and dance in the streets.
- 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta: 4,500 YWAM members were active behind the scenes. About 1,000 volunteers were official greeters at the Olympic Village and 1,000 more helped with Olympic security and translating.
- 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano: Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries cooperated with YWAM at the Nagano Winter Olympic Games Outreach. According to the YWAM website, the central event was a prayer march from Zenkō-ji, an historic Buddhist temple, to the Olympic Plaza.
- 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney: YWAM member Kara Miller Stewart participated in an Olympic dance events. YWAM worked closely with United Bible Societies to distribute Towards the Goal, a sports focused New Testament.
- 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City: YWAM was hosted by the Salvation Army.
- 2004 Summer Olympics, Athens: YWAM member musician Benny Prasad was invited to perform during these games. YWAM also organized arts and music events. A YWAM member was arrested for "suspicious activity" but was later released. Greece is the only European Union (EU) country to ban proselytism in its constitution.
- 2006 Winter Olympics, Torino: This was reportedly the 16th YWAM Olympic related event. YWAM used entertainment events such as music, street drama, community festivals and snow boarding clinics for creative interaction.
- 2012 Summer Olympics, London: A season of outreach was held during and after the Summer Olympic Games in London, 2012.
- 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: An outreach is planned for this event.
The purpose of YWAM training programs is to develop the students' relationship with God and with others, to help them find God's purpose for their lives, empowering them to live Christ-like lives no matter what their vocation might be. An important concept to YWAM teaching is the notion of societal "spheres of influence", such as education, government, arts and entertainment, media and communication, business and commerce, family, and church. YWAM aims to train and equip Christians to become influential within these spheres.
The various training schools of YWAM are organized under the structure of The University of the Nations (U of N). The U of N offers modular courses which in the USA are accredited via bi-lateral arrangements with other higher education institutions, rather than by accrediting agencies. In some nations, e.g. Australia, certain YWAM courses are recognized by accrediting agencies. Most schools in the U of N system have a three-month lecture phase which is then followed by a two- to three-month field assignment.
Discipleship Training SchoolEdit
The Discipleship Training School (DTS) is YWAM's entry-level training. DTSs are run in YWAM centers around the world with the purpose of teaching students about God and His purposes for humankind. The DTS encourages personal intellectual and spiritual growth and seeks to help graduates find their place serving God in the world. It also provides a foundation for students to continue their education through the U of N. The DTS generally lasts 5–6 months and consists of a 3-month lecture/study phase followed by a 2–3-month evangelistic/service outreach.
Many centers run DTS's that emphasize certain parts of the world or specific ministry strategies which help students use their skills and talents in world missions. DTS's are operated according to the guidelines of the YWAM International DTS Centre, which was established to maintain and enhance excellence in DTS programs worldwide in accordance with the DTS purpose and curriculum guidelines set by the International Leadership of Youth with a Mission and the U of N.
YWAM works to help meet the practical and physical needs of the global community through its many relief and development initiatives, collectively known as Mercy Ministries International. These various YWAM ministries are spread throughout most of the locations that YWAM missionaries live and work, and range in scope from serving the poor through local feeding programs to international disaster relief teams that work in places of great need, such as the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
YWAM ship equipped ministries, the maritime arm of YWAM's Mercy Ministries, uses ships to bring physical and spiritual healing to the poor and needy. YWAM ships have provided vitally important surgeries, dental care, medical supplies, food, seeds, construction materials, development projects, training, and their message to the isolated islands and rivers of the world.
Mercy Ships was the original ship-based relief ministry of YWAM, and the new ship-equipped ministries grew from the foundations laid by the Mercy Ships vision and expansive ministry. Mercy Ships is now operationally separated from YWAM. New Zealand based YWAM ship ministry, formerly a part of Mercy Ships called Marine Reach, which owned and operated the m/v Pacific Link continued to remain within YWAM family and is now operated by YWAM Ships Australia.
Youth with a Mission was also involved in disaster relief and grief counseling after the 2004 tsunami. tsunami relief by YWAM staff took place in India, Thailand, and Indonesia in both the immediate aftermath of the tsunami and is reported to still continue in some areas.
Flooding in Pakistan in 2007 in the Sindh province prompted a response by twenty Muslim, Christian, and Hindu volunteers led by YWAM Pakistan. They were assisted by an appeal made through YWAM London's disaster relief|relief office. Various YWAM entities in Pakistan were able to distribute food for a month to 3,000 of the 150,000 homeless survivors there.
