Is YWAM a Cult?

December 13, 2007

My heart goes out to the families of those in Denver, both at New Life and YWAM Arvada. The shooter, Matthew Murray, was definitely mentally ill, however, it seems his treatment at YWAM exacerbated his illness.

There is a very large network of former YWAMers all over the globe who have received horrible spiritual and emotional abuse from YWAM, at numerous different bases. I also know many who have had good experiences in their DTS, but there are so many people coming out of the woodwork telling about how YWAM destroyed their lives. Sad, but true.

My husband and I can tell you firsthand of the twisted abuse we received in just this year. We are still trying to recover from the ordeal and God has been so good to us and taken care of us.

I have been trying to sort out all that we have experienced and I found a wealth of information for those who have been in YWAM and faced abuse. I found this list (and many books by former cult-members) and just reading this list gives me chills. This has been my experience with YWAM in every base I have worked with…

Eight Marks of a Mind-Control Cult

by Randall Watters

Brainwashing has become almost a household word in the last two decades or so. In 1961, Robert J. Lifton wrote the definitive book on the subject, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, after studying the effects of mind control on American prisoners of war under the Communist Chinese. Lifton outlines eight major factors that can be used to identify whether a group is a destructive cult or not. Any authoritarian religion should be held up to the light in order to determine just how destructive their influence is on their members. Judge for yourselves.

Milieu Control

“Milieu” is a French word meaning “surroundings; environment.” Cults are able to control the environment around their recruits in a number of ways, but almost always using a form of isolation. Recruits can be physically separated from society, or they can be warned under threat of punishment to stay away from the world’s educational media, especially when it might provoke critical thinking. Any books, movies or testimonies of ex-members of the group, or even anyone critical of the group in any way are to be avoided.

Information is carefully kept on each recruit by the mother organization. All are watched, lest they fall behind or get too far ahead of the thinking of the organization. Because it appears that the organization knows so much about everything and everyone, they appear omniscient in the eyes of the recruits.

Mystical Manipulation

In religious cults, God is ever-present in the workings of the organization. If a person leaves for any reason, accidents or ill-will that may befall them are always attributed to God’s punishment on them. For the faithful, the angels are always said to be working, and stories circulate about how God is truly doing marvelous things among them, because they are “the truth.” The organization is therefore given a certain “mystique” that is quite alluring to the new recruit.

Demand for Purity

The world is depicted as black and white, with little room for making personal decisions based on a trained conscience. One’s conduct is modeled after the ideology of the group, as taught in its literature. People and organizations are pictured as either good or evil, depending on their relationship to the cult.

Universal tendencies of guilt and shame are used to control individuals, even after they leave. There is great difficulty in understanding the complexities of human morality, since everything is polarized and oversimplified. All things classified as evil are to be avoided, and purity is attainable through immersion into the cult’s ideology.

The Cult of Confession

Serious sins (as defined by the organization) are to be confessed immediately. The members are to be reported if found walking contrary to the rules.

There is often a tendency to derive pleasure from self-degradation through confession. This occurs when all must confess their sins before each other regularly, creating an intense kind of “oneness” within the group. It also allows leaders from within to exercise authority over the weaker ones, using their “sins” as a whip to lead them on.

The “Sacred Science”

The cult’s ideology becomes the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. The ideology is too “sacred” to call into question, and a reverence is demanded for the leadership. The cult’s ideology makes an exaggerated claim for possessing airtight logic, making it appear as absolute truth with no contradictions. Such an attractive system offers security.

Loading the Language

Lifton explains the prolific use of “thought-terminating cliches,” expressions or words that are designed to end the conversation or controversy. We are all familiar with the use of the cliches “capitalist” and “imperialist,” as used by antiwar demonstrators in the 60’s. Such cliches are easily memorized and readily expressed. They are called the “language of non-thought,” since the discussion is terminated, not allowing further consideration.

In the Watchtower, for instance, expressions such as “the truth”, the “mother organization”, the “new system”, “apostates” and “worldly” carry with them a judgment on outsiders, leaving them unworthy of further consideration.

Doctrine Over Person

Human experience is subordinated to doctrine, no matter how profound or contradictory such experiences seem. The history of the cult is altered to fit their doctrinal logic. The person is only valuable insomuch as they conform to the role models of the cult. Commonsense perceptions are disregarded if they are hostile to the cult’s ideology.

Dispensing of Existence

The cult decides who has the “right” to exist and who does not. They decide who will perish in the final battle of good over evil. The leaders decide which history books are accurate and which are biased. Families can be cut off and outsiders can be deceived, for they are not fit to exist!

410 Responses to “Is YWAM a Cult?”

  1. shandel said

    My experience with YWAM a few years ago was a completely positive one. I think much of the reason why it was beneficially to my was exactly the opposite of what you’ve said here. I found that YWAM was a place where I could ask very honest questions about God and where questioning my faith was encouraged and not discouraged like you suggest. I realize everyone has a different experience with YWAM and think it is the ultimate tragedy when someone feels spiritually abused by a place that aims to nurture a persons relationship with God.

    I understand that some people see YWAM as a ‘cult’, because, in a way it is a very isolated world. But it was this sense of isolation that allowed me to come face to face and honestly evaluate what I believe truth to be. I find that alot of the evidence provided to prove YWAM as a cult, is in fact opposite of the YWAM I experienced. A place that didn’t claim to be the highest power and that encouraged asking questions and discovering truth, many different views (often contradicting views) were presented and it was up to me to evaluate my ideas as opposed to being spoon fed a particular doctrine.

    It breaks my heart that the shooter in Denver had accumulated enough rage against YWAM that he could consider such a violent act, much less carry it out. Maybe it was a result of YWAM neglecting those who have left on bad terms, maybe it had to do with mental illness, maybe it was the result of miscommunication or more than likely a combination of these and many other factors. It is difficult to understand that someone could experience such strong hatred towards a place I’ve come to appreciate so much.

    • jim kay said

      yeah ,they are a well known cult . the leaders are not even interested in religion , its all a front for gun running and money scams . stay the heck away from these wackos –

      • thirstyjon said

        That is certainly among one of the more bizarre things I’ve heard people say. Ridiculous, of course.

      • Can I just invite any of you to my YWAM base? all of you are welcome here in Vegas to check us out and see all the “gun running” hahah. but really put it to the test…

      • isaac Dore said

        dude…. do you smoke crack or do you prefer to just sniff glue?

      • isaac Dore said

        that was aimed at you jimbo…

      • erickylisa said

        Jim, I would appreciate if you didn’t generalize all of YWAM as “wackos”. All of us, if we have common sense in our heads know that people are people adn there are good and bad people. But to call an enitre world-wide network “wackos” simply isn’t true. My husband and I ahve had experisnces with many different YWAM bases throughout Central America and we have seen some genuinely caring people who work with the government (usually not in support of their values) anyways to provide and bring social services to the most neglected people in the society. We currently know people working with the homeless, with prostitutes and transgender persons. Our experiences with YWAM have never been isolating. We’ve always been encouraged rather to build relationships within the community and to never force anything on anyone, but simply LOVE, and not love out of doctrine or any kind of rule, but simply just to show people the respect and value they deserve. Which is exaclty what you seem to be lacking when you attack the whole of a group. May I ask what kind of experience you’ve had with YWAM?

      • Missionary James said

        hey Jim Kay,

        I spent the past 30-years of working ALONGSIDE YWAM as an INDEPENDENT MINISTRY/MISSIONARY and I have bee to Haiti/Dominican Republic/Mexico and the USA doing OUTREACH MINISTRY to the POOR, providing Food/Shelter/Tools/Education and soooo much more!

        YOU are an outright LIAR and SHAME on you for your Character Assasination of this Ministry of God…..

        Missionary James

      • CMR said

        Is this the same Jim in regard to the Lisa Irwin case?

      • Mary said

        Jim Kay, where did you hear YWAM has anything to do with guns? I was with YWAM for 4 years and never ever encountered weapons of any sort. I was also part of the staff based in Hong Kong. The people I worked with were sincere in their faith and helped me become more FREE in my ideas and my laughter and becoming the person I wanted to be. We were free to go where we wanted on days off and nobody in YWAM tracked our activities or location on our free time.

        I am curious where you got such an idea as what you posted here?

        Seriously, I am so glad for those 4 years of my life in Asia with YWAM. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

      • me112233 said

        I had the occasion to visit the YWAM in Adam (Nashville), TN, in the days before the internet. It was a boiler-room; the recruits (college-age-ish people who went there to be trained in ministry) were running the phones..They were pushed hard to call their friends and family to try to get money, using the “I’m a missionary” stitch as their sales pitch; from what I could tell, the vast majority of their time was about getting money, and they were judged directly on how successful they were. In years since, I would occasionally run into someone from there (make that a group of someones from there) at a church-hosted dance or something of that nature. They openly volunteered that they were with YWAM when the “what do you do” question came up in conversation, yet when I indicated that I was familiar with their place in Adams and had even visited once, they clammed up fast. Curiously enough, I ran into a gal at a dance about a year after I the first time I encountered her (at the same dance), but this time she was a former YWAMer, and she made mention of the cult-like environment, but still was reticent to get into much of a conversation about it. They had really messed up that poor girl’s brain; and she was scared of her own shadow now.

      • doakes said

        I’ve been going to ywam for 2 years now. It is definitely a cult. They take discernment away from people who attend and claim to be god in the way you must believe and love everything they stand for and if not you are not following God. The Devil is definitely wearing sheeps clothing here.

      • jesuslovesyou said

        Funny you have no idea what your talking about.

      • Pam McBride said

        Stupid people say stupid things

      • Wendy Naylor said

        That is simply not TRUE.

    • Yupp said

      Okay, so I want to start off by saying that you all need to calm down. I’ve been to churches that seemed cultish and churches that was totally off kilter with what God wants a body of Christ to be. I went through DTS and had some agreeing and disagreeing aspects throughout my experience, but that’s Christianity! You’ll never find a place that you COMPLETELY agree with. Not everyone has everything 100% down. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much more characteristics about who God is, still learning and will continue to learn. DTS will push you to be a Christian that doesn’t want you to sit your butt down on a stupid pew and get up and go home to do it next sunday! Get your butt out in Gods Kingdom and DO WORK!!!! Stop being lazy! That’s what I learned. Walking through the streets, speaking to prostitutes, the homeless, brothel owners, women who had abortions…. It changed my viewpoint on how I’m supposed to live. Read acts! Who’s church did Paul BELONG to? Who’s Church did Peter BELONG to?! …. Take the good, use it. Take the bad and learn from it! … Grow up folks, grow up.

      • Gus said

        Hey Yupp
        Great stuff, mate. Well said!

      • Great insight, Yupp! I am a YWAMer for nine years now. The longer I stay with where God has called me for this season of my life, the more I fall more in love with Him and with the people whom He has sent to me to minister with. I must admit though that I had painful experiences with YWAM, which can be true to any organization and in the bigger body of Christ, but it is through these experiences that I have learned Christianity 101 firsthand. And yes, it is through YWAM that I have learned to face my own immaturity and need for growth. It is through YWAM that I have developed my character and skills. It is through YWAM that I have learned to resolve conflicts in a Biblical way. It is through YWAM that I have been pruned in my missionary calling. It is through YWAM that I have gone deeper in my intimacy with Jesus. It is through YWAM I have developed in my leadership. The list can go on and on. The bottom line is that every organization has flaws. When you are there, seek to be a problem solver not a fault finder. Seek to be a blessing. Seek to be a better lover of God and of people regardless of differences. Shalom everyone!

    • shera said

      Hey there, people….:)
      Read quite a bit of this blog. Having been in ywam many years, (and still a part) and having seen the best and worst of people, staff, leaders…yes it is painful to read some things. I myself have been under good and not so good leadership and was in situations that were unhealthy, isolated, and dysfunctional at best. I have seen vulnerabilities of the structure or at times, lack of it. I could share a few horror stories. And a whole ton of incredible, wonderful, amazing, stories. I know many ywam leaders personally and have seen many of them in times of deep and authentic humbling….and know many who are burdened with some of the issues and abuses that have been raised here. I am in various levels of leadership, and have wrestled with many many situations of seeing people who have been hurt…sometimes because of leaders immaturity, neglect, or some abuse, but other times because of the person’s own expectations or issues.
      I am not sure that YWAM is more cultlike or dangerous than most other churches and organizations. Some of the heavy ended authoritarian style leadership, that marked ywam esp in the 70’s was a reflection of what was going on in much of the church at the time…..yes, the shepherding movement….I joined ywam in the early 80’s and caught the tail end of that. It was in many parts of the church and many organizations….which I could name by name and tell stories about…..but there is nothing fruitful in that. In some parts of the world, where there are still traces of this evidenced in ywam, it is also often a reflection of the church or national culture and the way leadership is expressed or viewed, rather than because of some ywam teaching. I am not sure if you can find a church, organization, school, job, etc…where people dont ever get hurt or feel some bit of abuse or conflicts, etc. I do believe, because of the intensity of some of the ywam communities, that these issues get more intensified….it can be a pressure cooker, and because of living close together, etc…..well, yeah, things get to the boiling point more quickly. And if a leader or base has some issues, it is going to surface quickly and with more impact.
      Many teachings that originally were brought forth in a pure way, have been misquoted or taken out of context over the years. Joy Dawsons teaching on intercession, was never intended as a mind dumping exercise…. It is principles for one specific type of prayer…and learning to hear from God in how to pray into something. This isnt the only way to pray. It became a foundational type of prayer for YWAM, but I have seen many others ways and types of prayer integrated.
      When I went to a 3 month leadership training school for YWAM, 15 years ago, Darlene Cunningham was the leader. I watched her for 3 months— how she interacted with staff and students, the way she lived (in the same kind of room as everyone else, using communal bathrooms, eating the same food together with everyone), and the passion she had for young people, and seeing the potential in them, and pouring out her heart and soul during that time. It was sincere, authentic….and I learned more by things that were modeled than the teaching. She pleaded with us to not take things that started off as good principles, and use them to abuse or manipulate on ywam bases. One example, is this area of relationships, particularly on a ywam base or team. What started off, as a way to bless a new couple who were starting a relationship…..became some type of a rule in some places. The original intention, for a new couple to share with the community, that they were starting a ‘special relationship’ had mostly to do with wanting to allow the whole community to bless them and to deal with the speculations and rumours going around. So people could allow the couple to just get on with their relationship, and not put their noses into it It was more to do with rejoicing with and standing with the new couple…this was the heart of it. It was never intended to be control or that leaders had to give their permission. Darlene was so upset, that in some places, this became the situation. She shared other negative and bad examples that had gone on, and we had times to process this, to find what were the Biblical ways to walk through areas, like correction, dealing with major sin, and other things. I was very impacted by that week, and gained insight both into the intention of some of the ‘policies’ that came into play over the years, and things that ended up being twisted because of a leader’s choices or personal slant.
      I share this, not to defend….but to say that many leaders in YWAM are deeply concerned with these issues and have been trying to find ways to better train staff and leaders, so as to see these situations become the very rare thing. I have rarely picked up an attitude that we shouldnt look at these things or find solutions, or blow them off. I know personally, many in YWAM who are giving themselves full on, to see change implemented where it is needed.
      YWAM grew very quickly, in a short amount of time, with very young people, many different cultures and backgrounds…and people with a lot of baggage. So much strength came from this, but certainly fallout as well. It is not defensible, but to put ywam into category of cult, well….that is another thing all together. When I read the Bible, I am blown away, by how many of our heroes, were immature, failures, dysfunctional, petty, and on and on. Jesus took a great risk, with his disciples…..and they both rose to the task, and fell on their faces saying and doing some ridiculous things. Well, it is all there for us to read, and hopefully learn from. I am most encouraged when I read the Bible, to see the incredible amazing way God entrusts His work on earth to such frail, and simple people as us.
      For those of you who have been deeply wounded as a result of YWAM, will you forgive us, a frail and imperfect movement of people. Will you extend grace, and also pray for God to continue to have His way, and to bring a deeper revelation of His ways into our lives and that the Holy Spirit would deal with people and situations there are abusive or dysfunctional. I am deeply grieved every time I hear a story of someone being wounded, and it motivates me to walk alongside some of the younger leaders that I am working with, to be more aware of issues, and to be faithful to His call on my life.
      YWAM is just a tool, a movement… is not the right fit for everyone, but for some, it is a channel through which to serve God. I know that in recent years, some of the YWAM leaders have said, we need to make sure that YWAM is ‘easy in, easy out’ and that people should never feel pressured to stay. I know this hasnt always been the case, in some places. But again….this is the intention, this is what we are working towards.
      OK, probably already too much here. But I just wanted to share a little bit of what is on my heart.

      • Tilly said

        Really well said Shera.

      • Me said

        very well said but the problem is that the people who have been damaged still don’t get any real resolution. I think it needs to be addressed on a larger scale, almost like mass repentance, and that leaders do as much as they possibly can to at least try to make amends. YWAM talks a lot about and has encouraged public reconciliation for various issues, but fails to practice what they preach when it comes to their own organization.

      • Deb said

        Hello- good comments Shera.
        I was a foundational YWAMMER in Kona in the mid 70’s and it changed my life/
        The one warning I would bring is about “the word of the Lord.” If this is
        absolutized it is dangerous. God speaks through wise counselors, circumstances and scripture as well as a trained conscience and discernment.
        In Acts..”it seemed good”…..I warn especially in the areas of relationships as I married supposedly on the “word of the Lord “and missed the yellow /red flags due to immaturity and not able to coach myself . I left the mission and was in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage ) ended after 12 years) and am still at 56 suffering some of the results of leaving the mission and marrying a man I hardly knew and more. PLEASE. I am a life and leadership coach now helping people dig and ask the hard and probing questions to come to right truth in their own life focus and destiny.
        Stay free in Christ. Test ALL things . Hold fast that which is good.
        I have to say an organization and “group think” can have a psychological hold on you for a long time and more impact than most believe.
        Thanks for listening.
        Deb Smith

      • Martin said

        Hello Shera,

        Most people don’t realise that they are in a cult until they leave and get some perspective. Your suggestion that YWAM is no different from Churches is unrealistic. YWAM exercises so much control over participants, unlike churches. Hawaii, where I believe you are, is only a cash cow for YWAM. The cult-like phenomena is not so apparent there. But once you get to a small base, where leaders are independently calling the shots, and it is a different world.
        I too was in Hawaii. I trained under the Cunninghams who led my school. They had the best digs by far – they even gave tours of the newly built luxury pad. Loren deceived the whole base. He gathered the whole base (some 400 people) to tell us that we had no money for food and expenses and that we had to fast and pray and ask family for money. Unfortunately for Loren, there was one of the first Crossway schools at the base then. These older Christians fronted him and asked what he had done with all the fees that had been paid. The fast was immediately called off and suddenly all the money re-appeared. (they were creaming funds into their pet project). Cunningham had realised he couldn’t pull his scams once he had some wiser people around. In fact, Crossway schools have tempered a lot of the YWAM excesses.
        YWAM is a cult. Not because it intended to be, but because it refused to learn from Church history and wise counsel (read Zimmerman). Any fool will tell you that if you put kids in charge of kids you are going to get excesses and abuse. If people are aloud to hear from God and report God’s words to others for guidance or instruction you are going to have deviation.
        You will not know how to read the Bible until you leave YWAM. They have taught you to read it through a particular lens that stops you from seeing what it actually says.
        I’m sorry that you have wasted so much time with this organisation. It would be hard to step into the light, but God will give you help if you try. Many of us have found liberty and understanding when we found the true guilt free Gospel. YWAM doesn’t teach it because it does not know it.

        May God liberate you also,


      • Steve said

        Had a great experience with Eden YWAM in WI, now YWAM Northwoods in Sept. 2000 to Feb. 2001! God took me beyond my limits and challenged me to do things I never would’ve dreamed of doing! Sharing my testimony to a group of prisoners in WI, to preaching a message through a translator (pastor) in Taiwan, overcoming & being healed from Ramsey Hunt’s disease which began 2 weeks before I was to start DTS. It started with an ear infection, then paralyzed one side of my face (similar to symptoms of stroke, also compared to Bell’s Palsy), where my mouth drooped to one side, couldn’t close my eye etc. Doc’s said it was possible I wouldn’t recover, but with prayer & obedience to go a month or so later it cleared up and I am healed.
        I was encouraged to join the staff after my DTS was done, but didn’t feel forced or pressured to stay! I had visited this same base 5 years prior to actually going to DTS, but it wasn’t the right time. During that visit, met some incredible leaders who encouraged & prayed with me, and loved me no matter what. Thanks Dave & Troy!
        I served a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand & a month in Tan Shui, Taiwan. When I first learned where we were going to go for our Foreign Outreach, I didn’t have any desire to go to that part of the world. But, when I did go, God Blessed me with a great love for the people of those 2 countries. I am still in touch with some of those same people I met 12 years ago! What a blessing that is, to be been given just a small dose of God’s love for others, for strangers in a strange land! It doesn’t begin to touch the enormity of the love God has for all of us!!
        I’m not perfect, YWAM is not perfect, but JESUS is! I still struggle in my spiritual walk, and with sin, but that goes to my sinful nature. Check Hebrews – dragged away & enticed by sin. Sorry can’t remember exact reference. As long as any “human being” is involved in anything, it will get screwed up & messy sometimes, but God’s grace & mercy covers a multitude of sins! If your eyes are looking to an individual or an organization to save you, you will be disappointed! If you look to Jesus and put all your love, trust & hope in Him, He will never disappoint you! “There is No pit so deep, that the love of God isn’t deeper still” – Corrie Ten Boom

      • Ginger said

        Shera, thank you for your very well spoken reply. I first became aware of YWAM in the early 1970’s and was one of approximately a thousand young people who went with YWAM to the 1972 Olympics in Munich for evangelization purposes. We had many YWAM leaders come through my home church in southern California teaching at various youth seminars and retreats. I have personal friends who have been staffing for YWAM since that time. I believe that people probably have been hurt while involved with YWAM….just like people in every Christian denomination. It would seem that when inconsistencies and possible abuse situations have arisen the senior leadership has endeavored to make those situations right. I’m truly sorry for people who were hurt in any way, but that does not necessarily mean that the whole organization is bad. My experiences have always been extremely positive. The heart of the organization is truly is to “know God and make Him known”. That resonates with my life purpose and I hope to join with YWAM again in the future to help give a hand up to those who are downtrodden in the developing nations of the world.

      • Roland Frank said

        WYAM SUCKS!!!!! Join Wyam get brain-washed and ruined for life!

      • Mtrue said

        I totally agree with you YWam is just a tool used to bring ,physical and spiritual healing ,through the blood of our saviour Jesus Christ to the nations ,concerning the disciples Matthew was a tax collector,Judas a thief, some followers of Christ were prostitutes,adulterer,David even was a murderer
        the people and things(Ballam s Donkey) our heavenly father is using to bring forth his Kingdom are simple and human and made out of flesh and they fail(including Lucifer )
        I can only say for those who are disappointed in Ywam ,our father in heaven was also disappointed when Adam and Eve failed his protective all knowing advice ,about the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil,or when the prodigal son took everything and spent it and then returned home in the fathers arm (in fact the Almighty God of Israel was all the time waiting for his return)or when the Isralites complained to our Father about the journey he brought them through desert (because of their rebellion)
        but that s what the Father s love is all about, forgiveness after true repentance, through his son Jesus his precious blood
        We all should forgive all those who hurt us also in Ywam and in our daily Lives
        (by the way I m a Missionary since 1988 and I got saved oct 88 during my DTS on Maui ,
        I m thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ that he brought me to Ywam
        (that he used Ywam )where I found redemption through the blood of Christ

    • Mike said

      Hey there folks. I am going to say a couple of things about YWAM, and I hope no-one takes offense. First, I see there have been 209 comments, many of which were positive, not negative… but giving those of you who have had bad experiences the total, the percentage of complaints against YWAM is .001 %. While I am sure those with issues with YWAM have many valid points… You are in the smallest of minorities. As a second career YWAMer, I too have seen some issues that I have not felt comfortable with, but at the same time… Lately I have seen so many young people come into YWAM who have such poor training from their parents and churches that they cannot deal with anything well. if YWAM is so bad, then the church today is horrible. We have seen young leaders from churches attend summer camps with their youth, and these leaders are not even aware of the need to make commitments to Christ. Many would fail the test of Christ, “…depart from me, for I know you not.” How is this YWAM’s fault? I submit that the church today needs to clean its own house, and I challenge those of you who are calling YWAM a cult, to consider working with the local churches to fix them first. Maybe if the church was doing its job, there would not have to be a YWAM. I am sorry that some of you have felt abused, and were unable to stand on your own with bad leadership, but I also see that many who had a better understanding of God’s truth have dealt with these issues well. As for the shooter in Denver and Colorado Springs.. He was a very disturbed young man with major physiological problems. That was the reason he was not allowed to go on his outreach, as the leadership felt he would not be able to “cope” with the situations he would face. Would it have been better for them to allow him to go and face the Devil on his own turf and suffer horribly? Yes, they probably did it poorly, but you cannot say this is due to their cult status, only their lack of understanding of proper ways to separate someone from the group. Also, as my son once said, YWAM is way too disorganized to be a cult.

      • Very well said! May I add that if the whole Body of Christ will do our calling, then there is no more need for YWAM. 🙂

      • Viewpoint said

        Here’s the problem and it spans all the religious affiliated treatment organizations: The regulations, credentialing and monitoring by agencies outside the religious sector are virtually non existent. Whether religiously oriented/funded or not: People are servicing people. And we are a country that doesn’t take it for granted that any institution or facility will serve people well… no matter what their serving or whose serving it. Particularly, when you house people for a relatively long time, when they can be seen as vulnerable for any reason and when they may have little means to leave on their own recognizance, there has to be some outside regulations and monitoring. This isn’t full proof but their standards are much higher than the one’s that typically exist in a facility/organization unregulated by an outside body. And by the nature of being monitored for these standards, there’s both more transparency and a better chance that people will be safe who are getting such services. Had there been staff medically and psychiatrically credentialed, this young man may have been recognized as needing immediate hospitalization. Or even better, that he may have been declined at the get go… because it’s perilous to put an unstable person in an element that has intensity if only that this person will unwind and come undone.
        If YWAM is very disorganized, then all the more reason it should be regulated or shut down it’s residential component. Because you just can’t guarantee safety or soundness if you’re running a mess yourself.
        Great that people profited from their experience and even if that has been many more than the majority, it doesn’t cancel out poor practices that risk harm or lives…all because it’s disorganized or because staff don’t have the necessary expertise or because there aren’t clear and enough standards to meet.

    • Josh said

      Ywam is cultish dunno some bases are probably ok.. But seems there is a severe amount of control and posturing. I don’t like it ….. I got in a fist fight with the base leader I was at hopefully he stopped stealing money from teenagers after that… but I doubt it. …

    • Samantha said

      I had a very positive experience with YWAM as well. Nothing you wrote was displayed at this particular base. I hope it is not happening at others, but i guess it could be possible.

      • doakes said

        It’s happening in Kona. My niece is going to school there. She is only 13. I asked what she learns and she said about Jesus. I read through all of her school work and there wasnt a shred of education involved. Also she learns about ywams view of jesus as being truth and not of Jesus being truth. I love God and Jesus. She is not learning of Jesus. Just being told she needs to be a part of ywam for the rest of her life! It’s horrific and very saddining. The devil is wearing sheeps clothing here.

    • Maggie said

      Wow, I’m so glad to hear you say this, Shandel, because it was great for my kids too. I greatly respect and appreciate YWAM for their good influence on our whole family.

  2. Bluebird said


    Thanks for your post! I also had a horrible experience and agree that the behaviors are cultish. Very emotionally and spiritually unhealthy group! Toxic!

    I went to a base in the 80’s in South Jersey. Several years after their abusive treatment of myself and later I learned others, the leaders had a split and they began to abuse and betray eachother. All of course while hearing from God. There was an excommunication of some of the leaders at the New Jersey base who gained control of that base in the court of law. I don’t know or care about the details. But I learned that top YWAM leaders (you’d be shocked to know who…) abusively mistreated the leaders there and its just ugly. The leaders that spiritually abused us were ousted like I and other DTS students were by them. Filthy! No one ever repented. All felt justified abusing brothers and sisters in Christ. Really it was abuse of power. Religious power. Rick Ross has a website that talks about that base.

    I don’t write any of this in bitterness. I am so over this group. It was twenty years ago and I have had wonderful experiences with other churches definitely not related even remotely to YWAM.

    I just want youth to be warned that there are alot of Christian groups and leaders that hide really abusive activities behind thier religion. Then they blame the victim. It seems also that if other participants don’t abuse you they side with the abuser.

    Be careful where you go to learn about the Lord. If they are not like Him, they are not serving Him either. The servant is not greater (or different) than their master. Christian leaders should be very loving. If you don’t feel loved, it’s because you are not being loved. People know when they are loved. It’s unmistakable. Everyone is starving for it. Love fills a hunger and God provides that kind of love through people that really serve Him.

    Selfish abusive leadership comes from selfish abusive people (sometimes with personality disorders)hiding behind religion to do their own thing. All the while claiming to be doing God’s will. Jesus said you shall know them by their fruit. Spiritual abuse is bad fruit.

    • jesuslovesyou said

      SO you mean that all christians are perfect and have no more issues in their heart. Remember that a christian is still underconstruction. You sided with a leader, but did you get to listen to the other leader?

