5 Misconceptions about Youth with a Mission

There are a lot of misconceptions about YWAM. Is YWAM a cult? Do you get paid in YWAM? Is YWAM headquarters in Kona? Is YWAM just volunteering? Is YWAM just for youths? We will look into each of these.


Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international and interdenominational Christian missions organization. We do many different kinds of ministry and training in over 180 countries with more than 18,000 staff working worldwide.


To be clear, each YWAM location is unique, though we have a common "DNA" and vision. What I've written does apply to the majority of YWAM and definitely to YWAM Orlando.


1) My personal favorite: "YWAM is a cult.”


Is YWAM a cult? We most definitely are NOT a cult 🙂 Although many YWAM locations tend to live and work as a community, like the early church in Acts 2, we are not shut off to society, nor adhere to any cultish practices. We are an interdenominational organization that welcomes diversity. This allows us to focus on what really matters, and also helps mobilize more people into missions.

women drinking iced coffee in orlando

2) "They don't get paid so they must not be that busy.”

YWAM staff rely on relationship-based financial support. What this means is that friends, family, and churches commit to giving a certain amount monthly as a part of our "salary" and as a part of their role in seeing the Great Commission carried out.


For some reason, this dynamic has led many to assume that we must have a very light and easy workweek. The reality is that we need financial support from the body of Christ because we are in this full-time.


The average person on staff with YWAM works between 45-55 hours a week and often more than that when overseas on outreach. We've chosen to do this because we believe the Gospel is the best news anyone can hear and we are fully committed to sharing it all over the world. We value cultivating a christian community.

3) "Your headquarters is in Kona, right?”

YWAM actually does not have a headquarters. The leadership of YWAM is spread all around the world (on purpose) and convenes regularly to pray and seek God. YWAM bases are autonomous but operate in accountability with each other. Though some YWAM locations are larger than others, they still are not headquarters. Having no headquarters is what helps YWAM stay global and growing without bottlenecking.

a compass on a map


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4) "YWAM is probably just volunteerism."

Though we offer a wide range of missions and outreach opportunities to engage people in all walks of life and at all maturity levels, we don't do what we do simply so we can be tourists.


YWAM has been around for over 55 years now and has many long-term, focused efforts all around the world that are making sustainable impact. Along with that, our short-term opportunities always try to engage with ministries in that country so that we can add strength to them and see fruit that lasts beyond our stay.


On the average 2 month Discipleship Training School (DTS) outreach, only about 3 of those days are organized sightseeing. Even then, our sightseeing days have proven to hold some of the best ministry as we remain open to sharing the Gospel with everyone we meet.

people at an airport looking out onto the tarmac

5) "YWAM is only for Youth.”

Although our name is "Youth With A Mission," our organization is made up of people of all ages. There's an emphasis on seeing young people get into missions for sure, but we don't limit it to that. We welcome all the "young at heart," as well. Here's an overview of our DTS.


Though most DTS students are between 18 and 25, we've had people who are in their 70’s do a DTS and join our mission. We love the beauty and strength that comes through the generations working together.

Whether you are considering joining YWAM yourself or are a family member of someone who is with YWAM, I hope this article helps. Though our path may be outside of the usual, we can assure you that we are just ordinary people who said yes to the call of God on our lives to see Jesus' love spread to the nations.


Written By:

Valerie Schuett

Valerie did her DTS in 2009.