Hurricane Katrina flooded all eleven of YWAM New Orleans' buildings. Personnel were evacuated to YWAM bases in Baton Rouge and Tyler, Texas, where volunteers in their MercyWorks relief arm prepared to take food, "baby items" and water to victims once access was granted to relief workers by the National Guard. Earlier that year, YWAM lodgings in Phuket, Thailand were destroyed by the tsunami of 26 December 2004.
Disease prevention and treatmentEdit
In Uganda, YWAM is working with villagers to provide relief for HIV/AIDS. They have established orphanages and are ensuring children are educated. British singer, Lemar visited the project in Soroti in 2007.
In 2007, ARMS announced a new ministry focus – an international campaign against Malaria called Buzz Off. The campaign is aimed at empowering smaller NGOs and ministries working in Malaria endemic nations to tackle the problem of Malaria at the local level. In from 2009 to 2010 Buzz Off fed resources into Burmese Internally Displaced People camps providing LLIN mosquito nets into IDP areas through already established health networks. Some funding organizations in Australia are getting behind the work that Buzz Off is doing with the IDPs.
Other mercy ministry initiativesEdit
YWAM San Diego is actively involved in building homes for families in Mexico through its Homes of Hope ministry. According to Sean Lambert, president of YWAM San Diego/Baja, teams participating with his base have built 2,084 homes for needy families since 1991. Teams purchase the housing materials and, optionally, furniture. These teams then travel to Tijuana or Ensenada, Mexico to build the house with YWAM staff overseeing the project. In recent years the work has expanded throughout the Caribbean into the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Panama. According to their website, Homes of Hope has built a total of 4,300 homes in 16 different nations.
Despite its historical and value emphasis on young people, YWAM involves people of all ages. However, there is still a core emphasis on youth ministry. While YWAM has many programs focusing on youth ministry, within the larger organization it has developed three transnational ministries for youth: Mission Adventures (MA), King's Kids International (KKI) and Youth Street. YWAM holds an annual spring event offering free dentistry to children in Lindale, TX. The ministry is first come, first served; while thousands are given free treatment, thousands more are turned away, sometimes coming from many states away. In 1973, Pastor David E. Ross founded YWAM Korea, and launched campus ministries where Bible meditation sessions, prayer meetings and worship services are held on campuses in that nation. Currently, in South Korea, about 120 universities have YWAM campus ministries with 150 assistant administrators and eight university discipleship training schools.
YWAM Missionary Lee Isaac Chung's film Munyurangabo (Liberation Day) earned Un Certain Regard at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Chung cast two street kids whom he found through YWAM's soccer-outreach program as the stars of a film that dealt with the moral and emotional repercussions of the Rwandan genocide.
David Loren Cunningham, son of the group's founders, recently produced a controversial film titled Hakani: A Survivor's Story, which contains a depiction of infanticide among Amazonian tribes of Brazil. The film gave new vigor to the debate on human rights regarding indigenous people.
Associations and working relationshipsEdit
Youth With A Mission is a global mission with international partnerships. Former chairman Lynn Green recently reported that YWAM representatives sometimes sit "on boards of other commissions" and organizations.
YWAM also works closely with various missions and churches, as well as independent missionaries across the globe. Through these connections, YWAM has sometimes grown by taking over local independent ministries. One example of this is the story of its affiliate in Korea, Jesus Evangelism Team, which joined YWAM in the early 1980s.
A notable working relationship is the OneStory Project which is a partnership between YWAM, Campus Crusade for Christ, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Trans World Radio, and Wycliffe Bible Translators as well as other Great Commission-focused organizations, churches and individuals. United Bible Societies has also worked closely with YWAM as a missions partner. YWAM joined with the Evangelical Alliance and John C. Maxwell to design the training program for the Global Pastors Network's Million Leaders Mandate. YWAM and Christian Direction work together to pray for Muslims during Ramadan. YWAM Pittsburgh has been involved in ecumenical local efforts to revive Epiphany School through teaching young people "Christian principles" and exposing them to dance and the arts.
YWAM partners with:
- Christian Aid
- Campus Crusade for Christ
- International Mission Board
- Trans World Radio
- Wycliffe Bible Translators
- World Vision
- Food for the Hungry
- International House of Prayer
YWAM is a member of:
- the International Orality Network
- Call2All, a 200 organization initiative of the Global Pastors Network to lead a billion souls to Christ
- OneStory Project
Mainstream news reportsEdit
2007 Shooting incidentEdit
A gunman identified as an expelled YWAM student, Matthew Murray, shot four staff members at the missionary training center near Denver in the early morning hours on December 9, 2007, killing two.