  3. baixue said

    I’m very glad to hear that you had a good experience with YWAM. I recognize that there are a few good bases or leaders in YWAM, as I have met a few, but overall I’ve found rampant abuse. I worked with YWAM off and on for 15 years, and I attended a DTS when I was 18. My husband attended a DTS as well…I’ll post another blog about that experience. 😉

    I don’t view YWAM as cult because of the isolation alone, it is the authoritarianism and severe emotional manipulation within the isolation. Like I said, I’ll have to post about my experiences in YWAM.


    The Rick Ross website was the first I came across when I finally came to the realization that I had been involved in an abusive group. I didn’t want to admit that YWAM could be a cult since I was practically raised in YWAM. I had also had Loren Cunningham & my base leaders on a pedestal (most YWAMers do this).

    I’m glad you have come out the other side of your experience with YWAM not bitter. I am just now coming to terms myself and like you, I am not bitter. I just want people to be careful who they work with in ministry. A “Christian” label doesn’t mean much when the actions are hurtful.

    • David Harris said

      My experience with YWAM was totally positive. I joined the Musicians for Missions program in Lakeside, Montana and my little band toured Northern Ireland and Scotland. Then I returned to Lakeside for my DTS where we went to Taiwan. I look back on that year as one of the most special times of my life. I was able to take time away from the mundane work a day world and devote a year of my life to reflection and searching for spiritual meaning. Thjis is what makes YWAM special and sometimes misunderstood. YWAM has a few essential guidelines, but otherwise trusts individuals to follow their vision. This trust the spirit posture allows folk to dream up and accomplish some amazing things, like YWAMS’s mercy medical shjp that annually docks in impoverished parts of the world to provide medical services, or the Montana Musicians for Missions program that allows folks to travel the world spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. But with this freedom comes room for immature, foolish, and downright bad behavior. I saw some of this on my YWAM, time, but this is simply human behavior, not anything special to YWAM. D

  4. Bluebird said


    You’re so right. I was just young and niave at the time and have learned alot more about people and their motives for ministry over the years. Not everyone is there because they love God and their neighbor. There’s alot of power and sometimes money to be had through ministry. If people have character flaws and personality problems these two things can be very dangerous in their hands. And with religion and godliness to cover it up they can wreak havoc on people’s mental, emotional and spiritual lives, as we have heard.

    I’m older and wiser now, so I just want younger people to know the truth. The base where I was, was the second YWAM base established. So it had lots of history with the top leaders. I’m sure the betrayal and rift affected them. Not enough to reconsider their ways though.

    Something I felt the Lord impressed me with is when Jesus said that those who keep His word and teach others also are great in the kingdom of God. Those who do not keep His word and teach others the same are the least.

    I have been blessed to be led to ministries and leaders that qualify as great because they believe and do what He said (love God and your neighbor). The difference between them and some of the YWAM leaders at this base are like night and day. Also, scripture says people are going to be selfish and even brutal in the last days. It says they will have a form of godliness! That means they may even be Christians! Then it warns us to turn away. There is nothing good to be had here. No anointing or calling will make up for abusiveness. It can rip your life apart. We should never put ourselves in the hands of such people if we can help it.

    Knowledge is step one. Knowing and believing and living by God’s word really helps, because through it He speaks to us about such things.

    God bless you Shantal. We are all sinners saved by grace (if we really are believers). And no one, even leaders, is perfect. But what is in our hearts is surely revealed in our actions towards other people. Spiritual abuse is really bad fruit.

  5. robere said

    Hi Shandel. I will be a bit facetious (but tongue in cheek though) and ask if it was the Moon Base of YWAM where you stayed? Seriously though, there has to be some good bases with good leadership and you obviously struck one, you lucky gal. Please give us an intro to it as I have met many disaffected ex-ywammers who would like to see it too. However, it is not so much the obvious difference between the different bases and the different leaders that is the crux of the matter, as the Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and many other groups like them have some genuinely nice human being working for them too. I can remember meeting the head of the JW’s a Third World Country when I worked there with YWAM. He was a really nice fellow and I am sure he would have ensured that all the participants in his local fellowships treated one another with dignity. He happened to have been born into a JW family and knew nothing better! But the trouble happened to be, he was the member of an exclusive group who thought they are the guardians of the whole truth. Abuse arises out of such philosophies, as it does out of the philosophies of other less exclusive groups like YWAM. Just have a close look at the core teachings of the YWAM hero, Joy Dawson. I found her so-called teaching on intercession and holiness to be marked by a lot of guilt, ‘mumbo jumbo’ holiness, and suppressing our own thoughts (as pure and natural as they might have be anyway). I’ll never forget her presentation at a YWAM outreach where she filled the altar with weeping youth after asking them the loaded question, “Do any of you practice masturbation. If so, you need to repent?” This sermon was about the holiness that must precede effective intercession. My god, I wondered if she wasn’t at it herself on a daily basis and felt so guilty that she projected her anxiety through her preaching. I left YWAM not long afterward as I didn’t want to be screwed up by such narrow-mindedness. I wonder now why she didn’t ask if any of the youth were involved in graft or corruption, murder or rape? She missed these more serious categories of deviant human behaviour somehow. I also think her teaching about leaving our minds open to god to be guided in intercession is fraught with problems. Surely god gave us a brain to use and to leave it in automatic will ensure that it gets filled with all sought of crazy ideas. My view is that we all need to get a good education and start to ask some intelligent and analytical questions of these so-called religious icons. Frankly, I think most of them have a core narcissism that is often cloaked in “special calling from god’ clothing. We should see past this and question them without fear, as we would anyone else who positions themselves as a god-ordained leader in a democracy. Get a life I say to narrow-minded fundamentalists like Joy Dawson and Loren Cunningham and stop trying to add your own bondage to the lives of our youth when youth is made for the living! They will soon become adults anyway, and without choice will end up having to curb some of their youthful excesses. However, in the meantime, for god’s sake, let them enjoy their high-spirited god-given passions and ambitions in a manner that is respectful of their fellow human beings.

    • Jane Norberg said

      Hi Robere,

      I wrote a long post and it somehow got deleted before I posted. Therefore, I’ll make this brief.
      Thank you so much for your insight and perspective. I realize that your post is two years old and you may not read this, but if you do, thank you.
      30 years ago I made a choice to NOT join YWAM and instead finish nursing school and serve the Lord in that capacity. My newly converted christian friends joined YWAM and stayed there 7 plus years.
      I recently made contact with them, to find out that they married off all three of their children very young in order that they remain sexually pure…and even basically PICKED their spouses. Also, they walk around their house 7 times when they pray and at one point made a burlap sack to wear to make them contrite over the nation’s sin. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t all be humbling ourselves sincerely over sin…..but really….

      Over the years, I’ve thought that maybe I made a mistake by not joining YWAM when I was young and that my life was not a ministry like YWAM folks lives are (maybe it’s midlife crisis). The wisdom in your posts have really resonated with me and my family, causing me to not compare my life to others. Thanks again.

  6. robbymac said

    There are YWAM bases that are good and those that suck canal water. I’ve met abusive leaders in YWAM, but can honestly report that they were dealt with — and removed when they refused to repent. I’ve read the “eight signs” article before, and I can promise you that any DTS that I lead doesn’t even come close to that list.

    Yes, we’ve seen abuse in YWAM, but we’re doing everything we can at our base to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We teach our students to think for themselves, to appreciate diversity of theological views, and we actively teach AGAINST spiritual abuse by identifying what it is and how it works.

    We’re not perfect, but for the DTS’s that we are personally running, we can say with honesty that we will not tolerate manipulation or bizarre theologies. We can only speak for ourselves, of course, but we’re trying to make a difference!

  7. ranscott said

    Really discouraged ….My heart sank after I watched my son work all summer to raise the money for his DTS, and found him in my driveway tonight..Though it was Christmas night and it felt good to see my son…I could see the defeated look on his face when he couldn’t raise enough money for his outreach. He went with the prior understanding that for about 3500.00 he could do his outreach. He later found out that they said it was God’s will that they have Christmas in France and arrive to several other countries as well for a very short term at a price of 6200.00 My son had no peace that this was in fact God’s will..but leaders had several meetings and felt that my son was to go..They, for several weeks, everyday or so, stayed on my son, persistently, about finding the money to go. This went to the point, they, one of the leaders, went to the guest we encouraged to go to the same DTS and asked him if he could go to his parents and borrow the money for our son..needless to say I spent 3 hour on the phone explaining and apologizing for this to the parents. Leaders seem to be very aggressive in this way in Kona Hawaii…They convinced my son to give his 3000.00 and to wait on God to find later when the funds didn’t come in they kept 800.00 because they said they had to cancel his tickets he wasn’t comfortable buying in the first place. I have supported YWAM Kona Hawaii for the last 4 years but no more with out proper discerning and genuine interest in meeting the needs of the sheep… The ironic part is they boast that its roughly a 3800.00 give or take lecture phase with appropriate discounts for under privilege countries two lesser amounts of tuition…That’s is great!! till they leave you stranded with 3500.00 and can’t go on outreach and finish your school because it’s now going to cost 6200.00. If you don’t think this affects your whole state of character development … where’s the discipleship here?
    Jesus wouldn’t leave His sheep behind would HE?? Would He leave you behind for a mission in mind because you didn’t have 6200.00 dollars. “YWAM Hawaii advertises their outreaches to costing from 3000.00 to 4000.00”.. Where did we go wrong?? I have been praying as a helpless parent across seas that God would give a new revelation to several leaders in charge. When my son got home he shared that the last speaker that came to speak to the DTS spoke about the fact of most expensive outreaches are some of the least affective!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…God was answering my prayers but they still were not listening. Then my son said, just a day or so before leaving one of the teams made another error and they were raising their outreach to 7500.00
    God must of made a error… right??? lol.. If its God’s job and provision in all outreach fund raising why isn’t this applied to the lecture phase instead discounts for the under privileged countries ..JUST HAVE GOD PROVIDE..
    Do you find this strange that God provides for only the wealthy countries?? and not the poor…alterations and discounts need to be applied to the lecture phase only…You can be a leader of some small poor bases out there..and have 7000.00 outreaches but you will be very lonely…Why is there a provision in place to help with a discounted lecture phase when these poor countries won’t be able to afford their outreaches. I don’t blame YWAM for being a cult but they are walking out on some small branches when it comes to MATURE leadership….which is very Biblical. The mature are people sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the process of yielding to the “character” of the Holy Spirit..Sometimes this takes awhile and under the pressure of needing leaders, we think that God will pick up the slack… The other thing is hearing the “voice of God” can be very dangerous in its process if not discerned very carefully…The American Government doesn’t seen to having a problem with spending our money in regards to a lot of justification…There is a government set in place for leadership and these decisions, that don’t invest their own money when it comes to these expensive outreaches…I wonder if that tends to gravitate a position that can stray??

    Yours truly frustration,


    ps. if you you carefully with maturity bring this to the leaders for accountability it seems as though they look at you as having a lack of spiritual maturity…?…?….

    • fiona said

      Having read a lot of the comments it seems to me that the problem is that just too much responsibility is being given to young kids when they’re just not ready for it yet. Basically the truth is that they are just immature and are not capable to handling so much responsibility. It also seems that it leaves a lot of people feeling as though they have failed when in fact they haven’t. A better system would be to not hand quite so much power over to the young leaders;- they could of course still be there as peers and encouragers- but just not with the same decision-making power. Older maturer and servant- like christians need to be able to oversee what goes on. In this Fatherless generation perhaps it would be a good thing for the higher leadership in Ywam to pray about and incorporate a system of older more parental figures to watch over the small groups, with the younger leaders there to play their part of befriending and encouraging, but without so much power. They are too young. It would still be YOUTH with a mission;- but with the much needed guidance and care of older and wiser christians. I’m not suggesting this will heal all the problems but it would go some ways towards a solution.

  8. robere said

    Dear Ranscott
    I am truly appalled by your obviously true story. Who would go to such lengths and provide such details if it were not so? Stand by your convictions Ranscott, you have taken the right stand. Don’t anyone make you feel guilty or be swayed by feeling sorry for your son (that most caring parents would experience anyway). He’ll come to respect you heaps as the years go by and learn much from your example. You know, as a successful past participant in YWAM (6 years service) over 30 years ago now, I came to see so much of the same things you describe. I cannot believe that such impropriety can still happen so far down the track. Has the organisation learned nothing? I heard that guidelines were introduced to stop the ‘fleecing of the flock’ as happened so often back in my days with them. I can remember the emotion charged calls for finance that were put to groups of vulnerable individuals by leaders who were obviously convinced about the validity of their vision. I wondered in later years how many middle-aged short-term participants ended up cashing in their insurance policies and retirement funds, or sold their properties to raise the cash in order to respond to these calls. Poor devils! If you ask me I think there is a good amount of narcissism in the personalities of many who aspire to leadership in such organisations. It is so easy for the narcissist to believe implicitly in their god-given right to manage the so-called Kingdom of God on earth as they see fit. Respect for, and the protection of individual financial security comes a distant second in their consideration, I am sure. All I can say is steer clear and stay safe. I made the break from YWAM and found many other service opportunities with organisations that had good corporate governance policy ensuring protection for their employees or volunteer work force. It is the right of every individual to request a copy of such policies and if that request is not met, then let the participant beware.

  9. robere said

    I don’t want to hog the blog, but after laying low for over 30 years as an ex-Ywammer, I have now discovered the growing chorus of discontent voiced by a myriad of disaffected former Ywammers. There are many web sites to look at for this info, such as RickRoss (as Jen highlights), but a few others are worth a look at too. Google “factnet ywam” and check out some of factnet’s comments from past Ywammers. Also, I have posted a couple of short articles myself that try to take a rational and I hope dispassionate look at some of my own experiences in Ywam, as well as presenting a brief critique of the first chapter of Dean Sherman’s book on spiritual warfare:
    Also, there are some interesting comments at follow Christianity Today articles about the Colorado tragedy. One is at:
    Long live democracy that permits freedom of speech!

  10. robere said

    Jen, I took the liberty to copy a comment I made at Christianity Today across to your site as it appears to fit in with the theme of your commentry on YWAM, I was replying to a comment by David (12/16/07) who said,

    “I have been in YWAM for over 20 years. We have had over 20 million people of all ages go through YWAM teaching. A hand full of people that had a bad experence is NOT a bad record.”

    My reply (12/20/07) to David is as follows:

    “Dave, does YWAM conduct systematic standardised exit interviews with all those who leave the organisation? If not, then your statistics are probably way out of whack. The handful of people you are hypothesising about may indeed turn out to be a throng of significant proportions if the silent majority of dissatisfied participants are surveyed. Restaurateurs and hoteliers know only too well that most people vote with their feet, but lack the assertiveness to verbally communicate their dissatisfaction. That’s why the very best hotels have exit interview cards waiting for you in your room so they can collect some valid exit stats. Don’t hide your head in the sand like so many ‘long-termers’ in organisations like YWAM. It is all too prevalent to live in denial if your primary reason for living is tied up with the vision espoused by an organisation like YWAM. I was with YWAM for some years too, and successfully so, but was one of the silent throng who have left feeling that there were too many barriers to committing one’s life and talents to an organisation that had some major problems at the foundational philosophical level (such as the intense American ethnocentrism that alienated so many ‘foreign’ participants). Yes, I realise that some very talented people have stayed, some gifted leaders, but these are the exceptions. How many others have stayed because after some years they start to believe that it may be too late, or just too hard to retrain for another vocation, or to transfer to another missionary organisation? By then they are probably tempted to live in denial and defend the organisation ‘by hook or by crook’. To not do so would leave their ‘raison d’etre’ for life and career in a very precarious state indeed. Furthermore, how many are now staying because they were born into it, and after years of intense socialisation in the Mission, they know nothing of life outside of it? With the hope of not sounding patronising, let me assure you and others in YWAM, that it is not too late to leave. There is a whole world of wonderful service opportunities awaiting the brave and honest at heart who decide to take the challenge and depart.”


  11. robere said

    Robbymac (12/24/07)
    As we say Downunder, “Onya mate!” Being interpreted it means, “Good on you mate!” I hope that you can bring some positive change to the wider YWAM community before your obvious talents, objectivity and openness of mind inevitably lead you elsewhere.

  12. Jen said


    Thank you for the links & mentioning the Christianity Today article. The shooting in Colorado was the catalyst for this blog. I had kept my experiences (and those of my friends in ywam) quiet, but after the obvious connection of ywam & spiritual abuse in Colorado, I “came out”.
    My husband and our family were kicked out of the Hong Kong YWAM base this past summer, and we still live a stone’s throw away from the base, so I’ve been caution with my postings. There is quite lot of intimidation and such from those at the base, but I’m getting a little more brave by the day to post our recent brush with YWAM….

  13. Bluebird said

    All I can say is thanks for this weblog Jen! My experience was sooo long ago, but reading similar stories and viewpoints gives me terrific closure! Inspite of how traumatizing the humiliation and spiritual abuse was at the time, I get to now thank God I wasn’t there for long and that it didn’t take them long to figure out that a free thinker and spiritually sensitive person like me did not belong in their group. I couldn’t fit into their pigeon-hole. They knew it. I didn’t.

    Everything I hear about YWAM confirms my perception of them as cultish. That is a very destructive way for a spiritual organization to be. I’m sure it originates with people’s dyfunctional early family lives. As leaders they function out of that and reproduce early family dysfunction with their leadership. As new recruits, they are ripe for the pickins. It’s sad. But God has so much more for us.

    And, Jesus did not give His life to save us so we would accept spiritual oppression and deception. We need to resist this from within and when we do, He is with us, empowering us against it. But of course this is not a flesh and blood battle.

    God bless all of you! Jesus saves! God is LOVE!

  14. Jeff Hayes (pseudonym) said

    Hi Jen,
    Thanks for your weblog!
    I too was motivated by what happened in Colorado to “come out” as it were about abuse in YWAM.

    My interest was peaked, knowing the ‘close’ association of the leadership in Arvada and the leadership in YWAM Oz. YWAM Oz having potentially great influence on how things ‘run’ in Arvada.

    Thankfully, there are people like robbymac (excellant material & links on his website) and robere obviously still in YWAM that can see things “that are not so good about YWAM”, and are not afraid to speak out, and do all they can to see change, come about.

    It is amazing to see in different blogs, just how wide spread in YWAM this problem of manipulation and abuse is.

    My experience was over a 10 year period, in YWAM (Australia).
    My family and I broke free in September 07. Unfortunately, the later years have been the worst by far. There are some deep wounds!

    I could tell many stories of how unfairly people were treated, physically, mentally and spiritually, but that is their stories, I can only tell mine. (for another time)

    It does take a long time to “get over it” partially because I still have friends in YWAM who I love and respect and am concerned for. One can not just move on and forget what happened, when snippits of ongoing abuses find there way into your world.

    All the best Jen.
    Keep the blogs going… we all need to be heard, others need to be warned.

    God Bless you and yours


    • Michelle said

      Hi Jeff! Do you still live in Australia or have any contacts with the WYWAM in Brisbane? My 18yr old daughter has been there a mere four days and is already acting odd. I am extremely concerned. We heard of WYWAM through our church and know of a few families whose children had done mission trips with this organization. I did not think to “investigate” because it seemed like a very safe, well known, long standing Christian based group. She normally posts picture on Instagram & Facebook, sends plenty of text messages and pictures to family & friends, but this is not the case now. Her text messages are very short & are not worded the way she normally “sounds” at all. I’ve asked for a picture of her and for a quick phone call, just so that I know for sure that she’s safe & happy. But she says she has tried to send pictures but the “WiFi signal isn’t god”….I told her if texts go thru, then so do picture messages. Her Best friends asked for pictures too, with no reply. This is NOT LIKe her and we are all very worried. Any advice?


      • hammer2015 said

        Hi Michelle, I’m sending you the link for the Brisbane YWAM base, situated out on 671 Samford Road, at Mitchelton. As far as I know, this base is still operational, but the YWAM people do have a reputation of packing up and leaving at short notice. They also have a tendency to send young people under their control interstate or even overseas, if they want to sheild them from their parents’ influence.

        I don’t mean to alarm you, but if your daughter is already experiencing ‘personality change’ or has had severe restrictions placed n her outside contact with the world, I would certainly be concerned. YWAM leaders can really put the pressure on if they choose to. She may contact you and sound desperate for more money “to complete the DTS course” – don’t be surprised if that happens. Use the opportunity to encourage her to come home, if you can.

        I actually met 5 or 6 of the young people who were at that ‘base’ several years ago, and would have to say that they were acting really weird at the time.

        I was part of a small group of people who met at a cafe on Sunday afternoons, and we had arranged to meet the YWAMMERS on the Saturday morning, to do some ‘outreach’ in and around the Brunswick Street and China Town malls, situated in the Fortitude Valley precinct.

        When they first got there, they seemed rather enthusiastic to do some evangelism, however, after doing coffee and talking with them it was pretty clear that they were not there to preach the gospel to sinners. They were there for the sole purpose of introducing (recruiting) young people to the YWAM organisation. They hardly talked about Jesus Christ at all…

        For the next 1 1/2 hours, we broke up into four teams, pairing one or two YWAMMERS with older adults from our group. Each team had a street or mall to cover, within a two block radius of the cafe we met at, but when the time was up, half of the YWAM never showed up to say goodbye – apparently they had more important things to do.

        One girl, who had brought a guitar with her, sat in the middle of the Valley Mall, and did nothing more than play Jesus Culture music – the kind of ‘music’ played at Bill Johnson’s NAR “church” at Redding, USA. When we approached her to go and join an outreach team, she seemed very withdrawn – virtually incommunicado. Another girl broke up into tears at one stage, but when questioned (gently) by two of our older ladies, she couldn’t express herself legibly, or stop crying and then she just suddenly clammed up…

        I’d have to say Michelle, that if your daughter has gotten involved with this ‘base’ then you’d better do all that you can to rescue her… The behaviour of the young men who came that Saturday morning, was sneering and arrogant. It’s like the guys had some kind of hold over the girls…

        None of us thought that the behaviour of these YWAM ‘youths’ was normal – I’m sorry, but I’ve got to be honest with you Michelle, I would NEVER allow my teenage kids anywhere near a YWAM base, on the off chance that everything was “OK”…

      • ThirstyJon said

        I’m not Jeff, but I have an idea for you.

        Call the YWAM Center in Brisbane and tell them you want to speak with your daughter.

        Their phone number is here:

        I am assuming she has gone to attend a DTS (Discipleship Training School).

        She is probably just busy.

        But why not call and find out?

        Here is an open letter to parents of staff and students at YWAM Brisbane inviting you to contact the center’s director with any questions –

        These don’t look like people who feel they have anything to hide.

        Call ’em!


      • Raine said


        Then DO THE RESEARCH NOW !

        No financial accountability. No independent “leadership” accountability.
        The majority input may be positive but this is NOT DECISIVE.
        Negative input and fallout, long-term and ongoing, is significant and cause for great concern.

        Cannot advise you what to do. Do NOT PANIC. PRAY: KEEP ASKING; KNOCKING; SEEKING until you KNOW what to do.

        YWAM is a para-church organisation-they feed off churches and supposedly back into churches. If you can get a good pastor onside, who can/will act decisively on your behalf, this may be a great help. YWAM’s reputation in the churches is critical to them. That is apparently how your daughter got involved. How many young people get involved.

        BEWARE however of the mixed agenda.
        Arguably no responsible pastor would recommend YWAM without effective accountability structures.

        BEWARE of unsubstantiated assurances that ALL IS WELL REGARDLESS.
        ALL MAY BE WELL – at least relatively so. Stay POSITIVE.
        YWAM usually runs a pretty tight, exhausting schedule – for whatever reasons.
        Your daughter may just be too tired to communicate normally.
        This may be OK … or not so OK.
        She should have regular extended free time. Her communication may improve.
        She is likely to be being “molded” into a close “family-like group” and present peers/leaders may take priority over old friends and family initially.
        This is arguably not natural, or normal, but inevitable – in school, uni, work.
        Hopefully the balance will restore and all will be well.
        Hopefully to roots will hold true.


      • please join our Facebook Page Spiritual Abuse in YWAM and copy and paste your post, you will get help.

      • ThirstyJon said

        Hey Jen, I’d written a reply to this post that I thought was helpful but I don’t see it?

        Is it still in moderation?


      • ThirstyJon said

        Well, okay. My missing post magically appeared. 🙂

      • ThirstyJon said

        Okay. Not sure what is going on here, but my comment disappeared again.

        So here it is, for Michelle:

        I’m not Jeff, but I have an idea for you.

        Call the YWAM Center in Brisbane and tell them you want to speak with your daughter.

        Their phone number is here:

        I am assuming she has gone to attend a DTS (Discipleship Training School).

        She is probably just busy.

        But why not call and find out?

        Here is an open letter to parents of staff and students at YWAM Brisbane inviting you to contact the center’s director with any questions –

        These don’t look like people who feel they have anything to hide.

        Call ’em!


      • ThirstyJon said


        My original comment appears only when I am logged into wordpress.

        So does my repeat comment with some of the same content.

        But the other two appear whether I am logged into wordpress or not.

        Technical problem?

        Or have I become persona non grata here?

      • Augusto said

        Hi Michelle, my name is augusto. My wife and me send our first son to ywam bucaramanga in colombia. He did very well, he is studing medicin now.
        Our second son was send on january this year to ywam base in cartagena colombia, he was finising dts and he said to us he was going to be prepared to be send to work with muslims in india and other countries. We said we were not ready for it cause he could get killed and he answerd he was ready to die for Jesus. We told the staff not to send him and they said he was old enouhgt to take decitions him self and never accepted our authority over him. Thanks God we told them we were not going to send any more money and a few months later they kick him out of the base.
        All this just to tell you go and rescue your girl rigth now. Dont wait any longer. Some bases are good others are hell on earth.

  15. Jeff Hayes (pseudonym) said


    Just noticed this on my desk calender…

    “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity”

    Proverbs 11:3

  16. robere said


    I am sorry you had such difficult experiences even DownUnder. It is amazing how pervasive are the wounds from fundamentalist pentecostalist organisations, reaching to the four corners of the earth.

    I am one of the lucky ones Jeff and have been able to move on and find life after YWAM. I sincerely wish you the best and hope that you speedily find a Shangri-La for both yourself and your family.

    Take a look at a blog that I posted in the last couple of days; some of it repetitious if you have already visited my above blog, but it adds some additional information (toward the end) that you may find of interest. I know I will be considered a bit of a modernist by some, but then life experiences have expanded my horizons, so to speak.


  17. Robbie said

    I am a former YWAMer, and I must say I am intrigued to read these many posts about good and bad experiences with YWAM.

    I am grateful to Jesus that he gave me that experience, but also I am grateful that he continued to press upon my heart the need to ask the following question, “Jesus, what do you think of this?”

    Each new experience, be it theological, experiential, whatever I continually asked Jesus what he thought about that. Through this experience I was able to compartmentalize the good and the bad, and walk away with a great experience. I learned a lot, and my world view was definitley expanded.

    The one question I have for you all is, what is spiritual abuse? I see many of you refer to this, however I have never heard this phrase.

  18. Jen said


    I’m glad you were able to glean a positive time from YWAM and learn from it.
    To answer your question about what spiritual abuse is,
    David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen in ‘The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse’ describe the action: “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian- to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another- that is spiritual abuse.”

    I recently read, and re-read the book ‘Combatting Cult Mind Control’ by Steve Hassan, who had at one time been a member of the Moonies. It is a real eye-opener for a me as a former YWAMer, as I (and my husband and young children) had experienced severe cultic spiritual abuse at the hand of our YWAM leaders. I highly recommend the book.

    • Thank you Jen for your bold step away from the YWAM “Methodology” as I choose to coin it. It was very bad for me when I went. It can offer good experiences and deceive since so many Christians are there and yes, the gospel can be being shared too. I had some good experiences because of this, but as a 24 year old there, I marveled at the lack of discernment of so many who were there not questioning. I responded to ‘the plumbline message’ literally and let some wall fall from my soul and felt as bad as if I’d lost my salvation. Suicidal was where I could have gone, but I chose to believe that nothing eternal would be lost and that I was saved already and that couldn’t cost me my salvation. The Lord did deliver me from the left over gut feelings that became some clinical depression, but the enemy came in other ways to continue to fight for my soul and has never stopped. YWAM gave him an in and he is still determined to destroy me. Please pray for me and thanks again for telling what you learned there. I highly don’t recommend the group. People who don’t get too involved in details or unbiblical mistakes they can contribute to if not directly teach, will come out deceived and fine, but perhaps the one who did the shooting experienced something like what I did. I feel some guilt for not being sure enough right away to expose them. At first I was deceived enough to still consider what had happened perhaps part of a process they intended for my good. It is not for them to do a method for dying to self. That is the Holy Spirit’s work; not a methodology. Others stay clear of YWAM.

    • hammer2015 said

      Hi Jen, I’m wondering if I can quote you on the ‘spiritual abuse’ definition? I can leave your name out of it if you wish, but that small post of yours could be worth it’s weight in gold in other quarters…

      YWAM is not the only organisation that constantly abuses its members in Australia…

      Please email me at:, either way…

      Thanks for being brave enough to take the battle to the gates over the spiritual abuse issue, as it’s getting out of proportion Downunder…

  19. Seasoned Missionary said

    Identifying Legalism as opposed to Cult Beliefs.
    I am disappointed at the watercolored generalities of these comments about YWAM. Those that have posted bad experiences here should not confuse the Abusive behavior
    with the pure vision of Loren Cunningham or mature believers in Jesus who actually have been given the vision of reaching the lost. I realize that posting this is also open to critics, but I hope that each of you who have had a bad experience with leaders of YWAM do not hold the maturity to have behaved in the way they did if the great deceiver had not entered their own personalities. Treachery like the kind & types that have been described here, are not the true vision of YWAM. They represent a betrayal of the Truth within the Word of God, not
    the policy of YWAM. I have worked with YWAM for over 20 years, and the circumstances and facts presented by injured people here need to be addressed directly by Loren Cunningham and John Dawson directly. These YWAM directors, or leaders who have committed such crimes should be dismissed immediately and restitutions made to those who
    have been injured. But I will say that power, authority, false humility and pride are the root of the behaviors and experiences listed here on this blog. These are not the true character and vision of the YWAM teams and believers that I work with. What you describe here is nothing less than Prideful, puffed up knowledge, it has turned into a form of legalism and rule of law. Something Jesus came to this earth to destroy once and for all times. A mature Christian can
    see Legalistic behaviors from a mile off…this is discusting stuff. However, do not condeme the rest of YWAM who do
    not condone this behavior in any shape or form.
    I encourage you to be kind to those who have not breached this trust and have been pure, faithful and kind to those they worked with in YWAM.

    One simple LIFE observation; generalities tend to be bias and prejudice in haste. Please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There are very mature and excellent leaders within YWAM who are not part of this experience and are not tainted by these behaviors. I encourage you to write your complaints directly to Loren Cunningham, John Dawson and the board of Directors on the island of Kona. Please do not
    harm the call of Matthew 28:18 by grouping everyone together as a Cult. It could not be further from the truth.

    • julesverne said

      “The pure vision of Loren Cunningham?”


      I have recently become close with a family who practices what I find to be a particularly noxious form of evangelicalism. However, I believed it to be relatively harmless, until I began to see the signs of cult behavior and doctrine: obsession with confession and sin, demand for purity, milieu control, etc.

      This family is, of course, deeply entrenched in YWAM, and most of them have at least completed a DTS. I became curious about the organization, particularly so after I came across Loren Cunningham’s name in the news recently.

      For those who don’t know, there was a major scandal recently in Washington, D.C. involving conservative Christian legislators committing and enabling adultery in their fraternity-style “C-Street” house. Even more appalling, the house is actually tax-exempt, as it is owned by YWAM of Washington, D.C. and Loren Cunningham.

      Pure vision, indeed.

      • Henry said

        Dude i just read that comment. WOW if possible can you post a source? Because that is seriously important. But, be exact is there any reason to beleive that YWAM leadership new about it? Then again you will probably not read this unless you get an e-mail prompt.

      • Henry said

        WOW, I am a Republican but seriously that is nuts. Can you give a source, and is it possible that YWAM leadership was unaware of this?

      • ThirstyJon said

        No response julesverne? No source?

        I am prone to doubt that what you are saying is true.

    • Martin said

      Seasoned Missionary,

      you believe YWAM had a pure vision. And that the sufferers on these pages are just victims of deviants from Loren’s vision.
      I am a victim of Loren’s extraordinary financial manipulation. He could squeeze pennies from paupers – that was his gift.
      Loren himself was a victim of abusive parents. They believed that God had called them to belly-ache (what they called preach) across America for Jesus, while living hand to mouth. He grew up thinking this was normal. So he normalised it for millions of young gullible Christians. YWAM was the circus for baby-boomers. Those who struggled with real life ran off to join YWAM.

      Loren is not so pure. He did not follow wise counsel when he started YWAM, hence he was asked to leave the AOG. He practically worshipped his parents, but they were just odd and on the fringe of sensible Christianity. His parents were over-authoritarian, and he looked for substitutes for them in the wider world. Joy Dawson was his next abusive mother, and she continued his aberrant education. Is it any wonder that YWAM became over-authoritarian. It was in Loren’s DNA. YWAM’s ‘university’ was just an attempt to normalise ignorance for the masses. So many have fallen for it.

      Further, don’t you believe in the accountability of leadership. If Loren set up a ‘mission’ that is so vulnerable to abuse, shouldn’t he be accountable for that? Cunningham elevated flakes like Tom Hallas and his ilk to positions of great authority over vulnerable lives. Consequently, it is almost impossible to find ex-YWAMers leading normal healthy lives in Australia.
      That was Loren’s pure vision. Telling stupid drop-outs that they could hear from God and change the world. As a ‘seasoned missionary’ you should be able to see the problems with Cunningham’s vision.

      • Bro said

        Dude, you need some serious healing! And you need to own your actions and stop blaming someone else. And Ywam Australia is quite healthy and growing, with a movement called Refresh bringing former YWAMers together as a source of wisdom and blessing. You’re probably gone for too long and speaking about a reality you know nothing about any more.
        Get healing, get moving, be free.

      • First of all, I didn’t struggle with real life, I wanted to go into missions and share Christ. But YWAM’s Methodology to DTS (Die to Self) is marred with things that are overly spiritualized pscychobabble and in a moment of vulnerability I responded to something that had I not I would have never known how bad they are. That is why it is so individual. The deceptive is laced in and confusing and many are sadly not discerning enough to ever challenge it, but not open enough to fall into it and carry on. They should instead gain discernment from scripture and break away to form a better organization.

      • Martin said

        Thirstyjon and Bro,
        When I was in YWAM we were taught to dismiss a person by mentioning their deep hurts, need for healing, unhealed relationship with parents etc. rather than actually engage the argument. In this way you can just disrespect any point of view you don’t agree with. You responses to my first hand knowledge of YWAM and the people of whom I speak are educational, but not if you use the disrespectful strategy of making a personality assessment. May I suggest you engage the issues and not the person.
        Further, this is a site for the healing of ex YWAMers, we don’t need newbies telling us that YWAM is just really great and that we got it all wrong.

      • ThirstyJon said


        Do you really think I’m a “newbie?”

        Read around this post.

        I also have first hand experience of YWAM.

        Your review of Loren Cunningham is more black and white than I believe to be accurate.

        And it sounds bitter.

        I’ve seen people behave immaturely in YWAM (and just about everywhere else I’ve been), but I never saw this: “in YWAM we were taught to dismiss a person by mentioning their deep hurts, need for healing, unhealed relationship with parents etc. rather than actually engage the argument.”

        You were literally taught that?


      • Martin said


        Yes, that was the first line of defense whenever one was encountered with an argument or challenge. It was not taught in a class, but it was demonstrated to me by leaders and I, sadly, practiced it on others. By suggesting to a person that he is responding out of deep hurts, or bad parenting, or bitterness is just a way to try to make that person feel that they have deep unresolved problems and that’s the reason why he can’t see your superior god-enlightened point of view. It is pure manipulation and a cheap shot. If you look carefully through these posts you will find a lot of the abuse that came through YWAM leadership was signalled by a person taking a complaint or problem to a leader. That leader would then give that person a deeply personal character assessment based on whatever they thought God was telling them (the very essence of spiritual abuse). So a person who questions a bad instruction or decision is told that they have submission issues because they have unresolved problems with their father, or they haven’t fully repented of their distrust of God.
        When I challenged Tom Hallas maybe 10 years ago about several ongoing heresies going on in YWAM including the rejection of the doctrine of original sin, the inability of God to have complete foreknowledge, and the high view of satan’s authority to run things on earth (in spite of Jesus being LORD), he responded with the first line of defence by demeaning my position as being narrow and unyielding, the product of my own inadequacies.
        In any case, your one word dismissive of my first hand knowledge shows that very trait. If I discuss negatives about YWAM, it must be because I am bitter. I could go into real detail about some real nasty stuff that was going on in YWAM, but I have shown restraint. YWAM will tell you how they have been nothing but a blessing. If YWAM has been a blessing to you, I am glad. But you should let people who have been really damaged by this organisation express themselves without criticism or correction

    • Roland Frank said

      If you leave an organization, have panic attacks feel like killing yourself,it’s time to get rid of the group and expose it for what it is …AN EVIL CULT>

      • ThirstyJon said

        If someone has panic attacks, etc., that may or not be caused by an organization they were a part of.

        Even if it was, those things don’t necessarily mean that the organization is a cult.

      • Mich said

        That sounds like PSTD, my daughter and son in law and their 2 babies are currently doing design in an African based and we are getting seriously worried about the risks and injuries both physical spiritual and emotional that they and their children are being exposed to.

  20. As a ywamer myself for the last 15 years (geez… sounds a little long, eh?) I must say that.. 1) I appreciate your article Jen, and 2) You and many others have had some pretty crappy experiences. That sucks. And I apologize that my organisation has been so lame as cause you such emotional trauma.

    It’s sad to think that such treatment, be it real or perceived, can go on in such a great organization (yeah, I’m referring to YWAM). Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with anything approaching cult-like behaviour, though I have gotten really, really pissed off at YWAM leaders before, though mainly because of character flaws, or rudeness, or a lack of open-mindedness. But brainwashing? Never.

    I’m a 32 year old guy serving in India with YWAM. I’ve volunteered in 20 plus cities in Eastern Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia. Some of the most amazing things I’ve seen in YWAM were:

    – A blind lady physically healed on an outreach to South India after our team prayed for her
    – YWAMers give sacrificially to raise $30,000 AUD so that poorer DTS students could all go together on the group outreach
    – Co-workers who had the character and integrity to admit they were wrong when they were…and were mature enough to apologize
    – A DTS school leader who once pressed $10 USD into my hand after I had been praying (alone) that God would provide the $8 I needed to buy meds at the local chemist.
    – A base leader who, after I got pissed off and insulted him, took me out to lunch and “mended fences”, so to speak
    – A married staff couple who emptied their checking account – not for an abusive leader or financial project – for a young single guy who had a vision to work in China and needed the cash to get there

    While it is true that YWAM does also have it’s weaknesses, I’ve had the incredible privilege to work and serve with people who… many years later… I still admire and look up to. And there are also some people I’d never work with again – though usually for reasons of personality or management style.

    I wish the same was true for you Jen.

    My last observation is this-
    YWAM, as an organization, has a recruiting and facilitation process that works: This main YWAM strength – the idea that anybody can hear God, be led by God, or use their skills and ideas to serve God – is also our greatest weakness. Because that process of letting nearly anybody take up a position of influence and responsibility also carries with it the greatest risk of failure.

    • This is because they draw true believers into this mislead thing. The leaders at the top are a mess of authority abuses and deceptive things growing in slipping in in these later times. I just heard more about it a few days ago. They are going with real loss of standards more and more.

  21. Jen said

    Seasoned Missionary,

    My whole purpose in writing this blog is not to defame YWAM, but to bring attention to something that has been overlooked: abuse can happen anywhere, even in YWAM. By the way, I know of many people who have written complaints to Loren Cunningham and to regional leaders & these complaints have been swept under the rug.

    I know there are good leaders within YWAM & I still have a lot of friends in YWAM, however, there are many bases where abuse is rampant and ignored. I believe the beginning of YWAM was good, but with so many autonomous bases being run with very little accountability, there is a huge opportunity for abuse. Believe me, I know. I plan on writing on my most recent experience, but I will hold off until I am back in the USA (next month).



  22. Linda V. said

    My church’s youth leaders are really pushing YWAM – I’m researching and trying to see if this is a good direction for my high schoolers looking for a place to minister cross culturally. I’m growing more and more uneasy about it. Would any/all of you send your kiddos out with YWAM for a DTS thousands of miles away? How can we even know what the leadership is like at each school?
    Thanks for your time!

    • fiona whittaker said

      i had a totally life-changing experience at YWAM nearly 15 years ago. The teaching and prayer were excellent and there was no abuse on my base.. though a few folks were a bit rude from time to time- but no more so it has to be said than in my local church or any work place I have ever attended. I went with a problem so large i had given up on its being healed or overcome.. but to this day i will never forget this ..i remember what happened on my 5th week there. I had gone out to pray alone night, quite overwhelmed at what i had been seeing ( the extremely accurate prophecy on a one to one level which had evidently been deeply healing to those concerned… i interviewed them all in detail afterwards to be sure i hadnt got it wrong!! lol !) and as i prayed that night alone, walking round the base I told God i was ready to give my life to Him ( and I really meant this!) but fear of my problem prevented me and i asked God about this and asked Him a very personal and specific question. … I cried a lot and then i went to bed.. the next day we had a new speaker ( it was now monday) and after a short friendly introduction.. this speaker looked directly at me and proceeded to tell me EXACTTLY what I had asked God the night before. Absolutely NOONE there knew about this problem as I couldn’t even have put it into words, even if I had had the courage . The effect was immediate- relief after 13 years of extreme isolation and fear…I couldnt stop crying with relief and joy. My local churches had not helped me- but in Ywam they sometimes say that when we honour God by taking time out with Him, He will honour us… its a relationship after all- and one we should invest time in. I was just BLOWN AWAY by this prophecy and marvelled at how actually knew me so intimately and had reached down to me… its still gives me goosebumps when i think of it now- in fact i got the talk on tape lol!! I received much prayer and counselling ( lovely, gentle, encouraging, fun.. not abusive)after this and was prayed for too. On the outreach- we went to Nepal i saw the best and worst of everything… b ut one this is sure.. I learned how to serve, how to give, make sacrifices and to put sharing the gospel and showing kindness and love to people above my much pettier concerns. I also received prophecy that i would receive the gift of joy and praise- which i didnt understand at all- but i was touched ppowerfully by God in the midst of a lot of sorrow and darkness in nepal- I was left just marvelling at God, His providence, His presence.. and wow, yes did I praise Him after that. The thing about Ywam i love is that it really DOES train christians to get off their backsides and actually GO- matthew 28 is a favourite verse and they actually live by it. They also say Go back to your churches and serve there- generally they try to encourage and bless young folks and build them up then send them out to be a blessing where they are. Proportionately very few of them stay on.. the large numbers of people doing DTS’s would prohibit that. I love ywam and i liove they way they motivate people and get us actually DOING something instead of doing nothiung, wich is what a lot of christians are in danger of doing if they do not become aware… as a matter of facct times ARE hard… there IS a great vneed for Christ out there…and Ywam encourages obedience to the gospel of Christ – and it also ( imperfectly, because people are involved!) provides a way of doing that, to give young kids a feel that it really is possible. Thats why your average ywammer will be a much more active member of your church, should you meet them! My outreach contained human error ( as does everything on this planet) but it was exciting and real, to be out there with genuine real people clothed with poverty and desperation… it was REAL– it was not just talk and we saw many people receiv e Jesus as theiir saviour. It was also fun and attainable… they did not theologise for years.. they just said Ok We’ve received from God ( which the majority of us had- BIG TIME!).. now lets go out and share it……and we did. There was in my thinking- an annointing on Ywam- God blessed the kid’s efforts.. there were a few amazing healings followed by lives given to Christ… once a brahim leader was healed ( confirmed by our german doctor who was on our team) and he gave his life to the Lord on the spot- the next day about 11 of his followers who saw thier leader healed gave their lives to the Lord. I could talk for hours on what i saw and the way its impacted my life ever since…. i think youre getting the idea. One thing i can say though is my experience with ywam has given me the courage to put my belief in Christ into action and to not sit around on a pew my whole life. I am soooooooo grateful for the experience and the wonderful sound doctrine i leaned there ( i have a degree in theolgy so i know there was nothing kooky in what was taught!). I HIGHLY recommend it- also may I recommend reading Loren Cunningham’s book Is that Really You God? It shows the events that led up to its being formed ( it was very God led) and the way Ywam is meant primarily to build up young pepople who may have missed out at church. It is now so large that there will inevitably be pockets of abuse but on the whole it is very annointed and its vision is inspiring. They do more work and reach more people than most churches that I’m aware of. Another interesting fact is that although praise and prayer is a big part of what they do- not to mention interceeding and doing practical things to help people…they encourage the ywammers to go to the local churches to hear the preaching and be part of the body of Christ. They spoke often of the body of Christ and serving. They spoke of humility and working for God in the secular world. I thank God for Ywam, over and over again. I am now a mature christian and although far from perfect I have some understanding of how to go out and get things done. People still commen t on my enthusiasm and what i do in my local church. Because of my ywam training I was able to run an Alpha course for drug addicts… m y whole church got involved and we saw many come to the Lord. Ywam gives us that ability… we have experienced going ot so we just KNOW it can be done. my email address is if you would like to ask where i went and any other questions… My greatest sorrow and frustration in the church is how we justify doing so very very little when the world is in desperatre need of our saviour… Miracles done in Jesus”name – by the small hands of those who are not afraid to get up and follow HIM. Praise be to Jesus!!!!

  23. Jen said


    I worked with YWAM through my teenage years and also as an adult. I personally would never allow my children to be involved with YWAM because of the experiences our family has had. -And the experiences of many of my friends within YWAM.

    I went to a church that was YWAM-happy & that is the reason I got involved with them to begin with. I wish my parents had done research & found another organization I could have worked with.

    I would recommend groups such as: Global Expeditions
    or Adventures in Missions

    If your kids are interested in China, I know of a reputable groups here in Hong Kong that could help you out.

    Hope that helps,


    • b said


      I have served 5 years with YWAM and 1 with Adventures In Missions.

      Everyone has different experiences in both.

      You have to realize that every YWAM base is different, and also every AIM trip, due to the leadership being different individuals. The core value is what remains constant.

      You may have had bad experiences, but YWAM as a whole is definitely not a cult and you cannot make a judgment call like that. YWAM is made up of human beings who actually give a damn about their faith and want to do something about it….at least they are people willing to give up a paycheck to see change in this world.


      YWAM is an incredible way for young adults & teenagers to learn about God. If they go with an open mind and heart, they will come back changed for the better and be able to take their own stand of faith as an individual.

      And for you to send them thousands of miles away (or they could choose a much closer location) exercising your faith in knowing that God, the creator of the universe has your children in his hands. They belong to him anyway. Pray for them, for the leaders that are put over them and for the base they choose to go to.

      • Henry said

        you may never read this but. The only real problem with YWAM is that most people who work there are not really able to accept that there are problems and so problems never get solved. A lot of times when guys or girls there focus constantly on their own authority instead of on God you people just ignore it and act like were the ones who maybe need to realize that other people aren’t perfect meanwhile the kids your supposed to be ministering to (who aren’t perfect) are the ones that suffer because the immaturity of some staff (not all, some!).

        I would also like to point out that by the way the point he point in these comments is the hope that some of you there will see the number of complaints and start honestly thinking about whether or not the correct quality control factors (for lack of better word) are really in place. Besides as I have said in other comments the only people that are in staff are the ones who are able to convince the leadership that they are doing a good job and allways back up the rules and talk abouot accountabillity. Sadly (since this si true of all staff) some of those same people are the ones that have acted abusively. And instead of assuring people that you guys care and work on solving those problems you people allways just assume that were really not cut out for God (arrogance on your part although I hate to be avasive) and just defend yourselves when in reality your best defense is a knowledge of the things that damage your program internally and the ability to kindly and correctly deal with those problems.

        In fact Leeland Paris and other big directors have pointed out problems and have acknowledged abuse. What they don’t seem to have the abillity to rap their minds around as of yet is the fact that most staff by definition are overly submissive and only see the good side of things and therefore are not active in teh slightest bit in actually detecting the problems that do occur in a minority of your organizations leadership.

        As a result a problem runs its full course before detection.

      • YWAM as a whole is not a cult perhaps because they bring in beautiful Christian youth from all over the world and have some genuine leadership that isn’t authority and otherwise confused who somehow, by some means, lack discernment. These wonderful people who go and don’t respond to anything that seems not to apply to them and don’t open up in this way mistakenly to something wrong, or who experience feel good wrong things and are just deceived, will come out deceived and deceiving; blind leading blind. YWAM was good in the fellowship and worship with true believers, but all in the wrong place because of the false ones being allowed at the top. They need to break free and start their own thing right in the middle of a mass group with those who are real believers starting something new. It needs to go.

    • Yun said

      Your personal negative experience with some Ywam leaders shouldn’t have led you to infect others with such attitude and spirit who are genuinely seeking God’s will. Its not just about those base leaders problem. It has to do with you also. Its your problem too. Just because someone has problem with some leaders, how could she/he go to such extend and blame others? This is not the works of the disciple if one consider himself to be Christ ambassador called to reconcile the world unto God… Need to repent from such thing.

      • ThirstyJon said


        Do you know Jen personally?

        Pretty strong words if you do not know her personally.

      • Jen said


        I do not know this person. They certainly do not know me, but I let comments like this be approved because I feel all opinions should be expressed. I personally find this kind of vitriolic comment an interesting view into the psyche of those who ascribe to the belief of “touch not my anointed”.

      • Roland Frank said

        Has a normal ministry like Billy Graham recieved this much flack like WYAM. NO!. Then there is clearly something very wrong with WYAM.

      • ThirstyJon said

        @ Roland Frank,

        Criticism (i.e. “flak”) is now evidence of something wrong?

        Criticism could be an indicator that something is wrong, but you have to go and look at the criticism and see where it is coming from and discover if it is true and what it means.

        I don’t doubt that there are serious criticisms. I’m also sure that there is “something wrong.”

        But that still doesn’t make YWAM a “cult.”

  24. Linda V. said

    Thanks so much, Jen. Your website, and the testimonies of others throughout cyberspace, have been extremely helpful for us as we process where to go from here regarding YWAM. We’re one of two families at our church that are growing uneasy with all the YWAM stuff, and we’re trying to think through how we should present our concerns to the couple who leads our youth. If you have any suggestions, that would be great. We really appreciate their passion for and love of the kids, but we don’t know if they’re as discerning as they probably need to be. May God bless your work there!

  25. robbymac said

    Robere is a prophet! 🙂

    We just got kicked out of our YWAM base because they brought in a new “Apostle” who laid down the tired old hyper-name it/claim it stuff, with a heavy dose of “your leaders are the voice of God — never question them!” And of course, we saw through that crap instantly and didn’t yield for a second.

    We were banned from the base earlier this week, so that we would not “confuse the students with conflicting views” (we were NOT leading this DTS and had no idea about where the new leaders of our base were taking us — I was on outreach when the school was planned).

    So, we went home, prayed about it, and when our base director called to say that we would also be required to attend a “meeting with leadership” before being allowed back on the base, we just said, “see ya”!!

    This stuff really steams my shorts… 😦

  26. Jen said


    I’m so sorry that you are going through this difficult time with YWAM because you have stood up for Truth.

    The exact same thing happened to my husband and I last June with the base we were with. -We spoke against heresy, and we not allowed to talk to anyone on the base & my husband received a screaming “lecture” from leaders.

    I admire you for taking a stand and hopefully others at your base will have the discernment you have had.

    You will be in my prayers,


  27. robbymac said

    Thanks, Jen!

    We’re actually praising God for answered prayer right now — when we got back from outreach, we could sense that something wasn’t right. Little hints and all the staff acting a little weird, but nothing you could make a decisive call on.

    So, when we saw that the “Apostle” had been invited to speak at the newest CDTS (which we’d been asked to staff only a week before it started) we began praying that God would so expose the Apostle’s teaching for what it was, that our base leaders would have no option but to reveal their own agenda for the base.

    God answered our prayers really clearly! The Apostle was so blatantly obvious, and the leaders defended him and insisted that everyone must “welcome the Man of God — and you don’t question the Apostle”, and then banned Wendy & I from the base so that we wouldn’t interfere with the Apostle’s teaching…

    It was such a no-brainer to leave. God exposed what they were doing, and the extent to which the base leadership has not only embraced, but is actively promoting the false teaching.

    Feel free to drop by my blog and send me an email from there; I’d like to keep in touch with you and your husband.

  28. robere said

    Thanks for your vote of confidence Robbymac. I realise you are being kind about the suggestion of prophet status, but it is something that I will have to decline, in this life at least and probably the next!

    As you are aware we are all fellow travellers on the long journey called life. One thing that keeps me going when the going gets tough is one of Leunig’s older cartoons ( I still have it pasted on my home office filing cabinet after putting it there about 25 years ago. It is a series of cartoons about the long and often arduous journey of life and Leunig’s secret formula of how we can get to our destination. In essence the journey of the little cartoon figure through a rather barren landscape never ends, the destination never appears on the horizon, and the advice is to “just keep on going”!

    I presume you have now left YWAM. If so, this is where the journey got difficult for me. However, I hope the transition is easier for you. Nonetheless, with some determination and persistence, I got over the first hill, started up the second and somehow see a few more hills in front of me with no Shangrila in sight as yet. It hasn’t been all hard going though and my post-YWAM years have brought much personal achievement, satisfaction and joy. Yes, life goes on after YWAM; revel in it.


  29. robere said

    I can’t find a direct link to a digital copy of Michael Leunig’s Cartoon, ‘How to get there’, but here is the script for this unforgettable cartoon (from Leunig’s book, ‘A Bunch of Poesy’):

    “Go to the end of the path until you get to the gate
    Go through the gate and head straight out
    towards the horizon
    Keep going towards the horizon
    Sit down and have a rest every now and again
    But keep on going. Just keep on with it.
    Keep on going as far as you can.
    That’s how you get there.”

    It’s a pity you can’t see the little figure with his worldly belongings wrapped in the proverbial cloth bundle hanging off the end of the pole that is slung over his shoulder, but I am sure you will recreate the picture in your mind’s eye. I personally experienced ‘going through the gate’ as my exit from YWAM and fundamentalist religion many years ago.

  30. Jeff Hayes said

    robbymac, I wish I could say that I am surprised that YWAM kicked you out, but anyone contributing to this blog would not be.

    I am saddened, in that YWAM needed / needs the voice of reason, integrity and humility, that is you.

    I know you will do well at whatever you put your hand to, my prayer is that your new ministry would thrive and be a blessing to many.

    I would also pray that ‘your voice’ would never be silent when ‘righteouness’ needs to be upheld and that somehow even the ‘deafened’ would hear.

    God Bless

  31. Linnea said

    I am grieved to read of all the negative experiences people have had with YWAM. I work with YWAM and all the reasons I decided to are the exact opposite of what you describe – the servant leadership (leaders scrubbing toilets and giving sacrificially), the challenge to think for yourself and reason from the Bible, the incredible discipleship and teaching by example (one of our foundational values is “do first, then teach”), amazing faith based on relationship with God, and the commitment to keep “short accounts” – make things right quickly.

    We Internationally are currently in an extended season of regular prayer and getting our hearts right before God, as Paul describes it to “circumcise” our hearts and live holy lives. God is dealing with us as I know there are branches that you might say, are not connected to the vine as described in John 15 and so are not bearing fruit. That is changing – “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” God will not allow corruption to remain unchecked among His people.

    I have seen God do incredible miracles – healing hearts and bodies – through the hands of YWAMers and heard hundreds of incredible stories of what God has done. Go here to read some:;

    The statement of another is so true – our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness – we believe anyone can hear God, be led by God or use their skills and ideas to serve God – but that also means taking the risk that the many we empower into leadership could go astray. I believe it is a risk worth taking, and we must trust that God will point out and weed out those not “attached to the vine,” the “wolves in sheeps clothing,” because God truly does have a calling and purpose for EVERYONE if they are willing to step out!!!!

    • Lundy said

      I do not know how may people will read this so many years after the threads were started, but thank you – all of you for the good experiences as well as the poor and sad experiences shared. It has given be a good perspective on the place/ organisation. The truth is though, no organisation is perfect – even those aspiring to mirror the life and teaching of Christ. Just look at the early Church; Paul and Barnabas, Apollus, etc – there were many disagreements – or even before that , Christ’s disciples. Judas himself was not “truly” one of the fold – and yet God allowed him to stay fo a while – until His purpose was achieved. I know there are people hurting and have been hurt by YWAM and some of the practices that may be going at some places need to be changed – and yes sometimes a more ” institutionalised” approach could be handy – but every church that has tried such an approach (putting God in a straight jacket) has also lost the freedom that comes with allowing the Holy Spirit to be in charge. As you say, God will weed out the unfruitful.

      The truth is – I have attended a number of churches (each time we move to a new city), and I have found you can be accused of heresy, and church authority can be misused wherever you go. People will let you down not matter what institution

      My own experience of YWAM is as a son and as a parent. As a son I saw my father go to YWAM – but he went for the wrong reasons – he thought he could “add” some spiritual revelation to the place – (poor man – he thought God could use him mightily – as someone has said in a thread some narcissistic tendencies). He came back angry and bitter because God did not seem to “meet” him as he wanted to. I found that sad because many around were touched by God’s wonder and grace (I have never attended YWAM courses or DTS) – mainly because they went there to meet with God – to recharge you can say. (He died a couple of years later, without being able to say much nice things about the place – even though every time I visited him there I could see good things in what people were trying to do)

      Many years later, for my son it was the opposite. I saw a young man who before YWAM came along as a possibility he could do, had the world at his feet and threw it away for a girl; his faith, his elite status in sport, his university place and even his looks – he put on 35kg in 8 months.

      When he read about a Sport DTS in YWAM, it really touched his heart – he knew it was an opportunity to reconnect with God. He didn’t go to SERVE God – he went to MEET him – in a place that helped get his moral compass back on track. The changes in him as a result of the DTS were amazing – he was able to take responsibility for who he was as a person and seek forgiveness, deal with his anger, and change his whole approach to life. This would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the young people who helped him with moral and spiritual support as well as love. (So to all you YWAMMERS who helped him: thank you for giving me back my son!)

      Every time I visited him with my wife at the YWAM base, the thing that struck me was the disorganised order to the place; it all seemed to be chaotic – and yet when one was still and was prepared to quietly observe and see God in action – there was a orderly process behind the scenes – and importantly there was ownership of this process by the young people involved. They believed they were making a difference, they believed in each other, but just as importantly they believed that GOD had a hand in everything and were willing to trust him.

      (PS: He is now working in Hong Kong in a private school, and when his contract expires will be going back to university to finish his studies.)

      Maybe YWAM isn’t for everyone – maybe some things need to change and all those who have left, instead of throwing stones – find a way to get this change happening – even if it is only letters or warnings – you never know who might just listen and take it on board. Sometimes that is the only job available – to be the watchman on the tower sounding the horn, not the warrior fighting the fight; maybe that is another’s battle.