YWAM's School of Writing director Janice Rogers noted that internationally, YWAM had been the victim of violent offenders before, including homicides and other violent acts, although this was the first act of aggression against the mission on US soil.
2016 Buying sex in Cambodia on outreachEdit
A missionary, Mr. Choi, was sent out by YWAM to Cambodia where he was then arrested for engaging in inappropriate relations with a young woman. The young woman stated that she was assaulted. On November 29, Mr. Choi was suspended and banned from his mission and fundraising activities in Korea. Prior to this incident, Mr. Choi had been operating a school called, "New Vision School," which teaches primarily young children, kindergarten to the elementary age range. Mr. Choi had an extensive 30 years of experience in ministry.
2017 Hawaii embezzlement chargesEdit
In January 2018, Pablo Rivera, the chief financial officer for University of the Nations at YWAM-Kona, pled guilty to wire fraud. Rivera embezzled nearly 3.1 million dollars, amounting to $50,000 per month. According to the YWAM school leadership, in order to compensate for the fraud, increased charges were applied to volunteers and students. According to the Department of Justice press release, Rivera used fraudulent invoices from an outside contractor  to supplement his lavish lifestyle; this included plastic surgery, failed stock market investments and a gold mine in Sierra Leone.
2019 Accused rapist to study at YWAM PerthEdit
Jarryd Hayne, was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault inflicting bodily harm in relation to the alleged rape of a woman in Australia. The official court trial will take place starting in September 2020. While on bail, until a verdict can be reached former NFL 'player of the year', Dally M medal recipient is scheduled to attend a Discipleship Training School (DTS) at the YWAM Australia Perth location under the Discipleship Training Director, Caleb Brownhill. It is uncertain whether he will attend the outreach phase of the school, which is contingent upon a second bail variation.
Youth with A Mission has no official political affiliations. The YWAM.org website states: "Individual YWAM staff and students come from a wide variety of political backgrounds and affiliations." 
Accusations of political activityEdit
In 1989, Sara Diamond's book Spiritual Warfare mentioned a meeting in the United States between various Christian leaders (including YWAM Founder Loren Cunningham) and Efraín Ríos Montt, who led a coup in Guatemala from 1982-1983, implying a connection with Christian evangelicalism. Diamond also suggested that YWAM "sought to gain influence within the Republican party."
Doctrines on redeeming cultureEdit
In 1975, YWAM's founder Loren Cunningham, along with Bill Bright of Campus Crusade spoke of the importance of influencing seven main segments or spheres of society and culture (Family, Celebration, Religion, Government, Education, Science, Media). One of these segments included "fighting a spiritual battle to redeem the area of government". While the group maintains that its teachings aimed only to promote moral service for Christian citizens, others interpreted the segment as an effort to influence secular governance with evangelical Christian ideals.
Concerning treatment of YWAM volunteersEdit
There have been complaints about the way some people have been treated by authority figures during their time in YWAM. For example, the website of the International Cultic Studies Association hosts an article which describes in some detail an experience of "spiritual abuse" on a DTS course in Hawaii. In this incident the author and two other women left "in fear of serious damage to their mental health".
The Apologetics Index also lists a number of personal accounts of "spiritual abuse" within the organisation. The website's founder claims he himself was a victim of such abuse at the hands of a former YWAM leader, Floyd McClung. Talking about McClung, the author writes: "While I have forgiven the spiritual abuse and accepted his reluctant apologies ... the abuse has had far-reaching consequences, the scars of which I still bear."  He also quotes Harold Busséll, author of By Hook or by Crook : How Cults Lure Christians, "While living in Europe, my wife and I were involved with an evangelical youth mission based in Switzerland. We were with the group only six weeks, but it was almost seven years before I had overcome the psychological damage caused by their cult-like control and spiritualization … Questioning a leader was considered an act of rebellion against God and His chain of command."
The Christian Research Institute also say they have received complaints about YWAM. In 1990, cult "consultant" Rick Ross published an evaluation of Youth with a Mission, that cited both positive and negative aspects of YWAM. After the 2007 shootings, Ross told the Fox News Network that he continued to receive occasional "serious complaints" about Youth with a Mission, but he believed it is "not a cult" ." Some of the political involvements of its founders and members have also been examined by the media.