      At the end of it all – please remember this. Christianity when first founded was also viewed as a cult because the people tired to separate themselves through how they behaved and some of their practices. Please judge people by their designs BEHIND their actions, not just the actions. After all mercy overcomes judgement (James NT).

      May God’s grace be with you all.

      • When you feel what you experienced destroyed your life and you would have committed suicide if you just went by your feelings it isn’t something you just jump on knowing how to address and feel safe and all.

  32. Well, just forgive them. One brother said read Gene Edwards book “A tale of three kings” weekly if you work with ywam.
    When we concoct “organisations” –right there we have strayed from the path. It is no surprise so many have been offended. To live with Jesus in basic fellowship is all you need. Many aspire with ugly ambition to “Join” (you name the group) . There are in fact profound areas of darkness within any people calling themselves by the name of any man contrived “organisation”. Forget em, and move on. Jesus has so many good things besides ! He is well able to discipline the people who are ignoring the wounding they have inflicted. He loves them still as much as you or me. Scripture says, “you will look for them but not find them…” Jesus is beyond our ability to fathom. He can still lead people to be in ywam if he wants—and it’s none of our business. I stayed at ywam in the united states and amazingly after just sharing my heart with a student he reaches out and says to me ” brother God must have sent you here. There is no fellowship of the heart in this place and i just long for that…” It was one on the most amazing moments of my life. We all have individual experiences. Jesus was not imune to betrayal and abusive circumstances. Ywamers are abusive not because of some unique set of people—BUT BECAUSE WE ALL FALL SHORT IN MANY WAYS. NO ONE EXCEPTED.
    If we forgive and move on, it is better for us. Keep biting at each other and beware you don’t start devouring each other. If you have never heard of the hornets God sent to destroy abusive rebels–get your concordance out and find it. They will be dealt with–but by Jesus not you or me. Count on it. Besides , if the footman have wearied you, waht will happen to you when you must run with horses? If a few sad westerners have brassed you off by taking your money (jesus said don’t ask for it back) what wil you do when others put you in prison and assign you to the friring squad–as a target–not a shooter, 🙂 Let’s grow up. One of the most horrible ways to live is to dwell in the past. Or even to dwell in the future. When we do either, we miss out on the very blessings God brings into our lives EACH MOMENT AND EACH DAY. HE WILL HEALL YOU–GET OVER THEM–THEY’RE NOBODIES!!!

  33. PG said

    Hello, Jen and all others publishing here…

    As a YWAMer for the last 13 years, all I can say is that I really regret having to read this testimonies, for I believe they are true! But no, I won’t leave YWAM, and I will keep encouraging people to go through a DTS at bases I know and with leaders I trust. Yes, there was, there is and probably there will be abuse in leadership in YWAM. As there was, is and will be abuse in Churches all over the world… I believe that the only way to change things and make sure that we cut all the cultish behavior is to stay and live a life of freedom in God here.

    My wife and I were victims of abuse by leadership in YWAM at the time we wanted to start our relationship (yeap, no surprises here, eh???) and we thank God for another leader, a member of the GLT, that stepped in and helped us, modeling grace and freedom to us. So, in the same organization we found leaders that abused us and leaders that freed us. Our decision? To be the ones who will help others to live free.

    What I can tell you as part of YWAM (in Australia as well) is that I would love to help you to get in contact with those leaders who hurt you and try to bring you into a place where you can find healing and the situation can be avoided in the future.

    What I can guarantee you is that there are a lot of people in YWAM, young leaders specially, that will change the face of the organization and they will push more and more for the redemption of the original vision of Loren, which God has done in the last 5 years or so, and we will see YWAM moving in freedom to accomplish the purpose of God in us.

    I thank God that even being hurt and abused you found hope and hold on to your faith! Good on you!

    • ivin said
      your message was encouraging.
      one question.What about the hundreds and thousands of young people with issues , hurts and baggages that goes to a dts what they consider a safe,’haven’ only to be tarnished by so many wolves.
      Something should be done to stop this rampage,
      I was a victim too- and 8 months after my dts, i am still undergoing the pain and the hurt i faced.I had to go for theraphy, emotionaly as well as physical.
      i know personally of so many good school, good genuine workers with ywam, but my school my staff were horrible, and its only possible of Gods grace that i am able to forgive…

      • PG said

        Mate, I can understand your pain. I lead DTS and my most frequent prayer is for wisdom and humility, as I know how precious the life of my students are. I’ve been doing that for many years and I’m glad I have a great relationship with our former students, we communicate regularly and they allow me to be part of their lives and they are of mine. So I pray that God will heal you and restore you, and give you the strength not only to recover but to go beyond. And the only thing I can commit to is to stay here and help those things not to happen. Thanks for sharing, you are in my prayers.

  34. robere said

    With the qualifying statement that it is not my wish to sound unkind, I ask, “Why do we with fundamentalist Christian backgrounds blindly accept the guilt-engendering words of the Apostle Paul, as it appears Linnea does in her above guarded defence of YWAM?” Linnea speaks about how she and others in YWAM are trying to ‘get their hearts right with God’ and states,

    “……. Paul describes it to “circumcise” our hearts and live holy lives. God is dealing with us as I know there are branches that you might say, are not connected to the vine as described in John 15 and so are not bearing fruit.”

    I too blindly accepted St Paul’s words as the ‘inspired Word of God’ in years gone by, but to be honest, I now seriously question St Paul’s point of view and the veracity of his words as a true reflection of God. Rather, I wonder whether his words reflect a very obsessional personality that is typically caught up with personal guilt and a sense of eternal shortcoming, with his view of god better seen as an example of anthropomorphism. It is a fair hypothesis when you analyse his writings. I mean, some individuals never believe they are pure enough and seem to go through life subjecting themselves to continual self-flagellation. You see it in pronounced form among individuals with personality disorders in inpatient psychiatric settings. It appears to be the psychological version of the actual self-flagellation that can be seen in the now famous footage of Philippine Christians whipping themselves during their Easter-time parades, with blood seen streaming down their backs. What effort and suffering they endure to appease their never-satisfied and ever-critical heavenly father.

    I also see the same obsessional and guilt traits in a YWAM identity such as Joy Dawson, as I do in St Paul. That is, she preaches an eternal quest for holiness and thereby loads a burden of guilt both on herself and others because no one can ever attain such a non-human state of so-called perfection. In fact, if you have ever heard Dean Sherman’s spiritual warfare presentation, again he also triggers much guilt in his youthful audiences because of his never-ending references to how holiness is linked to guarding ourselves against the wiles of Satan. Interestingly, the only significant difference that I see between Joy Dawson and Dean Sherman is that Dean appears not to experience the internal conflict and guilt that he engenders in his audience. An interesting difference indeed, and one that would take up too much comment space on this blog in an effort to present the possible reasons behind such individual differences! Maybe I’ll leave it to those in Jen’s audience to consider the reasons why Joy and Dean may be so different in their reaction, yet at the same time champion a very similar message about the virtues of holiness.

    My alternative philosophy might sound awfully simple and unsophisticated compared to the intricate and convoluted messages of these YWAM teachers, but putting it parsimoniously, I believe that my behaviour should be guided by a deep respect for my fellow human beings, not by guilt, or the fear of a big stick striking me from on high. What wonderful freedom this simplicity has brought me as the years have gone by, but alas it would have been even more wondrous to have experienced it in my youth.

  35. Jeremy Dorrough said

    These are the bases and structures I’m familiar with, I currently attend and work with an Assembles of God church in Washington, D.C.

    YWAM bases I, or someone I trust dearly, have been involved with:

    England (Holmsted Manor Kings Lodge, Harpenden)
    South Africa (Worcester, Muizenberg)
    Poland (Southern Poland)
    Washington DC (YWAM DC)

    Life Long Friend(Teacher):
    Hungary, India

    Brother(Police Officer):

    Brother(Store Manager):

    Life Long Friend(Full Time Young Life Leader)

    Friend (Missionary)

    Life Long Friend(Designer)

    Friend & coworker (Church Worker)

    We’ve all been in churches, unhealthy and healthy ones. I know YWAM bases, all of the above listed experiences are absolutely positive, lives that have been brought from infancy into discipleships in the structure of YWAM. Unhealthy bases have and probably do exist. Decentralization in part of YWAMs vision, its why it is so huge, its also why it can be vulnerable to bad, self focused community structures. A lot of energy goes into keeping this from happening and cutting it off when it does happen. It works the same way with other church groups and organizations. Lets set the record straight though. Most bases are healthy. I can say that with the authority of a sweeping perspective.

  36. Mellie said

    Linda V, and anyone else:

    If you want to send your students off for a cross-cultural missionary experience, send them to YWAM Fortaleza! for DTS!!! our DTS leaders are awesome!

    I promise, they would LOVE it!
    Our leaders and staff our great! I’m not saying that just because I am from there. Some of the coolest, sweetest, funnest, funniest people live here. Our base leader is a very serious, hard working man, but he is fun too. He LOVES teens and young people and well, I think he is crazy too!(in a good way!) But we all love him!

    If you know anyone who is a go-getter send them here. We need young hard working, go-getters!

    God Bless you all!

  37. Mellie said

    Our base leader is an amazing man of God too. You would like him.

  38. Anon (for now) said

    Ah, this is truly sad. I was kicked out of Arvada just before the shootings, all the people shot were my good friends. Tiff even cried when I told her I was being kicked out. Unfortunately, the way I was kicked out was strikingly similar to the allegations Matthew Murray made. I have given YWAM Arvada time to repent and apologize, but nothing. Speaking out against them though is hard for me to do. I am in ministry still, and I don’t want to offend the Lord. Unfortunately though, I can assure people, that what Matthew Murray suffered at YWAM Arvada is no isolated incident.

    Perhaps I will write more later.

  39. Need to know said

    My girlfriend is about to join YWAM Perth at the beginning of October.

    1. Can you tell me if this specific program has been characterized as negative.

    2. What are the YWAM “rules” on relationship, and do you feel like the program will intentionally try to convince her to end our relationship?

    3. What advise can I give her before she goes?

  40. Jaime said

    I am also a former ywamer and my experience with them was not good at all. I agree with a lot of things that I saw from the blogs. I am currently trying to write a paper on the impact of Ywam leadership. would anyone be willing to take a short survey or you can just write about your expereinces with Ywam.

    • kassy said

      i was in ywam years ago as a victim of abuse i was hopeingthae i will find someone who would watch out for me as a result i suffred more emotion and sprital abuse

    • Roland Frank said

      WARNING!!! WARNING!!!! If you want to screw up your life join wyam.I went to wyam in the early 80’s and I am still dealing with guilt,shame and the crap brainwashed into me.I was on medication for a year and sucidal.Get a job and serve in your local church.people who are in wyam do not see it because they are part of the cult.Can they come out and hold a job?There is a girl locally who starts drinking at 10:00 am and is suicidal, a product of wyam.There is a reason AOG didn’t want ywam founded.Margret Singer author of kingdom of the cults clims that wyam is a cult.Go ahead and send your son and daughter there and have them screwed up for life.You will spend countless years in counseling for the absolute crap brainwashed into you.

  41. Need to know said

    Somebody please respond to my post!

  42. Jen said

    Need to Know,

    I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner. -I have a one-week old baby at home, so I’ve not had time to post.

    Is your girlfriend very familiar with YWAM? I have never personally been to YWAM Perth, so I cannot tell you of abuse received there. -For all I know it may be a balanced base.

    “Can you tell me if this specific program has been characterized as negative.”

    -Is she attending a DTS? Like I said, it depends on the base leadership, but in my personal experience with many, many YWAM bases, there is a great deal of spiritual abuse. The DTS is the foundation of YWAM’s beliefs and I liken it to brainwashing.

    “What are the YWAM “rules” on relationship, and do you feel like the program will intentionally try to convince her to end our relationship?”

    -YWAM discourages any kind of romantic relationships during DTS, as it is seen as a “honeymoon with God”. They teach that having a close relationship is ‘distracting’ from God & the calling you may have. In the base I was in, dating & marriage was strongly frowned upon & seen as not-as-holy. I don’t know if they would tell her to end your relationship…it really depends on the base.

    “What advise can I give her before she goes?”

    -Tell her to keep her eyes & ears open & if at any time she feels uncomfortable, to get out. Many times, when under the leadership of those seen as ‘more spiritual’, people can begin to not trust their own intuition.

    I hope that answered your questions & helps with your girlfriend.



  43. Anon (for now) said

    Jaime, leave some way to contact you, and I will, and probably so will others.

  44. Need to know said

    Thank you for your detailed response! She is going to go to DTS. I think it is required. We have been going over the different ‘tactics’ that she might experience that I learned from a few websites.

    It is really disappointing to hear that she will probably be pressured into being single.

    I guess the final question I have is, during DTS will she be able to contact me? We were planning on using skype while she was gone, but will there be internet access?

    I have sent a few emails to leaders of her program with some basic questions but they have been really sketchy in their responses, or lack there of.

  45. Dan Anear said

    busy day just been speed reading some stuff here. I don’t want to enter into the discussion above don’t have time & I think all sides of the argument have been covered. I just thought I should post something to “need to know” about Perth. Firstly as we have all hopefully realised by now YWAM (just as the “Emerging Church Movement” I have read many criticism’s about that also) has more expressions & diversity that one person’s brain can fathom. One cannot compare the way an institutionalised Church runs with a “decentralised movement”.
    So personally I can only with real authority speak on behalf of YWAM Australia of which I have been a part for 4.5 years.
    So to “need to know” I would just like to say that my experiences with YWAM Perth have been quite positive. If I am totally honest I find the base quite strict compared to my base & therefore YWAM Adelaide fits me better this said I simulatanously realise that my base of 35 staff compared to Perth’s of 250 requires a more organised approach to things. I have had a number of friends go to Perth & do school’s with YWAM Perth etc etc & they have loved it. Of late I have been totally amazed by the testimonies coming from YWAM Perth & I have friends there who I have really seen grow since joining that base so it’s not a cult by any means.
    “Need to know” I can tell you that your daughter will definitely be able to contact you. I know that some program’s actually put a time slot in the schedule to contact people (a very non cult characteristic) back at home. Actually I think all YWAM Australia bases now have Wi-Fi interent access. YWAM Perth is the most technologically advanced base so Skype will be fine to use.
    If you want to know more feel free to ask?

    ps. For everyone else I think it is important to note that nearly all the criticism’s I have read about YWAM occurred a fair time ago which means it was mostly likely during the period where there was something called “The Shepherding Movement” (google it) it disturbs me greatly to hear stories from my leader’s of aspects of spiritual abuse that occurred at this time & wish YWAM & many other churche’s had never interpreted the Bible so wrong. This said movements sometimes make mistakes & collapse & sometimes make mistakes, repent & learn from them I am happy in general we have done the later (at least in Australia). I personally know people who were bossed around & told they couldn’t date someone etc but you know they got over it & didn’t let a few people with bad theology take away from their calling OR still see the positive aspects. Since I have been in YWAM though I have witnessed none of this just heard a few stories. As a progressive Christian also involved in many other Christian organisations I simply love being in YWAM & the opportunities it gives me.
    Wow that was a lot comment & I have work to do.

  46. jarsmom said

    Hi all, I am a former YWAMer, kudos chica to your blog. Reading this makes my blood boil just remembering all the
    crap I wish they would get a clue, close the whole thing down and rebuild it correctly

  47. YWAMer Here said

    Hello Jen; I was just reading some of the older posts and came across one from robbymac dated April 5th, 2008. I was in that class and can confirm that what he is saying is indeed correct in regards to the “apostle”. The students and staff alike were told a completely different story as to why this couple was not at the base. I’m currently experiencing some problems with the leadership as I’m now on staff. The same “apostle” just spoke at the most recent DTS and I’m shaking my head as to why.

    Not all YWAM leaders are the same, there really are some good ones as there are good and bad leaders with any Christian organization, so I’m not writing off YWAM all together, just praying as to where my husband and I should go from here.

    It makes me sad to see how many have been hurt by YWAM. I think that part of the reason that the leadership in so many places is so bad is that they have been hurt themselves and haven’t experienced first hand what good leadership should be.

  48. James said

    Just read through many of the posts and felt alternately blessed by some experiences and enraged at the treatment some endured.

    I was on staff with YWAM until last year. I was a DTS leader for some years. With one notable exception, the leadership that I witnessed was generally very good. In that exceptional situation, the leader was removed during a school and the outreach cancelled due to students experiences.
    Differences in teaching are permitted. I remember 2 speakers back to back having conflicting teaching. I personally think that it is healthy to be exposed to various perspectives and learn to go back to what the Bible says.

    Some answers for Lynda –

    Dating (where I was): Not allowed during a DTS. In some cases relationships would develop which were obviously detracting from the goal of getting closer to God and discussions ensued. Having said that, in other cases when it might have been evident that there was an attraction but it was not detracting from the learning process, nothing was said. Some healthy marriages resulted and I’m thrilled!

    Cost for outreach:
    Our base and a number of other announce the cost beforehand with a range (i.e. $3000 – $4000) and we stuck to it. One year we even gave a reimbursement to the students of about $500! On the other hand, a close friend sent his daughter to another base, and the price of the outreach rose dramatically, – to app. $6000 much to his dismay. (His daughter did come back on fire for God however, for which he was very greatful). This is an important consideration for where to go for a DTS.

    Exit interviews for staff would be a good idea.
    There are evaluations that students fill out for both the lecture phase and the outreach phases in order to promote constant improvement. These I believe are now required for all DTS courses that are registered for credit and have been for a few years. (Some countries do not offer the DTS for U of N credit and may not have evaluations.)

    I would be very happy if my children took a DTS. I would however, check into the base where they want to do it and offer counsel and advice.

  49. Jaime said

    this is little questionnaire about Ywam, would you please fill it and i will share the results with you guys.

  50. jarsmom said

    just tried to fill out the survey and the mail box is full.
    I would like to comment. I was just reviewing Jens first blog.
    I agree with her about the universality of ywam behavior. I did
    my dts in 92 on the anastasis. Most of the fulltimers were a bunch of dysfunctional people who appeared to be unable to
    handle life in the real world.

    I got assinged to breakfast duty, the toaster was broken. It was
    amazing to observe the torrents of whinning and snivviling that ensued because of it. But what were we learning in our
    DTS. ? To suck it up die to yourself etc. Obviously the full timers forgot that, interesting. It seemed like we were expected to behave one way but everyone else was allowed
    to do what ever they wanted. One morning my friend and I
    were standing in the galley and they began to enter for their
    breakfast. I looked at him and said ” here come the children
    of Isreal, let the murmering begin, ” what a bunch of hypocri

    The thing I loved the most is this…. THey used to love to tell
    us not to go back home with a negative report and tried com-
    pare calling them on their bad behavior to the spies in the land. HOw manipulative . I remember so clearly when my
    last day of YWAM was ,9/18/92 I was sooooooooooooooooooo
    happy to be out of there. My friend and I had a term for those
    who just couldnt see what sham the whole thing was. We
    called them RAH RAHS. THey were the leadership hopefuls.
    Abality and annointing were never taken into consideration, only were you a little rah rah or not. This one lady in my dts is
    still full timer in Hawaii. I dont think shell ever get it.

    • b said

      if you hated it so much, why did you even bother to stay?

      seems like the full-timers weren’t the only ones to not learn much as you’re doing on here what they were doing about their breakfast.

      • Korgoth 82 said

        Look the point wasn’t to squable about a toaster, it was to point out that it is very important for you guys to really care mor about running a ministry either be more mature, kind, and actually care or go do something else. If you can’t go do something else then don’t judge other people. If some one critisizes you how are you supposed to resond? What are you supposed submitt to? The only thing you guys have been critizised for is not pulling the beam out of your own eye. And when anybody gets upset about it, what you are going to make sure that they don’t question or challenge your athority. But, you are not your won authority if your in a ministry, God gives a spirit of authority depending on your knowledge of the truth. You are not there so that you can judge who is good enough and who isn’t. I did have that happen to me and it did ruin my life. But, as much as it messed me up I couldn’t talk to anybody else about it, because I was just immature or agaisnt righteousness. But, really I was seeking God.

        You sould be careful.

      • Henry said

        In otherwords you better just shut and submitt or maybe you don’t need to be hear!

  51. Matthias said

    Did my DTS in 2003 in Kona.
    I too think that both sides have been presented here fairly well.
    some points i’d want to add:
    YWAM is kinda messy. Every quarter hey shove thousands of students through this DTS thingie that acts like some kind of spiritual pressure cooker and if you happen to have some mental instability this can be get very ugly. Also if you are not sold out for God and instead seeking some exciting experience then the pressure will be felt as some kind of hostility. On the other hand, if you do seek to get closer to God, then you will welcome the pressure because it actually pushes you in the direction you wanted to go anyway.
    All this relates to a situation where there are no leaders of the mentioned abusive kind.
    In a way this discussion reminds me of the silly “backwards masking” craze of the 80’s (Rock music), where perpetrators totally lost sight of what musicians actually _do_, that being making music. In the case of YWAM: It’s about missions! We taught English to Cambodians. We prayed for the sick. We gave testimony. That, and the core values of YWAM are beyond reproach. Everything else is subject to human fallibility and the nature of distributed systems. Oh, and there is no such thing as YWAM doctrine. It’s a healthy mix from the whole spectrum of denominations, from Southern Baptists all the way to Morningstar Ministries.
    That being said – i think it is wise to check if a base is in a sane state before you send your kids there.
    The reason why i got to this page: I saw a disturbing photo on google-earth of a “security gate” at the entrance to the Kona Campus on Kuakini Highway…, someone is getting paranoid there, i thought, and googled away.

    • Barb said

      Please….YWAM is a well-organized cartel. If it weren’t for the ‘mentally unstable’, they wouldn’t have had ANY success, thus far. They deliberately target the young and impressionable, because they are the most easily swayed.

  52. Andrew said

    I am finishing my DTS on Friday, and will move on with my life from there.
    Of the list of eight signs, two of them are present in my school:
    Milieu Control
    Loading the Language

    Milieu Control
    there is by no means complete control here. We have to be in the building by 11pm or midnight, depending on the day, but our ample free time allows us to go anywhere we want. We live in a dorm-like setting, and all of us have the code for the door locks. Most students leave right after the DTS with no pressure to continue to another school. The case for this sign is far from airtight at my particular one.

    Loading the Language
    “prefer your brother” “Choose it” and other phrases are daily occurrences with some of the properties described. If someone complains, rather than conversing with the people, some leaders will end the conversation with “choose it”, meaning, “choose to be content in a situation you don’t like.” This is irritating because our concerns are sometimes dismissed quickly. However, if you confront the leaders about their loaded language, most of them will give you their ear and respond thoughtfully.

    I can assure you, the school I took my DTS is not a cult, as prescribed by those eight signs. I imagine that they do exist elsewhere, but there just isn’t that kind of mind control going on.

  53. maria said

    Aloha from YWAM Maui. I have been involved with YWAM for about 13 years.. In the course of this time I have also been blessed to work along side Campus crusade. I have also been able to minister alongside churches.. and I can tell you that in none of these organizations are people perfect. I can say that I have seen abuse of power.. I have seen people not listened to. I have seen people hurt. I have also seen people repent and change their ways.. I have seen people own up to their actions and apologize.. I would like to remind all of us that our fight is not against flesh and blood.. and I would love to urge us to continue to pray for the leaders in any christian organization.. that they would be able to make great decisions and be good , healthy leaders. I also commend those that speak out against heresy and any wrong doing on a base. We all need accountability… and unfortunatelt those leaders that do not repent have the creator God to answer to. No one will “get away” with their injustices. Thank God that He loves us and is for the humble.. I love YWAM and I love my job.. I am priveleged to work in ministry and I pray that whenever any of us christians are hurt by any sort of leader that we would approach them in love.. and if they do not respond that we take a witness.. take it to the next person in charge.. so on and so forth. Thank you for letting us know about YWAM Hong Kong.. I will asking my leaders about that base..

  54. Martin said

    Hi Jen,

    thanks for your blog.

    Some have asked why there are so few YWAMers who speak out after hundreds of thousands have gone through their schools. The answer is simple – intimidation.

    I recently told a theological class that YWAM had been built on Pelagian theology, a revived Finneyism. I mentioned that this was taught on all bases, at one time or another, and that many leaders are still committed to the heretical perspective. That is why it is almost impossible to find anybody in YWAM that teaches justification by faith alone. Of course, a number of people in the class had dear friends who they support in YWAM. They told me that I did not know what YWAM was like, and that it was just a bad and isolated experience. One megachurch in response to my critique, I have been told, had threatened to boycot the college that I work at because I am not pro-YWAM.

    So what can a person gain by being a whistle-blower. A reputation for being nasty, divisive and in need of counselling. Why bother. YWAM knows how to win the public relations contest, and how to conceal their theological aberrations. They are thoroughly networked among theologically naive churches, which unfortunately these days, includes some of the most conservative denominations in the world. Perhaps the ‘deny-ers’ should ask why so many websites catalogue YWAM excesses, and question whether it is a cult. Is there another major ‘mission’ oganisation that gets that kind of press?

    The abuse I experienced was minimal, in fact, they were among the happiest days of my life. But we shouldn’t be surprised by this, most cults are enjoyable experiences. The full understanding of liberties denied and theological aberrations for some, at least, are a long and slow dawning.

    Jen, I do wish that there was a safe place for ex-YWAMers to express their views without fear of Christian retribution from the ignorant (of YWAM) majority. Many need real support, and unfortunately, we have no way of finding the many secret YWAM victims. I hope that your site can contribute some assistance to the many who have experienced the same over-authoritarian MO on many continents.

    God bless

    • Simon said

      I took the relative lack of negative comment about YWAM to mean that most had more positive experiences. As a soon-to-be-former-ywam staff who knows many former ywam staff and students I have yet to hear of a perceived intimidation from YWAM. I have heard of bad experienced and had my share of hard times in YWAM but I can look back at my time with a lot of thankfulness, especially towards my leaders over the years who showed so much grace and patience with me and looked past my rough edges, and helped me to grow. I place a high value on authenticity and individuality and I think that can be difficult in YWAM at times, but there is definitely a forum or place for expressing concerns or problems, and even though I haven’t always agreed with my leaders or followed their advice, I feel respected and loved by them. I don’t think that my leaders had ulterior motives, but their strongest desire for my own growth with God, while also fulfilling their role as representing the base as far as holding me accountable to the commitment I had made.

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience with YWAM but I do understand why some people may have a negative response to your critique of ywam, especially if you are ‘teaching’ that ywam is an abusive organisation or a cult.

      I wonder if your whistle-blowing has helped in your healing process from the abuse which you experienced. Sometimes talking about things helps us get over them. Or maybe you just want to warn people about YWAM so they don’t have the same experience- definitely a noble motive. If it is the latter though, then I think it’s probably good to approach it with some balance, especially because it seems the majority of people have mostly positive experiences in YWAM, and I believe that this balance, rather than acting out of our past hurts, is a sign of maturity, and probably worth pursuing…

      Just my 2 cents worth 🙂

  55. Jen said


    Yes, intimidation is a big deal. Those who are still in the YWAM worldview cannot understand those who have spoken out.

    My husband and I were persecuted a great deal by those we knew still in the organization, so I thought there needed to be a voice online to help others going through the same. There is some anonymity online, but those at the HK base know who we are and of course, they have their version of the story.

    At this point, I really don’t care what they think of me, so why not help others within YWAM or those trying to recover from YWAM. -That’s what fuels this blog.



  56. e2c said

    Jen, thank you for this post.

    For many years I belonged to a church that is deeply involved in YWAM activities, including DTS. The “senior pastor” teaches at many DTSs.

    Over time, I found that the leadership at this church went from being on a level plane with all congregants to highly authoritarian and intolerant of dissent. The tone of sermons (etc.) became increasingly judgmental, guilt-inducing, OT-centered and greatly lacking in love and mercy.

    In 2002, I was made to leave this church, based on some false accusations made by the “senior pastor” and other people involved in “leadership.” It was a hugely painful time for me, and I’ll admit that at the beginning, I would have done almost anything in order to be accepted back into the church, and the music ministry in particular. (I stress that only because their chief way of getting me to leave was to remove me from the music ministry and to tell other musicians that they were forbidden to speak with me, either on the phone or in person.) At the time I left, various George Otis and John & Joy Dawson-inspired “teachings” had become central to this church’s presentation of the Gospel. (Included prayer walking and other aspects of “strategic level spiritual warfare,” taking the city for God, viewing certain kinds of sins as unforgivable, etc.)

    The person in charge of this church is still doing DTSs, as far as I’m aware.

    There were so many former-YWAMers in that church, most of them lovely people. We were all so caught up in what I now see as largely YWAM-inspired ideas… So reading the comments here is very helpful to me.

    It has taken many years for me to get to the point where I feel that I can consider attending another church. The awareness that I *wasn’t* “off” or crazy – that I’d actually been abused – took a long time to sink in, and even longer to process.

    Though I do believe that many in YWAM have good intentions, I seriously question many of the doctrines they teach *now*, and have no difficulty believing that many YWAM “leaders” use manipulation and intimidation to control and silence anyone who questions them and their methods. Because that’s exactly what happened to me, in a YWAM-affiliated church.

    I do hope that my comment will be of some help to anyone considering YWAM with an eye to missions. Although I never attended a DTS, I do think that I’ve survived experiences very similar to those that many former YWAMers describe. If you’re one of them – if you’re questioning – please know that you’re doing the right thing. Although I cannot advise, I certainly would recommend that anyone contemplating involvement take the time to do thorough research – including other organizations. Hype does *not* necessarily equal “good,” and I’m sure there are many balanced, healthy missions organizations (small and large) that would be an excellent fit.

  57. jarsmom said

    I would like to respon to e2c. I to went to a church where a
    good deal of the congregants were YWAMERS, the pastor too
    taught frequently at the DTS> He still does and he left the
    state 9 or 10 years ago. I had often considered speaking to
    him about some of these issues. Probably a waste of time. I still respect him and his wife but sometimes you got to know
    when to hold em when to fold em and when to run. I am truly
    sorry for your pain and loss. what a lonley road we who
    dont believe that WYAM is seated at the right hand of God, walk. Blessings to all of you in your journeys.

    • Mar said

      Thanks for this post and blog. After 13 years of my youth being an obedient person decided to leave the organization. I wish I had taken the decision earlier. It took me a while to get rid of that guilt, thinking that maybe had a bad spirit, that I was wrong, that I was losing faith, and so on.
      I appreciate and cherish the friendship time and all the good I received there, but I also remember my life always there always full of guilty and conmdenation. I remember, hungry and cold days despite my hard work inside and outside the base to pay for accommodation. I wish I had the maturity to make the decision to study in college as it was my dream. Instead I accepted my leader’s “feeling” who said I need to stay and serve here or there.
      I’m glad to be away from all that. When I left, it seems a disgrace, where was my missionary call. It cost me much sorrow and take a lot of time and effort to live in the real world.
      After years, now I finally know what it is to have peace and I finally feel free of that condemnation an anxiety. When you start to feel uncomfortable with situations, it’s necessary to stop and check what is really happening. (Excuse my English)

  58. marion said

    Thanks for this forum. It is so interesting to read and reflect on. I was involved with YWAM for 3 years in the late 1990s, as a 19 – 21 year old. I loved it at the time, and received a lot of great opportunities and praise from leaders (perhaps upon reflection I was a ‘rah rah’ in response to an earlier post :)). I felt very ‘loved’ and appreciated whilst there, made wonderful friends, felt very close to God and had a lot of fun… who knows, perhaps I could have even become a ‘YWAM celebrity’ had I stayed on!

    At the end of three years I started to think about moving on from YWAM to pursue study. When I started to voice these ideas of returning to university, I was met with general scepticism and discouragement from leadership – one or two people actually suggested that I better be certain God is calling me there, because God would certainly use me in YWAM but how could I be certain He would use me at University? The more I began to question some of the ‘group think’ that was present, the more I began to see and started to have a hunch that something was not quite right.

    Thankfully, I made the break – though it took me a long time to feel ‘normal’ again – to find my feet, recover old friendships, church etc. Thankfully also I stumbled into a church with a very humble pastor that encouraged question asking, honesty, critical thinking – a life saver for me and my faith I think.

    I write this because I didn’t at the time feel abused in any way, and actually had a wonderful time at YWAM. But with a few more years of life experience, there are many things I now question – and I would hesitate to encourage other young people to go. The problem is that manipulation is often subtle (and even those who are manipulating would not actually always be aware they are doing so), so it is difficult to detect exactly what it is that is going on.

    There are a few things I wanted to comment on:

    1) Yes, there are good and bad leaders everywhere. I had some wonderful people around me, and I still am in touch with some who are good friends. But – I think there is a lot of ‘spiritual jargon’ in general YWAM speak that that covers up control and manipulation (‘not touching ‘or questioning’ the Lord’s annointed’ etc.). It creates an environment where people are not able to express themselves, ask questions, be honest, use their brains, and lays a foundation for potential control and manipulation.

    2) Day to day life on ‘base’ is often so all-consuming that there is no time to really catch up with family and friends. I once expressed my dissatisfaction to a leader about having no time for external relationships (too many meetings) and was told that this is what was required. I feel like there is a blip in those years of my life where I can’t remember what family or long term friends were even up to.

    3) The intense community experience and ‘living on base’ makes it difficult for people to integrate with normal day to day life around them. I met people in YWAM I would consider to be ‘instututionalised’ – terrified of the ‘real world’, renting a house, getting a job, studying, etc. The longer people stay, and the less work experience, education people have, I think the scarier it is to make the change. This also means that when you leave YWAM, many people within its walls cannot relate to you at all – and can’t seem to imagine that you might possibly be serving God in life outside YWAM. It also means that you suddenly get many requests (as a student, mind you) to support your YWAM friends ministry as they jetset across the world on various schools and missions.

    4) Financial abuse – the base I was at had financial problems, and from time to time asked staff to take days of casual work at factories to donate the wages to the base. This is one thing – but then they asked the DTS students at the time to work for a week or maybe more – DTS students who paid money for training – who were now working in factories and donating the wage to the base during their lecture phase. Of course it was voluntary, but ‘voluntary’ is questionable when leadership are requesting – and serving the base is equated with serving God.

    5) Inappropriate use of power : An ex-DTS student friend told me that a YWAM leader who we both respected highly called him and said that while she was praying, God had told her to call him and ask him for money. Of course, she said he should pray about it and see what God said. My friend didn’t know what to do – he said he had no spare money at the time, but was confused because this was someone he highly respected and believed was very close to God. There were other instances of highly respected leaders telling DTS students and staff that they had prayed, and God had told them to vote for a certain political party. He encouraged everyone to pray and hear from God about who to vote for, but what is unspoken is that if “highly respected YWAM leader close to God” has heard, who am I to question this?’. Given their elevated positions and ‘spiritual leadership’ roles I found these two examples very disturbing and manipulative.

    I am not out on a witch hunt, and don’t feel scarred from the whole experience. Rather, it makes me think more and more that any community, church or group etc. that discourages dissent, free thinking, questioning and diversity is scary. I have several friends who have been part of other ‘churches turned cults’ far more serious than my experience, and these elements of ‘group think’ and discouraging dissent or questioning always appear.

    Thanks so much for this discussion –


  59. robbymac said


    To have so many commenting even a WHOLE YEAR after you originally wrote this post, says a lot about the issues that you’ve raised.

    For the record, Wendy & I are still with YWAM, although we have left Canada (our home and native land, as the anthem goes…), and are now in Tijuana Mexico.

    This base is such a breath of fresh air. Not perfect, since it still has people in it, but a TON healthier than our former YWAM base. We have thoroughly enjoyed our first six months here.

    I’d also like to suggest (highly recommend, actually) The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse for anyone who has been subjected to spiritual abuse, or who knows someone who has been or is currently in a spiritually unhealthy place. I read it years ago when it first came out, and it’s been an extremely helpful resource.

  60. PK said

    I am shocked and so concerned reading these posts. We were considering going to Reef to Outback DTS in Australia. Can anyone vouch for the leadership there or a recent experience (good or bad) at that base?


  61. Debra said

    Just reading through all of these posts makes me realize that we all have work to do in our lives to be emotionally healthy as we follow Jesus.

    I have worked in the church and the YWAM world for 35 years and seen unhealthy situations and very healthy situations. It is a good thing to listen to these expressions of problems, because it helps all of us to be more careful to live with healthy boundaries.

    I have chosen to try to be a peace maker who brings people together and helps them work through their conflicts and hurts. What YWAM tries to do is provide an atmosphere for discipleship. I have seen that work in a very positive way in so many lives.

    I think that part of that atmosphere must be honesty and openness to listen to people who have been offended and take those concerns to heart. Living at peace with all people, as far as it is up to you… is an admonition from the Bible and part of as far as it is up to you means we all have a responsibility to work things out when relationships get messed up.

    While my personal experience has been very positive, I have had to work through some difficult situations. But that I did… worked through them. Sometimes challenging the process, or the rules, and I have never found a dead end. But rather maturity and growth as a result.

    So. Blessings your way as your walk through stuff. By the way, we will always have stuff in a fallen world with fallen people, no matter where you are. Learning to work through it in a healthy way is a big thing and I am committed to that.

    God bless.

  62. Steve said

    My experiance with YWAM was o.k
    However I felt like I was in a commune.
    I had to share a small room with 4 other guys.
    There was one Guy there who berated Me because some friends and I got back late from a movie.
    I believe in discipline, but He treated me like a Child even though I was 25 years old.
    I don’t know if I agree with working for them and not getting some kind of pay if You are on staff.
    I don’t know how people with families do this.
    It seems to Me people have to beg for money each month from supporters, and I don’t think that is right.Steve

  63. emily B said

    Need to know:
    You said: ” What are the YWAM “rules” on relationship, and do you feel like the program will intentionally try to convince her to end our relationship?”

    For the 7 years I have been in YWAM I have witnessed so many YWAMer marriages and relationships. For all the YWAMers I know, marriage is such a wonderful BLESSING from God. I mean, come on, even the Bible tells of how wonderful and precious marriage is.
    In Dts it is usually not recommended to date during DTS, but if you already are in a relationship, the situation is a little different. From what I’ve seen the couple usually doesn’t see each other as much, but I’ve never seen any base so far suggest they end the relationship, unless it reallywas just not menat to be. I’ve seen relationships end in my YWAM base, but it was usually the couple that ended it on their own choices. One couple did begin dating, although all their leaders told them they didn’t feel peace about it, and suggested they wait(not end the relationship, just postpone it and wait…) Well, the couple wasn’t together very long. Soon the guy broke up with her, and she just left the base.
    Maybe certain CHRISTIANS (not Just YWAMers) look down on dating and marriage.

  64. Jen said

    Emily B,

    I’m glad you’ve had a good experience with YWAM.

    Let me ask you a question: Do you think that a person can hear from G-d themselves or do they have to have their leader be a mediator?
    I have had friends who were told not to date and were kicked out of the base because they planned to marry. They are still happily married, serving G-d. The leaders were (still are) dictators toward the member of the base. They impose their law as if it came from G-d Himself.

    That is wrong. That is unbiblical.

  65. Robere said

    In my opinion the issue that YWAM leadership has with dating and sex can be traced back to the whole issue of sexual repression that is an integral part of fundamentalist Christianity (as well as Judaism and Islam). Just look at the number of terms that Judaeo-Christian society has invented to describe the ‘sins of the flesh”: concupiscence, licentiousness, fornication, lasciviousness, lust, adultery, to name just a few. The role of taboo in various cultures needs to be considered in order to better understand why YWAM leadership gets their knickers in such a twist over sex and dating. I wrote an article in my Pseudocults blog titled, “Beware: Sex Leads to Dancing”. It discusses the issue of taboo in the context of my own experiences as an individual who was raised amid the sexual repression and oppression of Pentecostalism. However, other more academic treatises have been put forward about the same topic that might be considered more objective than my own generally subjective views. For example Grant Wacker wrote, “Are Pentecostals Sex-Crazed?” (Christianity Today Vol 45, 2001). His conclusion about this question read:

    “Viewed from afar, then, the most reasonable explanation for the licentiousness stereotype was self-interest. Insiders’ claims that other insiders had strayed into gross immorality helped establish the accusers’ own doctrinal and moral purity. Likewise outsiders’ claims helped establish the doctrinal and moral integrity of the outsiders—or lined their pockets with ready cash. Moreover pentecostals brought much of the problem on themselves in a way not yet noted. From the beginning they proved eager to flaunt their rectitude. When conversion, sanctification, and Holy Spirit baptism did not turn them into saints, but left them ordinary Christians subject to the same failings that bedeviled everyone else, the rest of the world noticed.”

    (Grant Wacker is Associate Professor of the History of Religion in America at Duke University and the above-mentioned article is an extract from his book, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001.)

    We need to remember that YWAM is essentially a Pentecostal organisation, apart from one that identifies with the broader evangelical movement.

    • Kevvy said

      If anyone loves the world, the love of God is not in him. God will judge the world. It is God’s will that people evade sexual sin. The cowardly, unbelieving, disgusting, murderers, sexually immoral, those practicing the magic arts, and all liars will have their part in the Lake of Fire. The Spirit expressly says that in latter days, many will depart from the faith, giving attention to seducing spirits and teachings of demons. Because of wicked people the way of the truth (Jesus) will be spoken against by the world. You will recognize them by their fruits. Many false prophets will arise and will deceive many. Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will inherit the kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of my Father in Heaven. Come to Me all you who struggle and bear heavy burdens because My yoke is easy and My burden is light. I am the way, the truth and the life. Whoever comes to Me in no way will I reject. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not store up treasures on earth where thieves steal and where moths consume, but let your treasure be in heaven. Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved. Cast your cares on him because He cares for you.

  66. formerywamer said


    i’m a former ywamer myself…and to be honest, i would have said that ywam was great and dandy when i was in ywam…

    now, i’ve been out of ywam for about 2 years or so…

    my experience looking back…i think i was pretty stupid to be in there…

    it’s like they are living in their own reality…lots of staff to this day, i can’t stand how they abused their power…i’m not talking about the teaching staff…but the younger 21, 23 year olds who are considered “staff” just because they took a dts before…

    whatever, i wouldn’t recommend you to go into ywam unless maybe you want to be a full time missionary…

    i dont even go to church anymore…that’s not because of ywam…i just see ywam as some emotional high place whereas life is not…outside of ywam, you realize you still got to go to work…you can’t just chill out at kona, hawaii and meet people from all around the world and not worry about money problems, etc…

    you got to work in the real world…

    plus, my beef with ywam is that it kind of has that jonestown feeling/vibe to it…for some reason…i am not saying they are a cult…but they have that weird vibe to it…and think they are so hip and cool…sick of these young christians who think they are like rock stars or something…

  67. formerywamer said

    plus i dont like how the ywam people (well not all) but some leaders prophesy over you…i just dont like that…one guy was supposively had the gift of prophecy…that’s what he claimed he had…what an egotistical guy thinking about it now…

    anyhow, this guy prophesied that everyone was great and all…then he came to me…and prophesied about me…he was pretty much INSULTING me the whole damn time!

    he was saying something like …oh i think god is saying you should really relax…just be yourself…God loves you for who you are…stop working so hard…

    then there was another person who prophesied and said how God loves me so much and how i am going to go into ministry…i’m sorry but BS…i’ve waited all this long…

    did all this stuff for God but i ain’t in the ministry…i am not even going to church right now…

    that’s 1 thing i don’t like about some ywamers (not all)…some claim to have the gift of prophecy and their prophecy (or false prophecy) can be DANGEROUS to many young or any kind of christian…

    because it may NOT be true…it can be their own imagination…and the people hearing it…it can DAMAGE their life…

    right after i became a christian, this lady…she’s a well known ywam leader…prophesied some BS prophecy about how i was going to be used by God for his ministry….guess what man…i really thought that was true…

    all i did was to look into going into full time ministry…that’s why i went into ywam…even went into seminary…missions…

    guess what now, i ain’t even going to church…i quit seminary…i still have bitter feelings about the whole system of ywam and some of my DTS staff…but my MAIN BEEF is how i felt spiritually abused or raped by these guys who call themselves people who have gifts of prophecy…

    i wish I NEVER heard those so call prophecy…because to this day, i still have to struggle and wrestle and wonder if maybe God’s calling is for me to go into full time ministry when my heart now is filled with doubt, guilt (because maybe I am not following his “prophesied” calling, etc)…

    so my opinion of ywam…

    basically, it ain’t no heaven…it ain’t no solution…

    seriously people are people…that’s one thing i’ve learned in missions…even the christian missionaries…in missions…places full of inconvenience like in africa where you get no lights or running water…even the CHRISTIANS hate people…just like non christians…even the CHRISTIANS get jealous like non christians…

    so stop judging and looking down on non christians because the christians are the same…

    even when christians are doing GOOD works, it can be out of their flesh-centered motivations like greed, ego, power, vanity, etc…

    so my point is…


    just because you know truth doesn’t mean you are better…

    you really are NOT!

    thank you very much…

    i’d rather stay anonymous…

  68. Anonymous. said

    I write this not to dwell on what happened while I was in YWAM, but to get the message out about the cult-like tactics that are taking place. Several years ago I did a DTS in Maui, and lecture phase was amazing. I learned so much and it was all around on good experience. I cannot say the same about my outreach experience. My leaders constantly had talks with the group about everything we were doing wrong; it was never edifying at all, all they did was throw stones at us. There were several times that I got “talking” to about how I had so many issues and all these things were wrong with me and how I was rebelious and have trouble with authority. These tactics were not biblical by any means. It got worse when we were told before we left that we would get to call home at least once a week (even though the leaders could call whenever they wanted, and were on the phone to home constantly). This did not happen. Once we got out we were only allowed to call home once on Christmas Day. One girl even asked if she could call Christmas Eve because it was her fiancee’s birthday. The leader then proceeded to scream obsceneties at her, and we nearly lost our “privelege” to call home Christmas day, stating that he went out of his way to “let us” call home and we are not even appreciative of it. Also, when I was on outreach I got really sick. I couldn’t hold down water for months straight and I had blood in my stool. My leaders refused to send me to a doctor, and when I felt to weak to do ministry they told me that sloth is a sin and that they wouldn’t allow idleness. I wrote my parents an email about being sick, and after that I wasn’t able to get internet connection for a few weeks. My parents started to become concerned and wrote an email to both my leaders, which neither of them responded to in any form. There is so much more, but for times sake I just wanted to list the major issues going on in YWAM Maui. It is not a safe environment. I left with feelings of guilt, shame, condemnation, utter sadness, and confusion. God has delivered me of these things, but this is not what God desires for his children to act like, and it is all about mind-control. If you are considering this base and really really encourage you to bathe yourself in prayer and fasting before you leave…

    For Him.

  69. Ola said

    I’m busy downloading applications forms for my son and his two friends when I saw this website and read some of the comments. How sad…… I did my DTS in SA, I’m a South African, in1986 and a counselling schoo with my husband in 1987. Although we have not gone into full time missions we have kept in touch with YWAM over all these years. Our daughters already did a DTS and now our son will do a dts next year after he completes his last year of schooling here in SA.

    Why I say it is sad to read all this negative plublicity about YWAM is because my heart breaks to read how “chritians” can reveal their own level of spirituallity. God is the author of His Word and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are our guides. I have not read anywhere in the Word of God that we are to follow people or watch what they do and how they do it. As far as I know, God says that we must pray and ask His guidance in what we do and WHERE WE GO. Did any of you who had bad experiences maybe stopped and aksed yourself if you are at the place where you should be? Did any of you pray before you joined a certain YWAM base? Were any of you tied down at the bases where you were stationed? Were you not free to go if you found out that YOU MADE THE MISTAKE TO BE WHERE YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN?

    I know that most of the time I experience hurt, rejection and confusion is when I am not where I am suppose to be. I learned a wonderful saying in YWAM and have been living by it all these years “WHERE GOD GUIDES, HE PROVIDES” and this is not only in the material and monetary fields but in all possible fields where we have needs. No, I do not say that the “abuse” was not real or that the people who “abused” was right, what I am saying is this, “If you really pray and seek God’s guidance, He will not lead you wrong and if He does place you in a situation where “abuse” is going on, that you should intercede and stand up against it.”

    You people who are attacking YWAM is unfair because so may people, including myself, found myself and learnt who God really is, in that period of “isolation”. I call in isoliation because it was a time when we were in a place where you are covered in the spiritual sense and where you are allowed to fall apart, be angry, investigate the hurt and rejection you experienced all your life all the while knowing that there are leaders and counsellors praying for you to get over the ugly and to blossom in Christ. I will not exchange my time in YWAM for any other time in my life. I will not exchange the growth both emotionaly and spiritually that I experienced in that time for any other thing in my life.

    YWAM is an organisation called into life by God through wonderful people like Loren Cunningham and although they were instrumental in the earthly establishment of this life changing, people reaching, God finding organisation, God was the author and founder of YWAM. No such great thing comes from man so to you negatives out there, if your are truly children of God, you will not attack an organisation with stupid things like “boo woo they hurt me”. Get up and be honest with yourself and ask yourself this “were you suppose to be there”

    Now for some good advice, ” if you are hurt by people it is because your focus is on the arm of flesh”. I have a solution for all of you…….. “Grow up and lay down your weapons and truly seek God’s face for your own lifes. Spending so much time on the net is a sign of too much time doing nothing and wasting precious and valuable time which could have been utilised to pray for people who are still lost. Leave the judgement to God. If anyone did anything wrong to you….. let God be his/her judge at the time set aside for that, in the meantime use your blogs and webpages to spread the Gospel and thus get more people in the inner circle of God. I always say to people who are stubborn and hang on to hurts and the past……”build a bridge and get over it yourself” So to those who are still bitter…… THINK MAN THINK…… how much are you missing out on while the ones whom you are bitter towards are happy and unaware of your unhappiness. IT IS NOT WORTH IT….. OUR AIM SHOULD BE TO PLEASE GOD, TO SERVE GOD IN ANY WAY HE GUIDES US AND TO GET OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHO DO NOT KNOW GOD, TO MEET THE ONE TRUE CREATOR.



  70. Loren (not really) said

    I just did part of a YWAM school but left due to what I consider to be spiritual abuse. I don’t believe YWAM is a cult but there are definitely certain leaders who are spiritually abusive. Much of this boils down to not understanding grace. The bad thing is, I’m now stranded physically and financially and have been called a flake for leaving the school by some who supported me. I’d appreciate your prayers.

    • Barb said

      Don’t give up. I went through hell at YWAM. They broke my spirit in so many ways, leaving me lost for years. I fought to survive, and one day found my way out of the pain. Today, 34 years later, I am thankful I didn’t give up. I have a family, and there is joy in my life once again. You are worth so much more than what they projected onto you. Blessings! Barb

  71. Jen said


    I’m so sorry to hear of the bad experience you’ve had with YWAM. I feel for you because I know exactly what you’re going through. I’ll be praying for you to get back on track & if you need to talk privately, you can email me at:

    I know a lot of people all over the world, so if you can give me an idea of where you are & what you need, I can see what I can do.



  72. Liberal Grace said

    I was an evangelical missionary overseas for a decade and got to know lots of YWAMers as they came through. I had many in my home and was fond of them (although they could be so rude sometimes if they found-out that I’m a liberal Christian.).

    I always thought of them as “culty” rather than a full-blown cult.

    So, I was pretty surprised to hear that YWAM owned the C-Street house run by “The Family” (which is clearly a cult).

    I was listening to Randi Rhodes and she totally blurred the two groups as one bit mish-mash.

    Anyone know the real connection? I’m very curious now.

  73. Liberal Grace said


    I had to smile at our post… it’s classic YWAM spirituality.

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but the spiritual demagoguery of your post is why some people get so damaged by YWAM.

    While this kind of spiritual certitude resonates with many young people who are seeking structure in their lives, it can be very destructive for others.

    Most ex-YWAMers I’ve met will say they had a fine time.

    But start asking around and it won’t take you very long to find YWAM crash-and-burners.

    When you talk to them …. just listen with an open heart. If you start blaming the victims, like you did in your post, they won’t be able to tell you their whole story.

    And, believe me, they need people-filled-with-grace to listen to them.

  74. Jen said

    Liberal Grace,

    I too was surprised to find that YWAM owned the C-Street house…but then I remembered that they have been involved in politics for a while.

    A few years ago, YWAM donated $10 million to a political group run by Rod Parsley.

    And then there was the whole Path to 9/11 issue:

    I’ve been following the C-Street investigations & considering a blog on that very subject.

    • thirstyjon said

      I doubt YWAM has ever had $10 million to donate to a political campaign. I don’t believe it.

      Here is a quote from the article “A Kansas City-based organization, Youth with a Mission, is kicking in an additional $10 million to pay for the training of young people.”

      Among other things, YWAM is not based in Kansas City.

      I don’t believe it. Sounds like a myth.

  75. ivin said

    i dont know if my previous post was posted.
    but yeah-there are so many wolves among the sheep now, and the main target is of course a ,’christian setting’.
    my dts was a 50/50, cz i wanted to see, be there and really know.
    and regarding relationships, it has still left a huge scar on me, my life, my calling into full time.
    Because certain leaders broke my of the staff was thrown out because i’ liked ‘him a lot.even tho i was open about it, and shared my feeling with my base directors wife-it seemed to have a reverse effect.some of my leaders went around his back, talking discussing about it, but never really with me, NOT EVEN ONCE!!!talked to me face to face, on a one on one base.
    but yup there sure was a lot of talking.
    now, i m not even on speaking terms with this guy(he is a wonderful person, very gifted as a musician too)and things have being falling apart ever since.But God is faithful, and i am thnakful to my local church here in my hometown for the encouragement that i receive esp from my Pastor.
    I just completed my dts in feb 09/and the aftermath hs being a nightmare.
    im will be going to seminary next year and gear up on his word.

  76. Barb said

    I haven’t read all the responses here, but truly enjoyed those of yours that I did read.
    I was only 19 years old when I was recruited to YWAM; so young and impressionable. I was hungry for any information I could glean about God, reading the bible every chance I got.
    It was through my own studies that I came to realize how completely screwed up YWAM’s teachings were. Honestly! I won’t waste my time or your with the insane semantics, but I suspect you know where I’m coming from.
    I was NOT allowed to question authority, nor was I encouraged to seek counsel elsewhere, should the powers that be not have the time for my questions. Just the opposite.
    I was, in fact, castigated for my tenacity and ostrasized when I refused to abort independent thought.
    I have NO use for this organization.
    I just wish I could retrieve the wasted time, you know? Even though it was only a two-year stint, the damage has extended far beyond that time for me.

    • Marie said

      Barb, I would really be interested in knowing what teachings from YWAM are not biblical or correct teachings. I have a niece deeply ingrained in this organization, and I’ve long felt it was cultic in nature. She mentioned the yelling and difficult time at the beginning, but now it is good, good, good. What I don’t understand is that if she is doing missionary work, why isn’t it supported by the local church instead of her coming home from time to time to “earn” enough money to go back.

      Do you think someone at the top is getting rich from these kids?

      • Barb said

        I’m sorry I only now read your post; hope you read this one! If you wish to contact me by email, mine is
        You know, I have a wonderful life with my daughter and grandbabies, and yet when I begin to talk about YWAM, it suddenly seems like yesterday.
        Don’t get me wrong! I appreciate being able to discuss this with others, because my experience affected me profoundly..more than I knew. I thought I was crazy for many years, until the internet afforded me the opportunity to find others who had been through the same thing.
        I hope to hear from you. Barb

      • Yo said

        She has been brain washed. One comment YWAM uses is “where He leads He feeds, where He guides He provides.” She is doing the providing. Next time she comes back ask her to consider something else if support does not come apart from her working for it. Pride is a big issue. Working at Mc Donald’s is not as glamorous as being a missionary. Maybe you could encourage her to continue her studies.

      • P.K said

        its one of those things where they teach and indoctrinate you to live by faith and trust God for finances and even though you may have communicated the fact that you dont have any money or financial support; they will still say, “by the way, wheres your fees?”. and you will be confused by thinking, “didn’t they just teach me to trust God for my finances, and now I somehow have to cough up money by my own means???”
        Don’t waste your money people. Let God actually provide the way He can supernaturally, and if He doesn’t, guess what??? You’re meant to be there.
        And ignore all the haters everyone and people who are trying to devalue your experiences.
        No fear!!!!

  77. Dorothy said

    Being in YWAM for me was a great experience. But I admit I was lucky. My DTS leader had been in regular church leadership for years before. My outreach leader was a pastor. I knew even then I was lucky. They were not into power.

    Out of need YWAM promotes people into leadership with little to no training at times. And to make it worse, we all have experienced the very heavy “God’s appointed/anointed” pressure to be sheeple. It is too bad that they assume that the warm body who shows up at a convient time is God’s choice.

    The only parts that I found to be cult-like were the rules regarding one’s private affairs. No dating unless the whole base is notified (practically). Church on Sunday. Base meetings once a week. No going home for Christmas in the middle of a school. I was over 25 when I was in YWAM and as a staff person, I pretty much did not recognize their authority to tell me these things. I went to church on Sunday when I wanted to. I went home for Christmas between the school and outreach. And I met and married my husband seeing each other kind of sneakily early in the morning before anyone was up. (The days were otherwise too full.)

    I was caught on the last one and the outreach leader told me to stop and that I had no fear of God in my life. I asked God and He told me the base leader did not know what he was talking about but obey anyway. I did and prayed outreach would end early. It was the only time in my whole YWAM experience that outreach ended early.

    So I was lucky. I am not certain I would want my kids to go to YWAM unless I personally know the leadership. There are just too many out there with no experience and no oversight promoted into leading positions. Truthfully, I found a secular job had more support in my responsibliites than YWAM gave its staff. No time for those under you as those above you are putting on pressure. That is why it is a matter of luck who you get.

    Happy I was in and happy I am out.

  78. Freedom said


    I wrote in earlier, back in ’07. Recently, I have had some insight about narcissistic personality disorder in leaders. In fact, there was a fairly recent study done that showed that in a leaderless situation, overwhelmingly, a narcissist will step up to the plate and take over. Narcissists are self-serving, self-elevating, power hungry, destructive people who are often found in leadership in the corporate, social and religious settings. They are very damaging to groups because they setup abusive interpersonal dynamics through hidden agendas, competition, manipulation, lack of empathy and a willingness to cost others to get something for themselves… that’s entitlement. They are usually charismatic, attractive and/or gifted and possess basic leadership skills, like taking over and calling the shots. They have absolutely no regard for anyone other than themselves.

    Recently I googled “narcissistic religious leaders” and gained alot of insight. This, I believe, is the root of the abuses we experience. The people that act this way think themselves entitled, more gifted, more valuable than others and will stop at nothing to gain power and admiration. They cloak their true disorder and twistedness with a religious exterior that seems caring or appropriate, and viola! You have a religious abuser! You’ve got the disorder with the cover-up. So it’s hard to detect. Religion is a perfect cover-up for personality disorders.