Theological and doctrinal concernsEdit
Evangelical theologians Alan Gomes and E. Calvin Beisner believe certain doctrines taught to young missionaries at some YWAM locations from the 1970s until the 1990s to be unorthodox. These doctrines include Moral Government Theology. Moral Government Theology adherents such as Gordon Olson, Harry Conn and Winkie Pratney taught classes based on this teaching to young missionaries during this time period.
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The vision was really a picture that he had in his spirit. It was a globe – as if seen from space – and there were waves lapping each continent, and each wave would come up further inland until he saw that each continent was completely covered. Upon closer inspection, the waves were actually young people. He knew then that the young people would be taking the message of the gospel throughout the world.
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Sara Diamond (1989). Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston, MA: South End Press. ISBN 978-0-89608-361-5.
Ríos Montt's ascension to power [by coup in 1982] was celebrated by the U.S. Christian Right as a sign of divine intervention in Central America.... In May, 1982, [Pat] Robertson told the New York Times that his Christian Broadcasting Network would send missionaries and more than a billion dollars in aid to help Rios Montt rule the country. While Robertson's offer never came to fruition, it enabled Rios Montt to convince the U.S. Congress that he would not seek massive sums of U.S. aid. Instead, he would rely on "private aid from U.S. evangelicals. Toward that end, Rios Montt's aide... came to the United States for a meeting with... [Reagan consigliore] Edwin Meese, Interior Secretary James Watt... and Christian Right leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Loren Cunningham).
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- "Youth with a Mission (YWAM) | Apologetics Index". Apologetics Index. 2014-05-03. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- "This Week in Blogging the Religious Right: The Path to 9/11 Edition". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
Ríos Montt's ascension to power [by coup in 1982] was celebrated by the U.S. Christian Right as a sign of divine intervention in Central America.... In May, 1982, [Pat] Robertson told the New York Times that his Christian Broadcasting Network would send missionaries and more than a billion dollars in aid to help Rios Montt rule the country. While Robertson's offer never came to fruition, it enabled Rios Montt to convince the U.S. Congress that he would not seek massive sums of U.S. aid. Instead, he would rely on "private aid from U.S. evangelicals. Toward that end, Rios Montt's aide... came to the United States for a meeting with... [Reagan consigliore] Edwin Meese, Interior Secretary James Watt... and Christian Right leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Loren Cunningham (head of Youth With a Mission).
- Max Blumenthal. "ABC 9/11 Docudrama's Right-Wing Roots". Archived from the original on 2008-12-02.
According to Sara Diamond's book Spiritual Warfare, during the 1980s YWAM "sought to gain influence within the Republican party" while assisting authoritarian governments in South Africa and Central America. Cunningham, Diamond noted, was a follower of Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme current of evangelical theology that advocates using stealth political methods to put the United States under the control of Biblical law and jettison the Constitution.
- "ABC 9/11 Docudrama's Right-Wing Roots". September 11, 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
Last June, Cunningham's TFI announced it was producing its first film, mysteriously titled Untitled History Project. "TFI's first project is a doozy," a newsletter to YWAM members read. "Simply being referred to as: The Untitled History Project, it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!" (A web edition of the newsletter was mysteriously deleted last week after its publication by the blogger Digby, but has been cached on Google at the link above).
- Cunningham, L. w/ Rogers, Janice, The Book that Transforms Nations, YWAM Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-57658-381-3
- Cunningham, L., Is That Really You God?, YWAM Publishing, 1984. ISBN 1-57658-244-2
- McClung, Floyd Jr. and Charles Paul Conn. Just Off Chicken Street. USA, Fleming H. Revell, 1975. ISBN 0-8007-0699-4.
- McClung, Floyd. Basic Discipleship. InterVarsity Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8308-1319-5.
- McClung, Floyd. The Father Heart of God: Experiencing the Depths of His Love for You. Harvest House Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7369-1215-0.
- Schaeffer, Edith, Francis A. Schaeffer and Deirdre Ducker. L'Abri. USA, Crossways Books, 1992. ISBN 0-89107-668-9.
- Schaeffer, Francis. The God who is There. 1968.
- YWAM Official site
- The YWAM Knowledge Base YWAM's wiki knowledgebase website
- Australian Mercy Australian Mercy
- YWAM England
- YWAM Louisville
- YWAM Kosova
- YWAM Switzerland
- YWAM New York (NYC)
- Apologetics-Index evaluation of YWAM
- Alan Gomes Lead Us Not Into Deception: Moral Government Theology teachings at YWAM Facilities
- Rick Ross' 1990 evaluation of YWAM
- YWAM Småland