    Anyway, this insight really put it all together for me. Now, I look for the narcissist in the bunch and determine things from there!

  79. Lauren said

    Hello everyone…I applied for a DTS @ the Sunshine Coast Base in Australia…does anyone have any feedback about this base about the experience or leadership there?

    Also, over and over you all have mentioned “abuse”…what are ou talking about exactly?! Physically? What?! Spiritually meaning what-guilt? How? PLEASE be specific!!! I do not want to get myself into a bad situation…

    Thank you!!!


    • Barb said

      Lauren; Go to school. Don’t waste your time or your money with this organisation; you will regret it later. Blessings, Barb

      • fiona said

        ywam is not seated at the right hand of God. It is just a place, a wonderful opportunity for those who really desire it, to get closer to God. But not everyone who goes there has that same desire… people are just sooooo different. Some students go, happy to serve – and glad of a real a opportunity in a real overseas setting to be able to serve. Some don’t really want to. Thats hardly surprising to find; that people are different. Some of the leaders are gentle, intelligent, thoughtful. Some, to be honest can be bombastic and insensitive. I experienced more of the former- but a few of the latter. I found i knew which leaders i could go to for help- ad they always listened, helped, prayed with me and encouraged me. They helped instil in me a sense of worth which had been lacking. Its true to say that the insensitive leaders really should not be given that power to wield over others…but it happens time and ti e again all over the world. I know it happens in Betel and Ive seen insensitivity in leadership in many churches and groups- and also of course it happens in the secular world- and quite probably to a far greater degree at times. I was very hurt at a Ywam base in Brazil and totally misunderstood but I ( ironically) used the ywam teaching (BIBLICAL OF COURSE!) not to let the sun go down on my anger- ad i was able to let it go and be thankful to God for the very many good leaders and teaching i encountered at that place. It wasn’t right for me to stay there because a few of them were unpleasant-so i left- but i can say that many of them were humble and generous people who loved God and spent their lives serving HIM. I sometimes help drug addicts where i live and Ive managed to get some into a wonderful christian rehab called Betel- but the same problem exists there as well… Most of the leaders are giving, committed, sensitive- but a few are not. I know of broken addicts who have left because some f the leaders there are immature and insensitive. Ive seen a bit of this IN THE LÄrche communities also. The majority are good.. but there are always going to be people who are immature, selfish, unconscious, insecure, impatient and controlling. Its desperately sad but its happening everywhere! Despite my problem in Brazil which made me leave, I can say that there were many MANY good things about the place and when i realised i would be leaving that became part of the whole learning experience!. Ywam is afterall a place of helping people to get closer to God- its not meant to be a completly happy community but rather a place where we can go to grow and then stay on ( proportionately only a few percent stay on as staff after their 6 month dts) if that is right. And sometimes its right to leave… and grow in that leaving. I DO HOWEVER BELIEVE THAT THE INSENSITIVE LEADERS SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE…but even if they are, these things will still happen because its human nature. The vast good that comes from the creative and free environment of Ywam would be thwarted if too many rules were applied and it became an institution. Ywam is so much a place where people and kids can learn the truth that they really CAN make a difference for God in the fallen world so full of sorrow and pain. They are encouraged to just go and do it- and they are given the backing to share and give and work… they grow and learn… and ofcourse in that they will soon learn how hurtful other humans can be– and so back to the drawing board and back to the ywam ( and Bible!) teaching.. that we can only trust God ultimately, we must forgive our neighbour, we must be content whether rich or poor, fed or unfed and treated well or not. Ywam doesnt condone abusive behaviour… I think its far truer to say that it just doesnt have a particular policy to deal with it. What they Do deal with VERY WELL in my opinion, is how to disciple those who want to be discipled.. the teaching on forgiveness is there if they want it. The prayer support and counselling is usually there if its wanted and is sought. In truth Ywam is a place of freedom and opportunity to grow and enjoy and learn that we can really be closer to God. Even being treated badly is an opportunity to grow closer to God… if we deal with it prayerfully. The abuser WILL stand before God for it… I still love Ywam and would love to work with them again but i know that people behaving unpleasantly is part of life. I would rather be in Ywam and have the real opprtunity to share the gospel in a creative fun environment and see people meeting with the Lord every week and put up with a few unpleasant people, than be in a church where there is no outreach, no sharing, no enthusiasm- and there will still be a few unpleasnt people even there! The thing about Ywam is that it ENABLES people to do missions and learn and grow and to live life in abundance… it teaches them HOW by encouraging them and showing them practically. Its all done very imperfectly– but the point is that ITS DONE- and in the churches its rarely done!!! The main mission of YWAM is to train and disciple people for six months giving them a full and intensive experience- and then send them back to their churches to serve in a much fuller capacity and with much more passion and enthusiasm. There were 33 in my DTS and of that number only one complained it had not helped her- though later she told me infact it HAD helped her. …..My base Hurlach for my Dts was absolutley brilliant… the accuracy of the prophecy we received just blew me away- but I had a very real problem and I was really seeking God. When i was hurt at the ywam base in bzazil i found forgiving quickly was what helped me recover and heal quickly( i forgave quickly and literally as I sat on the plane as i flew back to england- through a LOT of tears as I sat looking at a little teddy one of the street children we had helped had given me as i left!) I thanked god for every part of the experience; I thanked God for allowing me the experience to help mould me; I thanked God for helping me to forgive- and then although I found myself back in england where i didnt want to be- I found out yet again, just HOW MUCH I had learned by being at ywam- and How much I had grown. If I ever return to Ywam again- just becasue I love it so much! I will return with a clean slate, grateful for a place so comitted to sharing the gospel and God’s love- and I will I hope be able to meet with the good people there and enjoy all that God is doing. This may seem simplistic but maybe OUR good example there will touch and encourage some hurting young folks and we will be a blessing to them so that they can be a blessing to others….I do understand you have been hurt- and it was TOTALLY WRONG of those people to do it… but they WILL stand before God for what they have done. But its not whether we’ve been hurt or not that matters; its what we do with our hurt and what we do with our own hearts after we have been hurt that really matters. Ywam because of its outward focus and generous activity in the world of the lost REALLY NEEDS MORE SENSITIVE AND LOVING PEOPLE TO SERVE AND GIVE WITHIN IT. If you are sensitive and loving the best place you could be is in ywam becasue they are so constantly reaching out to those in need… Ywam can utilise your gifts better than most!!!!

    • Nico said

      I have a friend at the Sunshine Coast base. He is planning to pioneer SBS next September. He is a great guy, but I don’t really know anything about this base, except that Open Theism (= God does not know the future) is quite popular there, which I consider to be false teaching…

    • Yo said

      I would not recommend anything with YWAM. My daughter went to Holy Given in Mozambique with Heidi Baker and came back with not only good teachings but with vision and anointing.

  80. Freedom said

    Hi Lauren,

    Abuse is any ill treatment. This includes any hurt, harm, offense, rudeness, cruelty, or misuse. There is really no good reason or justification for mistreating people in any context. It is forbidden by God (see Biblical commandments and law of love for God and your neighbor). It is especially hurtful in spiritual contexts because people seek God and spirituality when they are in need or hurting already. Or, they could be wanting to help others and impeded from doing so, by themselves being mistreated. So, when it occurs in such situations, it is considered spiritual abuse, because it happens in a spiritual context and it has spiritual impact. This should be a safe place for people but because of power hunger or personal agendas, it is not always the case.

    Spiritual abuse could affect your or someone else’s faith or relationship with God. It could make Him look bad to a person and turn their heart away. That is very sorrowful to God (see the Bible).

    Abuse can be spiritual, physical, mental, emotional or sexual in nature. It depends on the impact on the person and the intent of the harm. It can impact a person on many levels, so it can be emotional and spiritual, or sexual, emotional and spiritual, etc.

    Never should a religious organization or members be abusive. But, realistically, we hear about it all the time. These are the things, I believe, people will answer for at the Last Day Judgement referred to in the Bible. That’s just my opinion or educated guess.

    Something to note: All the commandments in the Bible are relational. What I noticed is, the first three of the ten commandments are about our relationship with God, and the rest are about our relationships with each other. That tells me we are more inclined to sin against each other than God… or, there’s more ways to sin against each other. Or, it could also indicate that the start of sinning against each other is a misalignment of our relationship with God. I think all of these is valid. Another thing to note is that the Holy Spirit is sent to help us fulfill the commandment to love. We cannot do it ourselves.

    Spiritual abuse is a very bad and shameful thing and it’s terribly hurtful. Some people never recover their faith. Some people become abusive themselves. That’s why it’s so terrible. You just don’t know which way our treatment of each other will go. That’s why we must be redeeming and constructive!

    Hope this helps.

  81. robere said

    Reply to ‘Barb’ (4 Aug 2009) who made reference to my previous entries on this blog. Thanks Barb for your acknowledgement of my concerns and comments about YWAM and the views of some of the organization’s leaders. Yes, I think I know where you are coming from and I am very pleased that education has been a vehicle to freedom, as has been my own experience. Viva education and rational thinking! The sad thing is that many of the older leaders in YWAM, who continue to espouse such a narrow world view, are my former colleagues toward whom I harbour no animousity. I trust that I would still realte to them with love and grace should they come across my path. Interestingly I faced this challenge only early this year; quite an event as I live in an isolated area of Planet Earth and rarely get to meet old Ywammers. The individual in question now works for another very fundamentalist US-based Chrisitan organization that promotes creationism, home-schooling and other extremely conservative causes. He happens to have a Phd from a respected secular university and I always consider it a privilege to discuss life and related matters with him; albeit generally by email these days. When he telephoned me and asked if he might visit me (he was in town presenting seminars to local Chrisitan leaders) I was determined that I would keep our contact on a friendly level as he is a dear YWAM colleague of mine from many years ago – I actually met him when I ran a Summer of Service and he and a lovely young lady were my only takers (a team of 4 including my partner)! When he visited recently I fed him local seafood which he enjoyed immensely as he is a keen fisherman in his home country. He also enjoyed some of the local wine. We both enjoyed our time together and somehow managed to avoid debate over obvious philosophical differences. Maybe age makes us all realise that there are more important things in life (like relationships) and besides, some people just do not change and there is no use in trying to change them. “Just enjoy the fellowship” is my new motto, and only speak out when someone’s point of view is likely to lead to harm. “What a joy” as I once heard one old, very well known Dutch woman state in reference to the grace of God, when she addressed the Ywammers during the Munich Olympic Games Outreach in 1972! Almost brings tears to my eyes at nearly one o’clock in the morning in Down Under.

  82. ThirstyJon said

    YWAM is huge. I’ve known people that had negative experiences. I’ve known more that found it to be quite positive.

    I don’t know if there is “cultish” stuff that goes on inside YWAM, but I do know that there is no top-down controlling leadership from the international leaders. In that sense, it is definitely not a cult.

    YWAM mobilizes a lot of young leaders. Sometimes they can be quite immature.

    Immature young leaders anywhere tend to be controlling due to insecurity. This is not unique to YWAM.

    The point is, I find some of the screwy things in YWAM are just as likely to be found at your workplace. (The stupid, young, immature, insecure, controlling supervisor that you work for!)

    YWAM is not a cult. There may be some systematic problems though.

    There’s my two cents.


  83. PHIL said

    Hi y’all! I did my DTS in Charlestown, West of Ireland. I wonder if any of you guys got to know that base? It was my second experience with YWAM, the first one was as staff at the King’s Lodge, near Nuneaton, UK.
    YWAM in the West of the Republic of Ireland no longer exists, I wonder why :-))) The leader was a really horrible person and I would love to know if anyone got to know the place i’m talking about.
    I also did part of the Reconciliation Walk in Northern Ireland, in 1998 (my outreach). Yes, YWAM helped me find out I was never ever gonna be a missionary and that I would never go back into a church!
    I don’t know if they’re a cult, but there are loads of frustrated bastards working for them, young and old! That’s for sure!

  84. Rachel said

    I am currently staffing at a YWAM base in North America.

    I cannot say that I believe YWAM to be a cult. But I do question the major problems I witness with the whole YWAM community aspect. You’re either all in, or all out. And that’s just weird. And all of the mindless authoritarian rules…

    I’ll say that I’ve learned a lot and drew closer to God during my DTS. Although, after joining staff, I have not received much staff care, and honestly, even though I have learned a lot, my relationship with God has not flourished, and my desire to do ministry does not come out of a place of wanting to, but instead out of a place of obligation. And that is my main worry. I feel there is so much burn out in YWAM, that YWAMers get drained, loose their grounding in God, and then they begin to question why they’re even there.

    I have known multiple people that after leaving YWAM have spiraled downward, and I think a lot of that stems from the control aspect.

    Again, I’ve learned a lot from YWAM, and I have made many good friends, think that DTSes are a great intro into missions, but I’m still trying to figure it all out.

    I know that I will be glad when my commitment is done.

    • ThirstyJon said

      I am burning with curiosity as to which YWAM Center you are at! I can understand why you wouldn’t mention the details, especially with this being a public website.

      I’ve seen a lot of burnout in YWAM as well. Although I’ve never done a “scientific” study. None of what I have seen has anything to do with being a cult. It’s got more to do with some “off” priorities.

  85. Loren said

    Is YWAM a cult? Sometimes I think yes, sometimes I think no. It’s an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. I think they designed it that way so that no-one can quite work it out and the leaders can stay in control. Perhaps that answers the question. Or does it?

  86. Loren said

    What’s more, you’ll also be trapped in the prison of never knowing forever. That way, even if you did disobey a leader they’ll always control you. Only Christ can set you free. Thanks be to God He has.

  87. Nico said

    When writing this I’ve read about 70 comments, it is quite disturbing and I’m sorry to hear that so many of you have had a terrible experience with YWAM.

    I believe all the comments I’ve read so far and I think it is very good that people are being warned.

    Now I want to say something about my own experience, which was good, and I’m going to mention some bases by name…

    4 years ago I did my DTS at Heidebeek in the Netherlands (that’s where I’m from). It was a pretty good experience. Now looking back, there are definitely some speakers I don’t agree with (any more). But in general the speakers were pretty solid. I would recommend this base for doing a DTS.

    3 years ago I did my SBS (School of Biblical Studies) at Lakeside, Montana. This was a great experience! I would encourage pretty much all DTS graduates to consider doing SBS, because it will give you a good biblical foundation, which you will need (if you keep working with YWAM).
    The base council/leadership is great, I know some of them personally and they are very godly leaders. (And no, I don’t put YWAM leaders/celebrities on a pedestal)

    2,5 years ago I did Titus Project (outreach program for SBS) in Muizenberg, South Africa. I was only on that base for 3-4 weeks, but it seems their leadership is also really good.

    1,5 year ago I was asked to come and staff SBS in Lakeside, Montana, so that’s what I’m still doing at the moment.

    At this moment we have a school that has a very interesting characteristic. It seems like the majority of our students have had a bad/terrible experience with YWAM and it has been great to see them go through the bible and discover truth for themselves. It seems that many of them are experiencing healing and freedom.

    I don’t know how many of you are familiar with SBS, but we are encouraging our students to look at the bible, think for themselves and make their own decisions. We as a school are okay with students disagreeing with us (as long as it is not something major, like Jesus being fully God & human, things like that). We teaching justification by faith alone. Also, in my last lecture I’ve spoken openly against Open Theism (= God does not know the future, a very popular view in YWAM).

    If someone would ask me what base to go to for DTS, I could recommend him/her the three bases I’ve done schools and if they don’t want to go there I would tell them to pick a base where they have an SBS (School of Biblical Studies NOT School of the Bible. Now I don’t have a ton of experience with the School of the Bible, but I’ve heard they teach Open Theism. So be careful with bases that have one of those schools.) It seems that (as far as I can tell), the bases that have an SBS are more solid in both teaching and leadership.

    In short: I’ve had a good/great experience with YWAM, but I also realize that the organization in general is far from perfect. So do your research, before you decide to join YWAM!
    Truth is, that with the always changing leadership, somebody might have a great experience one year, and the next person a year later a bad experience…

    • ivin said

      hi one of my staff did his SOW from montana base.n he was a good guy the type of guy who is not rpefect but has such a good heart u can totally see thro.neway he got kicked out of the base where he was a staff for’ liking me’ then, n still carry this guilt to this day!im not simplifying things, and i dont wana complicated things also.
      i like what u wrote up there.and i guess its like saying all baptist churches are boring when its not.or all charastmatic churches are only for the spectacular when its i have my share of i think its safe to say all YWAM bases are not bad.cultic etc.However in an issue such as a dts(discipleship ) i honestly think’ leaders ‘should be more accountable.There need to be a serious,’check’ investigation report etc done on the numerous spiritual abuse thast being going on for years.these are,;lives’ real people, souls we are talking YWAM PLEASE GET SERIUOS ABOUT THIS AND STOP KILLING MY GENERATION !!!

  88. Kitty said

    I’ve been rereading all the posts on this blog. I’m currently on staff with YWAM but am leaving after the next school. I don’t believe that YWAm is a cult, however there are many aspects of it that I struggle with.

    One of the things that confuses me is if we are supposed to be salt and light and live in community how can this happen. We don’t reach out to our city at all. How can this be a good thing?

    • fiona said

      arrange a project to reach out to them… God bless! 🙂

      • fiona said

        why not open a coffee morning/ moms and childrens ( toddlers) group? Have the base do an Alpha course for the community and put invites through people’s doors ? Start small because the Lord does honour the small but sincere things we do. Invite the community to Ywam open evening and show slides/ give talk of the compassion projects done overseas…..Do an Are You Lonely ? Come And Join Us Evening!! Pray with a small group of likeminded friends about this and then make a proposal to a sympathetic leader and then invite others in. Put it on the prayer list for weeks. Pursue it and ask od to bless it. Use the gifts that you know God has given you- and reach out-locally! and enjoy seeing what the Lord will do!!!! God bless… I will pray you have success here 🙂 🙂 x x- ps… which base are you on ?

  89. robbymac said

    For the record, Wendy & I are still in YWAM, living in Tijuana Mexico. 🙂 We lead DTS schools, help staff the School of Ministry Development, build houses for the poor on weekends, plus a number of ministries on our base that deal with children’s literacy, youth prison, and outreach into the “red light” light district — “Zona Norte” — in Tijuana.

    Been very nice to put our previous negative YWAM experience far behind us. 🙂

    P.S. I would also highly recommend the Montana base, and if I may be so bold, ours here in Tijuana as well.

    • PG said

      Hey there! I was reading your former posts and when I found this one I almost cried because our experiences are so similar (to overcome the abuse, to restart, to be restored…) and I hope you are still enjoying a great time in YWAM Mexico. I have a few friends there and they are amazing people. Good on ya, mate!

  90. Yo said

    I read some of the comments. Of course I landed on this site after googling “YWAM cult”. That is my opinion of YWAM.
    In the 70’s I went through a horrible experience of legalism and spiritual abuse with YWAM Spain. I assumed that this teaching was frowned upon, but found that the same leader is still there over thirty years later and that this type of teaching was prevalent throughout YWAM.
    Not realizing this and wondering if perhaps YWAM had changed we visited the base in Kona in the 90’s. There we saw first hand how Loren Cunningham had invited some rich people from all over Asia to fleece them for money. He did it the same YWAM does with anyone who still has money (the person who gave us a tour of the base told us of how many people sell their houses and give away everything to YWAM and then cannot afford to stay), testimonies of how God blessed people when they gave, pressure that you now give too, but also used a calculator and announced how close they were to their fund raising goal. We left disgusted and convinced that we wanted nothing to do with this organization.

    • thirstyjon said

      Sounds like a fundraiser. Nothing wrong with that if it’s a good cause and you don’t use manipulation.

      • Sam said

        YWAM used to use teach about living by faith like George Mueller did. I thought that was why each person was supposed to trust God for their support. Charging comparably high fees for schools and outreaches (when overhead for an unpaid staff should make them less expensive) and putting on the most manipulative “fund raiser” I have ever seen, would seem to be contrary to what they state they believe in. So why not pay staff if they have fundraisers? George Mueller told God, not others, of his needs and proved that God is faithful. If you are in YWAM and want to be where God wants you then leave if the funds are not coming in. God does not need you to tell others of your needs. If you are going into YWAM give someone else power over your finances (home, investments, college funds, etc.) before you go in and tell them not to release it to you to give to YWAM not matter what. YWAM seems to be a pyramid scheme getting money from recent recruits that are spit out when their finances dry up.

      • thirstyjon said

        I agree that one should be careful giving lots of money during an emotional moment.

        Keep in mind, however, that the Apostle Paul raised money, asked for money, and lived off of the money and resources given to him by others. Jesus himself was funded by others.

        There is nothing un-biblical, immoral, or unethical about raising funds for missionary work. It is important to do it in a valid way.

        If the staff were paid (which would also be legit) the fees would go even higher in most cases.

      • Yo said

        The stories of giving and receiving ARE the manipulation.

      • thirstyjon said

        Stories of giving and receiving can definitely be done in a manipulative way. They can also be done in an informative and inspirational way that does not manipulate the individual to give based on an emotional reaction. I suppose that this would be best achieved by including a lot of reason with your appeal as well.

        If you were manipulated and pressured into giving I am sorry to hear that. That would certainly be wrong.

    • thirstyjon said

      Stories of giving and receiving can definitely be done in a manipulative way. They can also be done in an informative and inspirational way that does not manipulate the individual to give based on an emotional reaction. I suppose that this would be best achieved by including a lot of reason with your appeal as well.

      If you were manipulated and pressured into giving I am sorry to hear that. That would certainly be wrong.

  91. Kitty said

    In the last post I mentioned that we plan to leave after the next DTS leaves for outreach. Since then I’ve had several friends ask why we don’t leave sooner as well as others who have read my posting. I don’t have a concrete answer as to why, other than I’m not the kind of person to ditch when I’ve made a committment. I don’t think that YWAM is a cult, however it’s not the type of ministry I want to be involved with forever.

    People make references to being a missionary, but the face of mssions has changed. The truth is if you are a Christian you are a missionary. We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission. So if you flip burgers or are a CEO as long as you are being salt and light is what matters.

    One of the reasons that we are leaving YWAM is that I get tired of trying to raise support. Our support has gone way down in recent months. Another reason is if I’m going to reach my communtiy with the life changing love of Jesus I need to be with people who don’t know Him yet.

  92. robere said

    Congrats on maintaining your blog and offereing young people, as well as the not so young like me the opportunity to read about the experiences of so many others. This provides the opportunity for individuals to realise that they are not abnormal or ‘sinful’ or ‘rebellious’ and it also importantly allows them to see that they are not isolated in their struggles to come to grips with their views about YWAM. I have been ‘off air’ since May last year on my own blog, but just posted an article that may be of interest. Forgive the ‘tongue in cheek’ cynicism in my latest article, but it is not meant to reflect a bitter heart, only a means of provoking critical and analytical thinking – a quality that can protect us all. Google psuedocults (yes, pseudocults is misspelled on purpose). Cheers

    • thirstyjon said

      I read your article. I got the distinct impression that you view ideas like “There is no under name in heaven by which men must be saved [Jesus]” or “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creation” as “fundamentalism” and as a problem.

      I understood this post by Jen to be about spiritual abuse within YWAM. Yet you seem to be lumping all traditional Christianity as a problem.

      For example you said: “Loren was quick to expose his fundamentalist leanings by stating that in spite of the growth of Islam worldwide, “Jesus was still winning” in the numbers stakes. He also added the coup de gras of Christian fundamentalism by stating that, “God only has one book”. I thought we might have learned something since 9/11, but it appears not, the good ol’ American ethnocentrism and narrow-mindedness shone through just the same as it did when I was a bright-eyed and undereducated disciple of the master back in the 60s and 70s.”

      It sounds like you think evangelism and missions as a bad thing. Evangelism and missions do not equate either “spiritual abuse” or “cult.”

      Am I misunderstanding where you are coming from? Your post seemed to miss the point of what Jen has written entirely

  93. Robere said

    Dear Thirstyjon, Like I said, I am endeavouring to provoke some thinking outside the old evangelical box. To my thinking one of the hallmarks of a cult is that they believe their message is the truth to the exclusion of other points of view. I freely concede that it is not just YWAM, or their retired director who I believe hold this point of view, and I don’t want to be seen to be exclusively picking on them, but they are the subject of this particular blog after all. I can well remember evangelical missionaries (non-YWAM) encouraging the destruction the ‘Spirit Houses’ on the north coast of Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with the loss of thousands of artefacts of great antiquity. There was a hullabaloo in the Port Moresby newspaper about it at the time and I personally disagree with such wanton destruction of relics of history and signposts of cultures that are different from our own. What gives us the right to do this? Some may suggest the Bible (Christian one that is), but I see such a view as an excuse to replicate our own culture all over the world at the expense of a diverse range of interesting and fascinating cultures. But isn’t this what YWAM’s retired director is encouraging with his views about the systematic evangelisation of all world ‘Spheres’ and associated ‘Omegas” with the exclusive message that Christianity is the only way? It is my opinion that once you change the foundational beliefs of a culture, the uniqueness of that culture will be largely lost. Might such motives and actions be considered somewhat cultish? However, that’s enough for now as I don’t want to be accused of being a free-thinker or something horrible like that!

    • thirstyjon said


      You said: “To my thinking one of the hallmarks of a cult is that they believe their message is the truth to the exclusion of other points of view.”

      Jesus being “the only way” is central to Christianity. By your reasoning all of Christianity is a cult.

      As far as YWAM is concerned, I have witnessed YWAMers placing a significant emphasis on being culturally sensitive in their mission endeavors. The idea of “redeeming cultures” without changing them into a western image is a staple of YWAM thinking.

      You sound like you neither believe in Christianity nor in World Missions.

      This seems off topic to me. The question of the article is whether or not YWAM’s alleged spiritual abuse makes YWAM a cult.

      • Diana said

        I grew up with no religion ( my mom was a Jewish hippie in the 60’s). So I was a prime candidate for a cult. After studying religion at university and a six month trip to India I returned home. Upon my return I “witnessed” to by a local Christian church, I found Jesus! What misery….. It was a cult.. Told me who I was ( You are a woman so therefore are the “weaker vessel) and what I should do, ( In this a DTS) Did one in Conord, NH) I had no car and was totally isolated, People were being prayed for demons left and right. Outreach was to Mexico in a old wreck of a school bus that crashed coming down the side of a mountain( Thank HaShem no one was hurt). We were sent home on the the same school bus after questionable repairs… When back home to crazy church , where the elders had a plan and purpose for my life …marriage! G-d told them who I should marry and being young and primed to obey leadership. who am I to question G-d ? So I married him. Two years later he got a word from G–d that we were to go into YWAM. I was told to repeat my DTS so not to make my husband feel inferior…so being the good, submissive wife I was taught to be I did. We went to Tyler, Texas and did a DTS and SOE. During the next ten years in and out of ministry with YWAM on the whims of my husband. During our second stint with ministry in New Orleans ( our first was incredibly ugly, being placed in a ministry that we had not come to be in but because the base was in need and then to watch a coup within leadership). I started to attend The New Orleans JCC for the pool and gym. During that time I met a woman named Jane who converted to Judaism as gift when we left (my husband got the “call” to another base). She gave me a hanukiah. We came to a base that had the only focus for Jewish people in YWAM.( I guess my husband knew he was losing hid grip on me) I attended a “School of Jewish Studies” which basically teaches how to teaches convert Jews to Christianity. It was a miserable experience . I kept to myself , ate my meals in my room. My one on one was the school’s leader wife who was immature and totally lacking understanding. He then involved me in a “Messianic Jewish Congregation” ( another cult) . I find it it interesting and amusing that one of the guys who attended the school with me , married one on leaders daughter’s and now id the leader of that base ( nothing like keeping it in the family is there.. good power play on his part) They said they loved Jews( they don’t) They loved Israel ( for their own agenda) After the school I stayed with my husband for two more years and that was it. I not only walked away from an abusive marriage but the cultic and abusive belief system that perpetrated it. I am now Jewish and live my life as a Jew. Ywam is a cult. Christianity sees themselves as the only way… They also are a cult.

      • ThirstyJon said

        Diana, this seems to be your point – “All of Christianity is a cult.”

        Of course, if that is true than there is really no point discussing whether or not YWAM is a cult because both YWAM and the 2.2+ billion Christians in the world are all in one big, happy cult.

        I wonder, what is your definition of “cult?”

        I’m really sad to hear about the marriage mess. It isn’t anybodies place to hear God and decide who another should or should not marry.

  94. robere said

    Well said Thirstyjon. If your statement is indeed true that YWAM places significant emphasis on being culturally sensitive in their mission endeavours, then it follows that the same organisation must also be equally sensitive in the treatment of its members. In such an ideal climate of sensitivity there can be little or no room for spiritual abuse. Ergo: YWAM does not meet one of the required definitions of a cult. You may well have dispelled any notion that YWAM could be a cult, Jen’s Weblog is now redundant and I can go to sleep and cease posting replies to your comments. Cheers.

    • robbymac said


      I’m a little surprised at the sarcastic response to ThirstyJon. Sarcasm was one of the belittling tools that my (since former) YWAM leaders used to humiliate and silence people. We need to avoid that here.

      And it IS true that YWAM teaches a lot about cultural sensitivity and redeeming cultures. And it is also true that YWAM has people in it that are controlling, manipulative, and abusive.

      The existence of the former does not negate the reality of the latter, and the reverse is also true.

    • thirstyjon said


      I agree with Robbymac, especially with this:

      “And it IS true that YWAM teaches a lot about cultural sensitivity and redeeming cultures. And it is also true that YWAM has people in it that are controlling, manipulative, and abusive.

      “The existence of the former does not negate the reality of the latter, and the reverse is also true.”

  95. Rose said


    I came across this when I was running a search on the safety of YWAM… I needed concrete evidence for my parents, due to the fact that neither of them are christian and are very worried about me going.

    However, I have had multiple friends who have had wonderful experiences with bases in England, Scotland, Holland, Finland, Russia, Chile, Mexico, Australia, Quebec, Romania, and I’m heading to the country of Georgia… Honestly, I am one to admit that there will always be bad experiences in everything and yes, some of the beliefs of YWAM are contradictory to my own, but I do also believe that you get out of an event what you are willing to put into it…

    There are always going to be manipulative people who see a way to take advantage of something and insist on doing it… I would just ask that everyone be willing to take listen unbiased to both sides and try to make an informed opinion before trying to decide whether or not to judge an organization in this manner…

    I was raised by Irish Anglicans, brought up in a Scottish Presbyterian church, had an Irish Catholic for my best friend, attended a United, Baptist and currently Pentecostal church out of my own will… One could argue that any and all organizations are a cult based off of the definition, which in its simplicity is defined as: followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices; followers of an unorthodox, extremist, sect who often live outside of conventional society” That being said, our own government, at times, can be considered cultish.

    I am *not* to be clear, dismissing the worries and statements above, however, a group should not be blamed for the individual. Otherwise, one would assume that a murderer on death row should have also his entire family with him, or that the children can in fact be blamed for the sins of the father, etc.

    • thirstyjon said

      Hi Rose,

      In my opinion you are more likely to have a run-in with insecure and immature leaders than with a “cult.” I have known people that got hurt pretty badly in YWAM and I have known people who had their lives changed and loved every minute of it. I could say the same about different churches and even places of employment!

      I don’t personally know anyone whose life was completely ruined in YWAM.

      It is very unpleasant and can be very damaging to be with immature and insecure leaders. Especially if you have spent a lot of money and traveled around the world far from home to be with them!

      I ran an internet search and I only found one YWAM center in Georgia. It appears to be led by a missionary couple who have years of experience in more than just YWAM, including pastoring and being “ordained.” That’s a good sign to me.

      Other than that, I don’t know how to be sure about the individual campus that you are going to.

      As inconvenient as it may be, don’t be afraid to have your parents call the leaders there on the telephone! They may not be believers, but they are trying to protect you!

      Whatever happens, make sure to come back here and tell us about it.


    • ThirstyJon said

      So… Did you end up going with YWAM? I am very, very curious as to what you experienced.


  96. Loren said

    You know as much as I like to show grace for peoples mistakes and immaturity etc. spiritual abuse is a SERIOUS issue in YWAM. Don’t minimize this by saying some places are OK and some aren’t. The leadership as a whole MUST know about it and need to deal with it.It is LONG overdue. I’ve been on both sides of YWAM, the good and the bad but when it’s bad it’s bad. There’s no excuse for the fact that Peoples lives are affected seriously and long term as a result of spiritual abuse. Don’t minimize how God feels about this. I believe He takes it VERY seriously.

  97. ivin said

    i hate dts experienc at chaing mai thailand was not pleasant.i still have deep emotional one helped me deal with answered e mails.breach of trust.false doctrines.slanders, u name it i faced it all.
    But God is faithful.ive had a good humble year in my local church back home.ill be going to Bible school this year.and i have good REHMA charastmatic graduate leaders too, despite my baptist background.
    But i find relief in the fact that the GOD who loves me is a just GOD.HE IS ALL KNOWING.nothing is hiden from Him.and yes on that day we will all stand before Him.and He will judge us.
    my only concern is for the poor sheep like me who faces this threat every year of spiritual abuse, from wolves clothed in sheeps clothing.i pray that God will protect this generation from falling into this traps.N that He will shower us with teh truth , power of discernment and wisdom! amen!
    and may His mercy be on the callous, thick headed leaders of YWAM.

    • Katie said

      Ivin; I’m sorry that your experience was so negative with YWAM. My prayer is that you will forgive and release those who have hurt your so deeply. I can say that not all YWAM leaders are spiritually abusive, but it’s the ones that are that give YWAM a bad image.

      May you find His healing

  98. Aimers said

    Wow!! I finally am not alone in feeling scars from YWAM! Thank God!
    I staffed for two years and went through part of a SBS! I left because I “felt” God telling me something that wasnt true. My parents sorta gotta me out of the “commune(ywam)” when they heard me telling other ppl about the grand “God idea”… needless to say my friends in ywam didn’t do a darn thing to help me out when I left ywam… never tried to contact me until they needed money! The base I was at is supposed to be the 2nd best and is the 2nd largest within North America! (i don’t know what they think “best” means) Well, all I saw looking back now is a bunch of ppl who never get out in the real world and treat new comers on the base with very little friendliness. they even admit and call it the YWAM wound” or something like that… they can’t welcome new ppl very well because they are always comin and going. Besides that, ppl , (like i was) can be sooo focused on “Feeling what God is saying” that they get into this mind set that God is in stuff that he totally isn’t. Many YWAMers (like I was) get into another bad mindset that says “I have the special super spirtual gift of discernment”… therefore, I can start to JUDGE others because “God” helped me discern them or their personal situation. It hurts to get this all out because I have been holding it in for so long. I really thought my ywam friends were my real friends… I thought I was going to be a YWAMer forever, but now I see that it’s all a bunch of sheltered Christians who leave their “friendships” behind if that person is right infront of them… also, sheltered Christians are some of the worst!! Anyway, my personal story of my YWAM experience was cut a little short (so much more to tell!), but the main thing is, I am not a fan now that i have stepped back for a couple years… thanks to my parents!!


  99. tasman said

    I attended a YWAM 50th presentation recently and was struck by the fact that people just don’t change much – contrary to some suggestions about positive change in YWAM from some of the above commentators. One of the presenters who is a well-known international leader in the Mission was still talking about the difficult relationship he had with his father as a young man. I felt like standing up and suggesting he move on in life (seeing he is in his early 60s and his father is now deceased) and stop bombarding the innocent younger audience with his own eternal problems as he did over 30 years ago when I last heard him speaking about fathership, submission and obedience. It is amazing how people who seemed to be a bit screwed up themselves infer that the rest of us somehow share the same pathology. Give us a break so we can get on with it and enjoy this short time we have on earth!

    • Pabbs said

      Glad you got to come to the Celebration in Canberra. Sad you have that opinion of Tom. He is a good bloke and was speaking out of healing, not hurt. By the way, he had a massive heart attack and is recovering in Canberra. I’m sure you will pray for him. Blessings!

  100. Raca said

    Anybody that says they ‘hear from god’ is already in ‘abuse’. They teach that everyone around is influenced DIRECTLY by satan. They major in satan and haven’t a clue on The Lord.

    “Hey, God is not talking to you”and no” I’m not possessed to say this”!

    • ThirstyJon said

      I’ve heard from God and I am not in abuse from anybody.

      You can’t even be a Christian without having “heard from God” via the Holy Spirit convicting you and drawing you to Him.

      • Pabbs said

        I agree with ThirstyJon. If anyone hearing from God is in abuse, the whole of the Christian Church was founded in abuse as our founder, Jesus, continually heard from God and so did the disciples. Once again the point of the blog is lost, as we are not discussing YWAM and we are moving to another topic. I hear from God, in freedom and grace, not in abuse. I can’t imagine living without hearing from God to direct, correct, challenge, change, inspire my life. It would be religion and I hate religion….

      • ThirstyJon said

        Bingo Pabbs, right on! 🙂

  101. Martin said

    It is interesting to note that the vast majority of complaints against YWAM relates to either experiences while within the organisation, or reflection following a positive experince with YWAM. In considering whether YWAM is a cult very few comments have been addressed to the theology that undergirds the organisation. It is here that YWAM has historically set itself apart. Its influence has been so pervasive that many churches now teach YWAMology believing it to be mainstream Christianity. When was the last time you heard a message on original sin?
    I am nearly 30 years out, but I learned my YWAM theology directly from the ‘fathers’ (read: uneducated buggers) including a school in Hawaii led by Cunningham. In four years @ YWAM the fundamental teaching of justification by faith was not only ignored, but continually contradicted. Living by faith, in YWAM, is all about the bucks – nothing to do with salvation to all those who believe in the great finished work of Jesus.
    YWAMers believe that they are saved because they have a relationship with Jesus (a personal one). You’re safe as long as you are ‘hearing God’s voice’ the way YWAM prescribes. That is the proof that you have the relationship. As Loren used to say, “I know that God is real because he spoke to me this morning”. In my earlier DTS days, the leader (22yo elder) emphasised that ‘righteousness is right choices’ (he hadn’t got to Romans in his QTs no doubt). It is at this theological level that YWAM’s great pioneering adventurers decided that they knew better than the church and decided to indoctronate a new generation with Charles Finney’s legalistic theology. In the early days YWAM was routinely seen as aberrant – even by the press (in Australia at least). There were reasons why the AOG superintendent (Zimmerman) did not believe Loren’s vision was compatible with the largest Pentecostal movement in the world! Loren went from that to the oversight of Joy Dawson – the rest is tragic church history.
    YWAM is no longer explicit about its treasured underlying beliefs. Occassionally, some naiive leader lets slip what they all believe, but they, by and large, manage to keep the wool on for most Christians. Please beware though. By their fruit you shall know them; no ‘missionary’ organisation ever has produced so many Jewish converts (as is now my closest friend in YWAM), atheists, backsliders, disfunctional christians and Bible rejecters as YWAM. This blog is a testimony to that. If just one out of a thousand YWAM bases may ruin you life, as many have testified here, is it worth the risk. Don’t play Russian roulette with your soul. Give them a wide berth, even if there are ‘nice’ humble leaders at some bases.

    • Aimers said

      Martin, I agree! thanks for sharing.

    • b. tee said

      you summed up much very well here

    • Pabbs said

      I think you started quite well but showed a lot of personal hurt. I think you may want to talk to your local Pastor about this and find personal healing. Talking about an organization is one thing, attacking someone’s character as you did in your post is something else. I think the point of this blog is to help people find healing, not to expose or attack other person, that you wanting it or not, is your brother in Christ. I do hope and pray you find healing and move on.

    • robbymac said

      Your comment about “when was the last time you heard about original sin” was interesting. I’m currently in YWAM, and I’ve been disturbed to hear top leaders (Tom Bloomer) boldly state that the doctrine of original sin in based on the Eastern concept of Karma, and that belief in Substitutionary Atonement was actually part of the Arian heresy.

      I have enough theological training to filter out the ridiculousness of those claims, but I am disturbed nonetheless, because of the literally hundreds — if not thousands — of the young people who don’t know better, who are being filled up with blatant unbiblical teaching. And by the highest leaders in the mission, at that.

  102. Soon to Former YWAMer said

    I’ve heard it said that once a YWAMer always a YWAMer, not me. The past few years that I’ve been involved in YWAM I feel as though they have tried to rob me of my true identity. I din’t let them,but I don’t want to be associated with an organization that wants a bunch of clones.

    Okay it’s not the organization as a whole, just the leadership from the couple of bases I have worked with.

    YWAM isn’t a cult in my opinion, however I will never recommend anyone of my friends become involved unless they want to become a cookie cutter Christian.

    So long YWAM!!!!

  103. Heidi said

    I am now 54 years old. I got involved in Winkie Pratney and Joy Dawson ministries when it first came to Northern California in the late 60’s. It had a different name then, sorry I can’t think of it right now. Talk about a guilt trip!!! I had a unique, private and non-manipulated Christian conversion at 14. I was asking, Is there a God, Can I know God, does God know me, and found affirmation and joy in Jesus. I was so enthusiastic after that and I couldn’t get enough of Christian fellowship and reading the Bible. Nothing like being young! And living through all the Christian fads. I remember when YWAM started, and it was promoted as the most pious group on the planet. There were some cool stories of impoverished YWAM’s having just what they needed at the last moment. There was Chuck Smith in the 70’s self righteously predicting Christ was coming back SOON because of what was happening in Isreal–made it hard to commit to future planning or save money, cause that was just worldy and a waste of time–right? There was the Shepherding movement that keeps women down (never mind God gave you a brain, he only speaks through the husband!), Charismatic hubbub where the test of Holy Spirit healing was a shorter leg lengthening in front of an audience, Deliverance ministries–after awhile you see a demon around every corner, Basic Youth Seminar–another crock of powermongering, Prosperity doctrines–notice how insane the lifestyles are of the rich and famous televangelists–off of people’s backs economically? On it goes.

    Guess what, your parents or someone in your world has common sense. There are age old standards to go by which include watch out for snakeoil salesman–they’re not Jesus, they can go get a job, be a Christian where you are. New Testament–Be moderate in all things…By their fruits you will know them. Don’t submit to anyone!–Be alongside people, learn to negotiate, be a diplomat, be broadminded, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions–Legalism makes you less loving and insecure–You think God is intimidated by anything you can ask? Get an education, get a job, support your own family, scrutinize who you donate to, live by the golden rule–Jesus could talk to anyone–can you? As you grow into responsible adults who use the mind God gave you, develop your talents and interests–that’s the will of God, be the best you can be–let your light shine. There’s no one like you. Need a cause, plenty of like minded people to hook up with without selling your soul down the river.

    Missions–some of you are really into it, so why not research better and quit looking for the impossible high. Who is really doing the important work? How about working with domestic violence victims (social work degree) infrastructure (civil engineering degree) art therapy (art degree+) doctor for Wycliffe (medical degree), and on it goes.

    It’s not just religion. You don’t need anyone telling you what God is saying to you. As to spiritual abuse, hardly anyone addressed it specifically–mainly, your life is not your own in many significant ways. Every year you give to these false ministries will take away from the wonderful person you could become. But it takes work. But more rewarding than the work to shut yourself up and endure control and verbal abuse. Obviously, this subject gets me riled up, so many out there wanting to take the strength and passion of our young people with no thought to what they need. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath set us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.

    • I am a former YWAM student at the Arvada, CO. center, late 1980’s. I can only confirm the warnings that many others have posted regarding the Shepherding approach to leadership that YWAM engages in. At that time I was a new Christian and after being berated many times by staff for imperfections, I was finally removed from my mission for “rebellion”. In fact, my rebellion was reported by our mission leader who had developed an attraction for me that I did not reciprocate. So, she did what she knew would work and reported me as being rebellious. None of my friends in the DTS were allowed to speak to me on pain of suffering the same fate. Fortunately, a few of them ignored this demand and (although theyhad to sneak) came to see me. YWAM certainly has some issues. I think it would be good if such bases as that at Denver were not under the control of the founders for such a long period of time. Perhaps making the Warrens step down would be a good way to begin, and then rotating base leadership every two years, with term limits. Just a thought.

    • Bluebird said


      Thanks for sharing your experience… I will be reading this portion over and over so it burns in my memory…

  104. robererobere said

    Jen, I looked for a contact on this site to ask you to edit my last comment on 23 April 2010 but couldn’t find one. Would you mind deleting my comment. I will post a more considered comment later. Thanks, Robere

  105. James said

    I had great times in YWAM, not because of YWAM, but because God allowed me to travel and preach-to see the Church in a different perspective. Do I like YWAM? Not at all. Was I spiritually abused, well, I wrote an article during my last year working for YWAM titled “Spiritual Rape.” Does this give you a clue. I always counsel people to avoid YWAM like the plague, but for many reasons. I constantly challenged my leaders about how their leadership and examples were contrary to the Word. I was more than once told, “Thou shall not touch God’s anointed.” Well I agree, but I couldn’t tell they were anointed and if going to them in private and sharing my concerns was “touching” them, well then I did. Most YWAM people start off just out of high school and are excited about learning and serving. I, on the other hand, had several college degrees and walked away from a career to go to YWAM. I learned a lot about myself, cultures, and how groups such as YWAM are not as advertised. The same can be said about most denominations and churches. My one complaint about Christians, which can be applied to YWAM as well, is they have never studied the doctrines of the faith, they know little about the very creeds they espoused, and it is because the shepherds fail to tend to God’s flock. I personally have a long way to go in my relationship with Christ, to die to self and live to Christ. We should encourage each other to become more Christ-like and we cannot do that until the Word dwells in us richly.

    Is YWAM a cult? Definitions of words matter, however I would say Ywam teaches another gospel as do so many other groups today (as they did in New Testament times as well).

    I have lots of horror stories about YWAM, but then again I have been in churches where a pastor’s wife ran off with the music minister, so do not think YWAM is the lone source of troubles in your life. Consider what God wanted to do in your life during that time. Did you grow and rely on Him more. Do you know more about His majesty, sovereignty, glory? How much time have you spent in the Word seeking the answers to your questions? Have you given Him praise for all those “negative” experiences that He sent your way, for your benefit, because He loved you? Quit looking at it as if you have been wronged and instead look at it as how God uses all these things to help us conform into the image and likeness of His Son. Trust me, you’re outlook will change when you praise Him for all things. Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you. He has brought nothing into your life that you didn’t need or couldn’t handle. Remember His reply to Job’s complaints? Where were you when I formed the mountains? Do not second guess God, but love Him for all these things are for your benefit, to teach you, to help you see yourself in truth. Praise His Holy Name!

  106. Marion said

    I am glad that there is now a forum for some sort of discussion re YWAM.
    I joined YWAM many years ago at the age of 19 whilst going through a bit of a “lost” stage in my teenage years. I wasn’t into drugs or promiscuity…or anything really other than not knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
    I have to agree that while there I saw the most rampant emotional and spiritual abuse. I can only liken it to an abusive relationship, and like one of those relationships the full extent of what was happening was only visible in retrospect. They use many cultish techniques…

    Manipulation through guilt and shame in order to prevent people speaking out against anything they feel is wrong.
    Expectation of submissiveness, obedience, and aquiesence to “Gods CHOSEN” leaders…ie..oftentimes figures who have no care or concern about you personally..
    Control of peoples emotional and sex lives. I read recently an article on Patti Hearst and how she was brainwashed…she was forced to have group sex and ended up on the side of her captors.
    Ywam controls in a different “sanctioning” or not the level of involvement in peoples relationships, by getting people to confess their “sins” of fantasy or masterb***n. When the most personal and private part of yourselves is no longer your are easier to control.

    Most of all what upsets me thinking about it all is the way they trample and trash the personal relationship to God each person has. NO one can tell you what God wants…and in interfering with that they are taking away the most precious of all things…the ability to trust yourself and your own spirituality.


    • Bluebird said


      This is very wise input that younger people would do good to pay attention to.

      You learned these things the hard way; as even I have.

      Thanks for the insight, I just wish I had someone to tell me when I was young so I could keep such peoples’ behavior in perspective. Unfortunately, they clobbered me and it took YEARS to comprehend religious schenanegans. Now I don’t stand for it…

      Thanks again for your insight!

    • Mari said

      Thank you very much Marion!

  107. robere said

    What concerns me most in respect to the subject of cult-like behaviouir in many religious organisations is the grandiosity of some of its leaders. It appears to border on a delusional level of grandiosity of the type that can be observed among those with a frank psychotic illnesses. I don’t know if you have ever met someone who is experiencing a manic episode, or someone who is experiencing a psychotic episode with grandiose delusions? It is both sad phenomena to observe and yet facinating at the same time, especially for those naive to observing such conditions. Interestingly, after being raised by my parents in historical pentecostalism, I now look back and recognise features of similar manic and psychotic behaviour among so many people drawn to this expression of christianity. Why is it so? Well I guess the old saying, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ goes some way in explaining it. That is, people with more eccentric ideas and behaviour will feel more at home with like-minded people. They are also more inclined to accept the grandiose views and behavioural excesses of their compatriots that may include grandiose beliefs about being gifted by god in some extra-special way, or chosen to be the leader, rather than the follower (how convenient). I can remember some pentecostal pastors during my childhood and adolescence who were obviously ‘touched’ mentally and who in the end caused all sorts of problems for members of the congregation. Overspending, crazy plans about mission, sexual excess, prophetic mumbo jumbo, pathological control of the flock by demonising them and accusing them of being ‘in rebellion’, etc. When will it ever end? Never, as long as there are naive human being living on earth who are ready to swallow all the clap-trap dished up by some of these deluded ‘leaders’. If we could only stick to the biblical exhortation to do justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our god, things might be better for us all. We also need to have the backbone to stand up to some of these individuals when they clearly need to be told that something is wrong with them. Only, look out for the fireworks that will come from what is termed ‘narcissistic insult’!

    • Loren said

      Good stuff Robere, keep it up. It’s amazing how many people are too afraid to even talk about this stuff.

    • Bluebird said

      Hey Robere,

      There’s good stuff in your comment. They may not be psychotic though. Delusional, yes. Grandiose, yes. Love your insight about narcissistic insult. Could it be narcissism?

      I experienced a bunch of aha’s when I read about narcissistic personality disorder. It explained the leaders’ abuses… perfectly! Just who do they think they are? God? Apparently, that is probably exactly what they think… secretly of course. In the privacy of their own fantasies about themselves.

      I don’t mean any disrespect by this. But I am seriously addressing the reality of narcissistic leaders. They are everywhere. Although not all leaders are narcissists. It has helped me to know what the attributes of narcissism are, so I can effectively avoid such people (having been burned by them in the past).

      I hope this insight helps someone!

      • Marion said

        Hello again,
        I find it comforting that such things are being discussed.
        A lot more information is available these days, about all personality types
        including grandiose and narcissistic types. That’s helpful, ánd I think that throughout
        history those types have been found anywhere there is an opportunity for personal
        power, ie: education facilities, business empires, churches, and in politics.
        In all situations where there is an abuse of power there is also a control over what is
        said. Like in YWAM, “touch not the Lord’s annointed”.
        It is nothing new..but I guess when I was a lot younger I somehow thought that Christian circles would be exempt. I now find it hard to “be in church” as I find so much of it
        hypocritical. Jesus message was love, forgiveness, judge not, compassion and healing.
        Anywhere I find these I find God.
        Anywhere these thing are missing is a step away from wholeness…

    • Mari said

      I spent many years trying to erase these same reflections in my mind, thinking I was wrong, I was a bad person. Finally I’m free and I know what is peace. Thanks for this discussion. I wish had found this blog before and have not spent so many years blaming my “bad thoughts”

  108. SSS said

    My parents are highly involved with YWAM and I cut them off because of it. I managed to overhear a conversation with my Mom and a “leader” about how they were planning to kidnap a 30 year old woman’s baby and smuggle the child to a christian “adoption” home simply because the woman was not a christian. I told her in no uncertain terms would I support kidnapping of any kind and I told her she needed help. She made a lot of excuses just like the other YWAMers on this blog but the fact is YWAM IS INVOLVED IN ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES. Whether you like it or want to accept this fact is not my problem. These people are a money making cult who destroy lives and they should be investigated by the FBI. Period.

    • SSS said

      Sorry, that post was a little too hostile and the last two sentences were too over the top (I would be happy if you could edit it for me). I just feel very emotional about YWAM because they have wrecked so much havoc on my families relationships.The story is true however, and I have never been comfortable with the way I have seen YWAM treat young pregnant women. They seem to really prey on their insecurities so that they can get another baby into christian adoption system with no care or concern for the mental health of the girl going through this. I have completely lost my mother to total groupthink and it is heartbreaking. I just want my mom back…not someone who has so little regard for other people because her first allegiance will always be to God and YWAM before any of her relationships. It is just so sad.

    • ThirstyJon said

      I am certain that what you witnessed is not common behavior in YWAM. I NEVER heard anything like that.

      • Diana said

        They are involved in underground , illegal activities. It is against the law to proselytize in Israel. Yet, Ywam does this and has a “base” there in order to convert Jews.

      • ThirstyJon said

        Hello Diana,

        I have no idea what YWAM is or is not doing in Israel, but it is an ancient Christian tradition to disobey unjust laws such as ones that would forbid sharing one’s faith.

        Read Acts 4:18,19 ( Peter and John were forbidden by Jewish authorities (in Israel) to preach in the name of Jesus. They disobeyed and engaged in “underground, illegal activities.”

        Try studying the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Lots of illegal activities going on there.

        Try studying Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Germany during World War II, disobeying Nazi laws.

        Study those who helped Jews during Nazi Germany – more “illegal activities.”

        Study the underground railroad during the era of slavery in America. Lots of “underground, illegal activities” going on there.

        Back in the day in ancient Rome you could even be thrown to the lions for “illegal” activity.

        Your example is so far disconnected from the kind of illegal activity that SSS seems to be alleging that I am surprised you brought it up. Unless, SSS, you are referring to the same kind of thing when you allege “illegal activities,” that is – preaching the gospel when the government says no.

        If that is YWAM’s crime than YWAM is in good historical company.

        Whatever is your point?

  109. b. tee said

    I did the DTS in Salem, OR, 81-82. Once in a while I’ve reminisced, and thought about the operation. I have to say that many of the fellow students, who were probably a lot like me, were pretty nice. But I’d get these uncomfortable vibes from the head honchos. They seemed to be hellbent on getting everyone to ‘break’ or something. That meant you’d really found Jesus. Didn’t matter if you’d done an altar call years before, because of some fire & brimstone evangelist scaring the bejeezus out of you; like these YWAM guys were going to redefine and correct where you’d been wrong and blind. And yeah, I remember a guy who skedaddled after only a couple nights. Remember one of the more stern-faced leaders of the next morning’s pre-study singing reminding us that he’d said some of us ‘would not make it’ as if that guy leaving the grounds had entered the Land of The Irredeemably Lost.
    Wow! I was just going to post a short note. But now I’m remembering. Cult? Don’t know. Cultish techniques? Maybe another answer there.

    • Diana said

      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…It’s a duck!!!! Cultist behavior equals cult.

      • Diana said

        Thirsty Jon,
        The definition of a cult is their way is the only way to G-d. That in itself defines Christianity as a cult. You also claim JC is G-d. We see that as idol worship based on the Shema. We don’t recognize the NT as part of the Tanach so ” preaching the gospel” with out the permission of a country and people that Christians claim to love so much is laughable. Jews don’t proslytze ever wonder why??? We believe any righteous gentile who worships HaShem and follows the Noachide laws is just as accepted in the eyes of G-d as a Jew , therefore conversion is not necessary. You’re emphasis that JC is the way, truth and light is God and unless you accept him as or you are damned to eternal damnation marks christianity as cult.

      • ThirstyJon said

        Diana, I don’t think you know what a cult is. There is a lot more to it than believing that one religion is true and others are false.

      • Diana said

        I do indeed know what a cult is. What ever happened to ” Culturally Sensitive”??? Being in someone’s country under false pretenses to evangelize and convert the first people who have an everlasting covenant with the One True G-d is far from the honorable status you claim it is.
        Through out Christian history there has been an ugliness towards Jews that is unfathomable.
        Blood libels ( Christians claiming Jews used the blood of Christian children to make their matzah).
        The Crusades ( persecution and forced conversion and death. Expulsion from Spain and Portugal.).
        Martin Luther (Reached out to Jews until he realized they would not convert, than he turned on them. Read His booklet ” Jews And Their Lies” Used later on by Adolph Hitler..
        The Holocaust ….. For the few righteous gentiles, there were plenty of Christians who helped the Nazis,,,,There were plenty more who simply did nothing.

        In closing. I don’t compare the civil rights movement to the underhanded , deceitful manner in which YWAM and other covert christian groups operate in Israel. It just continues a long line of treachery and deceit.

        How dare you do this to a covenant people who have carried his Torah for thousand of years.
        How dare you hijack our Tanach and claim it as your own and distort it.

        How dare the church claim they have “replaced ” the Jews.

        Because in your mind it’s OK to break laws that you consider ” Unjust” tells me that in itself is a cult like mentality.

      • ThirstyJon said

        Greetings Diana,

        People have done horrible things in the name of Christ. They either were not actual Christians (people with a true heart faith in the real Christ) or they were very deceived.

        Of course, if you have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah you will see things the way that you appear to see them.

        I hope you encounter Him. He is the fulfillment of the Torah.


        It is actually commonly accepted that human beings have a moral obligation to resist unjust laws. I doubt that most people recognize the Christian roots of this philosophy.

        I suppose that if you want to you can label America’s Founding Fathers, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc. as “cult” for resisting unjust civil government.

        You can add that label, but it only shows what I already suggested – you really don’t know what a cult is.

      • Pabbs said

        I have to disagree with you, Diana. I’m from a Jewish family as well, and it is a tradition in Judaism to proselytize, to expand the faith, and we have always done that even (or specially!) under persecution never shying away from showing our faith. Christianity has only continued with that. Most orthodox Jewish will tell you that they have the only truth, as most Muslims and most Christians.

  110. b. tee said

    Oh and you shoulda been there when the five month deal was about over, and I informed them that I was certainly not interested in continuing on with the next stage (forget what they called it- something with a E, long time ago – EOS? Man… the flock leader! Right! Flock Leader! Anyway, the time came to go have the private conference with the Flock Leader, and boy howdy he pulled out all the stops. Life outside of YWAM was just pointless and wayward. Wish I could go back and just shoot him the bird in his face; laughed and walked out… except we were in San Fransisco on the back to OR and I think I didn’t have any $$, or very little. They were pricks. And I need some grace to forgive – them for being pricks, and me for being so gullible and easy-going.

  111. b. tee said

    Thing is, if you’re like I was, young and charming, having got saved at a young age but also battling strong attraction to the ‘fun’ sins, but also interested in scripture and philosophy, etc… you’re not too much on the lookout for the off-base, because you’re basically a trusting person. So they presented their teachings with a lot of authority, which simultaneoulsy bugged me but which I went through the motions of going along with, sometimes getting into it (like that meditation stuff – and you were supposed to share what god had supposedly told, with your flock leader – WOW!), but other times getting these unexplainable disturbing feellings that there’s some screwiness afoot here. Wishing I could go back thirty years, and just be what I already was: a genuinely sincere believer who sometimes backslid, but knew where to come home to. But they instilled that idea that even if you got saved at whatever point in your life, one measely sin, and you went right back to where you were.

    • Diana said

      I shared our conversation on a Jewish Counter Missionary forum. Their consensus confirms my own.
      Your self righteous, arrogant attitude clearly shows your so called ” Love of God” no better than the mind set of The Crusades,Martin Luther and others who have claimed to know what’s best for the Jews . We don’t want or need your religious tactics, manipulation and brain washing…..If you go against our wishes by infiltrating where you are not welcome then you confirm what we believe about you. Yes, I know what a cult is..And to get back to the original point about YWAM ( which I was in for five years)I leave the following ponder .

      ” To ripen a person for self sacrifice he must be stripped of his individual identity and distinctiveness, He must cease to be George, Hans, Ivan or Tadao.- A human atom with an existence bounded by birth and death. The most drastic way to achieve this end is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. The fully assimilated individual does not see himself and others as human beings . he has no purpose, worth and destiny apart from his collective body.

      In every act , however trivial , the individual must by some ritual associate himself with the congregation, the party, the group ect. His joys and sorrows, his pride and confidence must spring from the fortunes and capacities of the group rather than from his individual prospects and abilities. Above all, he must never feel alone. Though stranded on a desert island , he must still feel that he is under the eye of the group. To be cast out from the group should be equivalent to being cut off from life.”

      Sounds like YWAM to me.

      • ThirstyJon said


        Not only do you not appear to know what a cult is, but you also appear to not know what words like “self-righteous” and “arrogant” mean.

        You also seem to have a problem posting your comments under the right spot in the thread.

        I doubt we are going to have much useful conversation. It sounds like you are just getting irrationally angry.

        Perhaps it is time we part ways.


    • Diana said

      Dear Pabbs,
      I don’t know exactly what kind of Jewish family you grew up in but, no we don’t proselyte. In fact a rabbi will turn a person seeking to convert away three times to see if they are really wanting to commit to a Jewish lifestyle. It takes two years to make a conversion in Orthodox Judaism, so a rabbi really wants to make sure you are committed.In Judaism we recognize Ben Noachs ( non jews who worship HaShem ) therefore it is not necessary for them to convert. So no , we don’t think we are the only way, meaning you have to be a Jew in order to know HaShem). We do not recognize jesus as G-d , So therefore Jews and Christians do not worship the same G-. I am very curious to know what sect of Judaism your family was affiliated with.

  112. b. tee said

    Oh and the food wasn’t much to write home about either. I know they were strapped by budget, but… the breakfasts. Ew. And on the trip down to Mexico, had these horrible bean sprout and avocade sandwiches. I remember being somewhere down in CA, and no money, hungry, and all there was to eat was one of those sandwiches, and hungry as I was, still couldn’t get it down. Funny the little things that pop in the memory after so many years.

  113. b. tee said

    One more thought and I’ll try to stop. I’ve noticed discussions about doctrines and the Finney way. I remember them assigning us Finney. And they really pushed Finney as being ‘heavy’ and ‘radical’ and such. Had I been older and more alert to possible bad spiritual smells, I might’ve been more sensitive to the red flags. I mean, part of me was feeling and thinking, “Hm, I never heard of this” but I figured they were enlightening us on deep stuff that prior Christian teachings had been ignorant or backward about; made you feel slightly superior to ‘those other Christians back home’. I didn’t realize until just lately, since remembering and thinking, that the whole issue seemed to have gotten more complicated than it needed to be, which should’ve been a warning flag. Prior to YWAM, the foundation I knew and accepted was: sinner saved by grace. Simple. Sinner saved by grace. So being a sinner I sometimes sin, yet being saved by grace… stuff like that. Now, when the DTS was over and I left, I pretty much departed from Christianity, or at least practicing the good wholesome sinless Christian role. But what I realized just last night, was that the Christianity I backslid from was the YWAM doctrine. I’d allowed the very simple gospel message to be replaced and perverted with that YWAM/Finney nonsense. I mean, I thought I’d laughed off that brief YWAM dally, but it’s been a guiding factor ever since (not a good guiding factor), because whether I drew near or went away, I was not thinking of the original simple gospel, but the YWAM light. So I think YWAM screwed me up a lot worse than I ever thought. Want to get back to the person I was before that: just a guy, a sinner like everybody, saved by grace.

  114. Robere said

    Yes Bluebird, I concede that these people may not be psychotic in the true sense, but some of their experiences and behaviours may be bordering on psychotic experiences; particularly in the case of some of the individuals I have met in Pentecostal circles. Not forgetting that I was raised in these circles, so I am not being facetious. I can well remember the leader of an international mission (with a Pentecostal background) who shared how he was laying in bed one night on a Pacific island and distinctly heard footsteps approaching him when there was no one to be seen. He was, and still is prone to have various experiences that are not dissimilar to those attested to by individuals with psychotic disorders. His experiences include somewhat benign ‘pseudo’ visual hallucinations where he claims to see ‘in his mind’s eye’ things that he believes are given to him by God. However, a genuine psychotic visual hallucination would be more vivid where the individual may well literally see a figure or scene before them, well beyond something that they may see ‘in their mind’s eye’. So I guess it is not exactly the same thing. However, remember that various mental disturbances can be categorized along a continuum of experience, from mildly abnormal to frankly abnormal phenomena. Where do we draw the line is the question? I for one am not prone to even ‘pseudo’ hallucinations or delusions, or at least I hope so! I wonder whether I just lack the gift or perhaps a touch of ‘madness’. Most interesting question isn’t it? About the only time I came close to hallucinating was when I suffered from a delirium as result of being out in the sun for too long on a native canoe at sea in Papua New Guinea! Sunstroke was the plain language diagnosis at the time (accompanied by the most horrendous headache). The bottom line is, am I just fortunate not to have had such experiences as a part of my normal, everyday life, or am I missing out on something that could have made me a Saint, a Prophet, or even the head of an international mission?

  115. Jersey said

    Here is something were fishy going on. I am working with someone who just got a job printing out checks and sending payments to odd places like Haiti via Western Union. I warned her this sounded like a scam. So she shows me the checks she has gotten and they are cut by University of the Nations in Kona. They paid her $3000 to wire a $1300 payment, giving her $1700! Why can’t they just do it themselves? Something is very very wrong here and possibly illegal. Has anyone else heard of such a thing?

  116. Korgoth 82 said

    Here is what I think:

    They put people who are young and have no experience in authority positions.

    They love hearing anything that makes them great.

    They don’t allways check on what small group leaders teach.

    They do not teach people how to deal with things biblically.

    They teach their staff memebrs that they need to indentify who isn’t going to be YWAM material…

    They over stress them about reinforcing rules.

    And they want to believe that everything they think is God’s will because they went through SIT training.

    But, here is a good question:

    Why the Fat should I care?
    I have alwasy thought I lost a relationship becasue of them. That is what made it hard for me to let go. The rest of you though, I mean really if you don’t think you lost someone over it don’t let it get to you so much. I finally started to get over it 9 years later. Seriously.
    I have problems.

    But, really why care?

    IF you wnat to shut them down: Get tape. and don’t get caught. Post it on You tube. Audio, Video recordings can do wonders.

    I guess though it helps to have these sites becaseu it does put some pressure on them. But, please the only way your situation could get worse is if they had convinced someones ex girl friend that she needed to be circumcised so she could do missions work in EGYPT. OR something, WHICH PROBABLY WOULDN”T HAPPEN!

    So please do not have mental breakdowns over this stuff it really is not worth it.

    And if it ever does get bad then they should be burned to the ground, but as far as I know they haven’t got that bad yet. There is still hope. If you want to fix them and have the faith.

    However, the following web link is something that you should check out if you are thinking about YWAM and Foreign Missions, Cultural relativism. Then you should read the following link.

    This stuff could be a problem you should consider this if you are thinking about YWAM, Egypt, Foreign Missions etc… Then you should read the above link.

    P.S. Korgoth does not mean Core Goth it is the name of a single episode Cartoon that was only aired once on Cartoon Networks Late night Adult swim programing. I just thought it was a cool show.

  117. stronghold said

    I myself have never been very trustworthy of people but when I went to YWAM I had a very strange experience. From day one I played along even though I felt uncomfortable with their teachings and routines. They made me feel secure and safe that what they were teaching was the only way to “cleanse” myself. They told me I was bad or “unclean” because of issues with my past that effected my personality. First, I thought how did they know? did God talk to them? Than my leader said she had “spiritual gifts” and came to me and seemed to really know everything about my parents, past, ect. without me telling her?? Who are they to play God? I was so scared I felt like I was being talked down by the devil himself…First, the only people who are drawn to “cults” like YWAM are people like me or you who will believe what the saleman says when he can make you a deal that is better. They tell you that something is wrong like your credit rates are to high and they can get you a lower one…Don’t you realize that YWAM has turned on itself by trying to make itself better than God? They think they can fix anyone who comes into thier “base.” I admit that the leaders at YWAM are very well trained (some are past teachers, bosses, navy ect) they are not imature or uneducated. They are good at manipulation and will do anything to make you believe what they say(of course they don’t realize what their doing is wrong either) the difference is they don’t work for God …. This is 2010.. the prince of darkness is against us! According to our Bibles there will be false prophets. The devil does exist and there is a stronghold over YWAM right now…Revelations warns us that before Christ comes back this will be one of the ways we will be tested… Did it ever occur to you guys that we could be starting the tribullation? and this YWAM could have control on trying to strip away true Christianity? As I read these blogs and talk to former YWAMers the devil is doing a pretty good job at these places!! Could the secret prophet “antichrist” be controling YWAM right now even before Christ comes back? I left with feelings of confusion, guilt, and shame. I also left with feelings of regret but not expecting rejection from Christians whom I trusted. I am sad to admit my real reasons for joining YWAM was not for the right reasons. I am like an adreneline junky who gets highs from wanting to find a place to belong, join a group and just feel loved. Maybe many who come to YWAM are just lost like me; running away from a dysfunctional family, relationships, unemployment or even the law. Whatever it is many of you out there are confused, hungry, and looking for answers. I’m sorry YWAM will not fill your emptiness only God alone can. The only thing good I can take away from YWAM is realizing that God is so much more than this.

  118. k-0s said

    Hey. I can’t believe how many people have responded to this… I had to scroll down till what felt like forever to respond to this.
    I was at the Arvada base when the shooting happened and I just wanted to ask you to understand that adding that to this blog makes it seem like YWAM caused him to kill innocent people and himself which is not the case. I just want you to understand that spiritual abuse can happen anywhere, in any church not just in YWAM itself. From my experience with YWAM, the leadership was excellent, I had positive experiences, and free reign to complain as I felt was necessary, if I ever did. I know your experience is your experience and not mine, and I am sorry yours was not very good.
    Matthew Murray was troubled, before YWAM and after. Let us not use YWAM or any christian organization as an excuse, can we forgive? Can we finally allow God to heal those inner wounds? I am so sorry that you were hurt by YWAM. it breaks my heart and You know it breaks Gods too- can you forgive? There is so much pain in the world, can we forgive eachother so we can heal others around us that don’t know Jesus? Can we stop blaming others and keep our eyes on Jesus?

  119. EJ said

    I only just found this, and looking through the many comments and experiences here, I would say that some of the reported damage is but a tip of the iceberg regarding YWAM. All of this has a source, and that source was the teaching of YWAM back in the 1970’s (I was there). It was called the Moral Government of God (MGOG) and reached its peak in a book named “Sharing your Faith” by Gordon Olson. “Salvation is not of God, but of man.” and “Salvation is not entirely of God, but of man”, Gordon Olson, May 1979, Springdale, Arkansas. (he said this when the cassette tapes were turned over and everyone had “turned off”). I had to fight a demonic power in Olson to stay alert and hear him denounce Christ’s salvation. Salvation was your own will and the law had to be obeyed. Grace was a heresy named Calvinism (Calvinism may be a heresy, but the Grace of God is NOT).

    From that source, the only route is overbearing authority. Despotism. This happens in all tyrannies. Man is the center, man must control.

    Bad teaching was one side of YWAM. BUT – another side was the total opposite! If you simply believed what God had told you to do and did it, the result was astounding (you know, like Abraham and Moses and David). People got saved, healed, delivered and miracles became commonplace. However, it was like a living dichotomy. I suppose that the working out side of things is what kept me sane and the way God introduced Himself to me, that helped me stay true to him.

    Would I still call YWAM a cult? Having seen no renouncing of the MGOG teaching, remarks here and knowledge of some abuses in India and other countries, Yes. And, that is a very, very sad thing to have to say.

    Repentance in a situation like this, has to be entire. YWAM is a high profile organization as such the whole must turn and announce it to the world. You cannot mix. If the root is bad, the whole tree is bad. Dr. Walter Martin, at one stage was, going to name YWAM as one of the most dangerous cults in Church history and devote 2 chapters of his update of the book Kingdom of the Cults to it. Minor action was taken by Cunningham about this, but that was all (as far as I know).

    The Kingdom of Heaven is much bigger than it all. Jesus only gave us 3 commands. “Love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself and ….. love on another as I have loved you”. Everything else is on top of that. He never, anywhere, ever, told us to write theologies (Calvinism, Arminianism or whatever), develop evangelistic programs, cell church or even erect buildings that we call churches. He said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” We can do all things (not some things) in Him (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27 and Mark 14:36). Witness the Chinese church.

    If you find this page understand – it’s not just YWAM that is the trouble here. There appears to be an endemic problem all over Western Christianity, some bordering on cult, some who have just gone off track altogether and others who have settled into a kind of lethargic position (they’ve just given up in their comfortableness). The Western church appears to have lost the plot. We seriously need to rethink the direction we are going. Do God’s will and you WILL be presecuted (the Bible promises it) and you will grow in your faith and stature in Christ. So are you being persecuted? Why not?

    Note: get a persecution complex and you’re just as far off base as any cult. I’m not writing about that.

    I need to get fully awake as much as anyone else and am well into the process. So can we all. Take stock, jettison the “christian” rubbish and seek God’s face for His word to get hold of His purposes for our lives, then start walking one step at a time. It’s not about programs, it’s about people. It’s not about schooling, it’s about sacrifice (Matthew 16:24, John 13:34). It’s not about things, but about truth (John 8:32). You do not need Youth With A Mission or any other organization to do that (your home Church is good enough). Yes, you need to learn stuff as God shows (like Medicine if you’re to be a doctor etc.), no you do not need Discipleship Training Schools. If you need to be trained in loving your brother, then you really need to assess your relationship with God before stepping out of your bedroom.

    God allows some of us to go through a living hell fpr a period of time to strengthen us. Mine was the resulting damage from YWAM, that took decades to repair. If you believe the Lord is telling you to go out and serve Him somewhere, don’t just accept any organization. In many cases, if you look at Church history, the movers and shakers were those who went out either by themselves or with just a few others (Paul, Francis of Assisi, Conrad Grebel, Dr. Livingstone, Edwin Orr, Bruce Olsen, Arthur Blessitt, Jackie Pullinger and others). The big lie to stop you is, “There are no lone rangers in the Body of Christ”. Oh yes there are and were (but only for a little while until people got saved)! Many had to fly in the face of the existing “church” to do so. Some were even killed by the so called “christian church”. All faced tough times that refined them and made them what they were (or are).

    The people will either run to you, run from you or kill you, but they cannot remain unaffected if you are doing what God has called you to do.

  120. EJ said

    I tried posting earlier, but WordPress decided otherwise, so I’ll try again and ignore their email.

    I only just found this, and would say the YWAM began okay, then shortly after, changed. Looking through the many comments and experiences here, I would say that some of the reported damage is but a tip of the iceberg regarding Youth With A Mission.

    All of this has a source (root).
    That source was the teaching of YWAM back in the late 60’s and 70’s (I was there). It was called the Moral Government of God (MGOG) and reached its peak in a book named “Sharing your Faith” by Gordon Olson.

    “Salvation is not of God, but of man.” and “Salvation is not entirely of God, but of man”.
    Quote, Gordon Olson, Spring SOE 1979, Springdale, Arkansas. (he said this when the cassette tapes were turned over and everyone had “turned off”). I had to fight a demonic power in Olson to stay alert and hear him denounce Christ’s salvation. Salvation was your own will and the law had to be obeyed. Grace was a heresy named Calvinism (Calvinism may be a heresy, but the Grace of God is NOT). YWAM’s main teaching was Apostate.

    From that source, the only route is dictatorship. This happens in all tyrannies (religious or otherwise). Man is the center, man must control! Only one or a very few are the masters and death (in various forms) is the price of disobedience or thinking differently.

    Olson’s teaching was pure Aristotlian Humanism, God really had nothing to do with it. The result we see in these comments and in fellowships around the globe.

    Bad teaching was one side of YWAM. BUT – another side was the total opposite!
    If you simply believed what God had told you to do and did it, the result was astounding (you know, like Abraham and Moses and David). People got saved, healed, delivered and miracles became commonplace. However, it was like a living dichotomy. I suppose that the working out side of things (which was great) is what kept me sane (and the way God introduced Himself to me), helped me stay true to the Lord.

    Would I still call YWAM a cult?
    Having seen no renouncing of the MGOG teaching, remarks here and knowledge of some abuses in India and other countries, Yes. And, that is a very, very sad thing to have to say.

    Repentance in a situation like this, has to be entire. YWAM is a high profile organization as such the whole must turn and announce it to the world. You cannot mix. If the root is bad, the whole tree is bad. Dr. Walter Martin, at one stage was, going to name YWAM as one of the most dangerous cults in Church history and devote 2 chapters of his update of the book Kingdom of the Cults to it. Minor action was taken by Cunningham about this, but that was all (as far as I know).

    Note: There are a few YWAM teams that are okay (as has been noted in some comments). As to why they stay associated with it is beyond me.

    The Kingdom of Heaven is much bigger than all of this.
    Jesus only gave us 3 commands. “Love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself and ….. love one another as I have loved you (lay down your life)”. Everything else is on top of that. He never, anywhere, ever, told us to write theologies, develop evangelistic programs, cell church philosopy or even erect buildings that we call “churches”. He did say, “All things are possible to him who believes.” We can do all things (not some things) in Him (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27 and Mark 14:36), without all those trappings (traps?). Witness the Chinese church and others.

    If you find this page understand – it’s not just YWAM that is the trouble here. There appears to be an endemic problem all over Western Christianity, some bordering on cult, some who have just gone off track altogether and others who have settled into a kind of lethargic position (they’ve just given up in their comfortableness). The Western church appears to have lost the plot. We seriously need to rethink the direction we are going, because something major is missing. Do God’s will and you WILL be presecuted (the Bible promises it) and you will grow in your faith and stature in Christ (Paul wrote of this). So are you being persecuted? Why not?

    Note: Get a persecution complex and you’re just as far off base as any cult. I’m not writing about that.

    I need to get fully awake as much as anyone else. So must we all. Take stock, jettison the “bad christian” rubbish and seek God’s face for His word to get hold of His purposes for our lives, then start walking in it, one step at a time. It’s not about programs, it’s about people. It’s not about schooling, it’s about sacrifice (Matthew 16:24, John 13:34). It’s not about things, but about truth (John 8:32). You do not need Youth With A Mission or any other organization to do that (your home Church is good enough). Yes, you need to learn stuff as God shows (like Medicine if you’re to be a doctor etc.). No, you do not need Discipleship Training Schools. If you need to be trained in loving your brother, then you really need to assess your relationship with God before stepping out of your bedroom. Just remember, sometimes Love says no as well as yes and it comes from a new heart put there by the Lord Himself.

    God allows some of us to go through a living hell fpr a period of time to strengthen us. Mine was the resulting damage from YWAM, that took decades to repair (the Church did not know what to do, except spout theology). For me it was the Holy Spirit highlighting a statement and I saw that God’s grace is not a mindset or teaching, but a gift that you live in – it’s a place(sort of).

    If you believe the Lord is telling you to go out and serve Him somewhere, don’t just accept any organization. In many cases, if you look at Church history, the movers and shakers were those who went out either by themselves or with just a few others (Paul, Francis of Assisi, Conrad Grebel, Dr. Livingstone, Edwin Orr, Bruce Olsen, Arthur Blessitt, Jackie Pullinger and others).

    The big lie to stop you is, “There are no lone rangers in the Body of Christ”. Oh yes there are and were (but only for a little while until people got saved)! Many had to fly in the face of the existing “church” to do so. Some were even killed by the so called “christian church”. All faced tough times that refined them, made them what they were (or are) and they impacted many, often whole nations.

    The people will either run to you, run from you, beat you or kill you, but they cannot remain unaffected if you are doing what God has called you to do and in the center of His will for your life.

  121. PG said

    It’s always interesting to come back here after a while. I’ve been in YWAM now for 16 years. I have all kinds of memories, the good, the bad, the awful, the great. I’ve had many kinds of leaders, I’ve been hurt quite a bit, I was scared sometimes. And yet I’ve been blessed with amazing relationships, great deep teaching, transformational experiences, and opportunities that I never thought I could have. And my opinion is that things keep getting better. There are amazing changes happening, including in the leadership structure. There’s recognition of mistakes, there’s willingness to change, there’s an awareness that we need to repent in many ways and return to the Biblical basis of leadership and relationships. YWAM is not perfect; far from it sometimes. Can you point me to a perfect church, perfect organization, perfect family…? The story of the Bible is the story of God moving, changing, affecting the world, inspiring, being represented by imperfect people and it doesn’t hide their mistakes and abuses for a second. I’ve seen the same problems here represented in so many churches, missions, ministries… and yet, we move on. We go forth. We don’t allow the hurt to stop us to believe that God is doing something amazing in and throw us. And I believe that the millions that are reached every year everywhere are grateful for the work of God in us. And work, believe, pray and act on making my life more like Jesus, in the hope that it will reflected in my family, my relationships, my ministry, my church, my base. I pray for the healing of those who were or are hurt, as I pray for wisdom to be a leader and a Pastor that brings healing and hope. Let’s keep moving ahead to our targets, God has so much for us!

  122. bunty1 said

    This is all very disturbing. My son has taken a gap year and wants to grow in his relationship with God and see God work in a mission situation. He is now 10 days into a DTS. I have already been a bit concerned about a couple of comments and about a book he is reading. All this makes me feel perhaps we should intervene and get him home if that were to be possible. It would be heartbreaking if his desire to grow in knowing God was sabotaged. How can I find out if his base is OK? Are there people I can contact?

    • ThirstyJon said

      I am curious about that book. What book is he reading?

      It’s been a month since you posted. How is it going for your son now?

      I don’t know of anyone you can ask other than people you know who know about YWAM.

    • Henry said

      From my experience I would say that if he is getting harrased or “abused” usually the staff that do this act one way around the student and act another way around the school leader. So ask your son how he is doing and how the staff act towards the kids (if there is a problem he should be aware of it and then you should no what to do). Ask the school leader what the staff say about him and how they act towards him when they bring up your son and then you could tell him what is going on. Because if they start calling you and telling you that your son has a bad attitude or anything like that then the only way to fix it is to get the school leader to become aware of the problem.

      What happened to me magically occured right when I was really starting to make progress. I was trying hard but I was late to class one morning and I had a mild theological disagreement with my small group leader. Then they found me while I was by myself and no one else was around and started venerating hatred at me. Then later on they went to the school leader and told him something to the effect of how I had a bad attitude and so on so forth. I was able to convince the school leader not to kick me out and I was ble to partially deal with the problem but I neglected to tell him the way they treated me and the way that they tried to reiforce their authority. Which would have gotten them in serious trouble. Why I didn’t bring it up with him is something I am not sure about.

      I hope that helps but you would need to really be careful how you deal with the school
      leader if that happens. If you don’t have this problem then your probably in the clear. As far as theological technicallities they usually don’t have a proble with people that disagree on those types of issues UNLESS your son disagrees with the theology of his small group leader or one of those sterio-typical staff that are authoritarian because they are compensating for an inferiority complex. Thus the authority gives them superiority and challenging them challenges the superiority and thus exsacerbates the inferiority complex. (so for any miss spells)

      But the leadership at YWAM does not want abusive staff they are just too trusting or scared of being short handed and undermining their abillity to control the students. By control I mean reinforce basic rules not to mind control them but mind comtrol is a human instinct with some people. So it is hard to tell. Any one they let in has the ability to demonstrate certain qualities.

      But to give you some background on me I went there with my hair dyed black and a couple of times (just to see how they would respond) I would where a Pantera T-shirt because I was interested in how they would react to my generation and its sub cultures. I was very depressed, absolutly lonely, I had little social skill but nonetheless I had some self esteem. Those things were factors. In a sense I was an easy target that did not want to change myself into what ever they wanted me to be I wanted God to change me and I took as a deep disrespect when they started to turn into a Mr. Hyde on me.

      If I would have done that when I was picked on I probably would have got them kicked out and in hind sight I wish I did. But if you have to deal with this play the game carefully. If you don’t have to deal with it (and most kids there appaerently don’t) then your alright. Don’t worry about it. You can debate theology with them even the school leaders as long as your nice.

    • Pabbs said

      How is your son’s DTS going? Have he been in touch with you? If you need any help, feel free to contact me, , I can get info on the base and on the school and I’d love to help if you need. Blessings.

  123. robbymac said

    Wow, into it’s fourth year, and this post is still drawing many views and comments.

  124. Phyllis M George said

    My family attended a DTS back in the 70s. You have to go through an experience like that to understand what it can do to you. It took years for our family to recover. It was in so many ways a fantastic experience, which made the hurt all the more confusing and difficult to deal with. And this was the case for mature adult Christians with each other for emotional support. What about the innocent teenagers around us? Those I was close to were terribly wounded.

    Our family left when another family, with whom we had formed a close friendship, was kicked out for having a “bad attitude.” They waited until the whole group was down in Mexico, knowing no one and not speaking the language, to give them the news. That family had not a single dollar in Mexico with them–all they had had gone to pay for the DTS, which was then supposed to pay their expenses for the two-month duration of the school. If we had not left YWAM and invited our friends to share our travel trailer, they could easily have died–they and their three children, including a baby. That, of course, would have then demonstrated to the rest that the wages of sin is death.

    The essence of YWAM’s approach is that appearance is treasured over reality. Every effort is made to appear good. Anyone who tarnishes their image is of the devil. This, of course, was one of Jesus’ biggest gripes against the Pharisees.

    We were supposed to buy into their doctrine because they told us to. I cannot do that; the Bible says to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” After I posed a difficult question one time too many, we were told that we were no longer to ask questions in class.

    I think the worst thing about the experience is that to this day, repentance and confession come hard to me. I knew I must not give in to the pressure to join their kind of religion. When I confessed, it must be at the urging of the Spirit, not as the result of overwhelming peer pressure. If the devil can’t get us to do the wrong thing, he then tries to get us to do the right thing for the wrong reason. That was the case in YWAM

    Yes, they are sincere in their desire to serve God. But they have been tricked by the devil into going about it in the wrong way. As the saying goes, they are working for God like the devil!

  125. kassy said

    hi i qas in wyam for 2 years. i was asked to leave after i was sexaly abuse during working of base. i was informed that i had the abuse occred because i was also abused as a child. i was overcome that they asked me to leave that i throught my life was about to end. i was in my early 20s and i really was looking foe somewhere to belong and for a long time i throught ywam was a place where i would find the acceptece i was looking for
    for the frisr 2 months it was all good i throught i fround my place, my home, my family.
    as time went by things started to chrange, we were tought to be sunbitize to the men and i dont mean in a sexal way. at the time i really did not notice the chrange in attude towards me. i was asked to burn photos of people who i loved to have died. i was given funds to go overesas and of cause i saved as well.
    latter they told me i was not welcome to go overseas with them because the leadership felt was not sprital enough, i was really hurt. after my dts i decided to stay on as staff and things just got wrost. after the attact it was clear thet consider me some as a threat. as one of the leaders said to me i let the abuse happen when i was small and i let it happen to me again. i was told i was an indangerment to the rest of the females on the base because the leadership told me i had a demond in me that made people abused me. i was heart broken. however i still loved and cared for many people on the base.

  126. karen said

    hi i was in wyam for 2 years. i was asked to leave after i was sexaly abuse during working of base. i was informed that i had the abuse occred because i was also abused as a child. i was overcome that they asked me to leave that i throught my life was about to end. i was in my early 20s and i really was looking foe somewhere to belong and for a long time i throught ywam was a place where i would find the acceptece i was looking for
    for the frisr 2 months it was all good i throught i fround my place, my home, my family.
    as time went by things started to chrange, we were tought to be sunbitize to the men and i dont mean in a sexal way. at the time i really did not notice the chrange in attude towards me. i was asked to burn photos of people who i loved to have died. i was given funds to go overesas and of cause i saved as well.
    latter they told me i was not welcome to go overseas with them because the leadership felt was not sprital enough, i was really hurt. after my dts i decided to stay on as staff and things just got wrost. after the attact it was clear thet consider me some as a threat. as one of the leaders said to me i let the abuse happen when i was small and i let it happen to me again. i was told i was an indangerment to the rest of the females on the base because the leadership told me i had a demond in me that made people abused me. i was heart broken. however i still loved and cared for many people on the base.

  127. Lou Ella said

    I have been researching ywam because my brother is planning to go. I found out that ywam is not good and i found this website and many more. He is planning to go to the Nashville base. Is there anyone that knows about this base. Please tell me. I don’t want him to go and the rest of my family doesnt want him to go. But he is determined he is going. We dont want to see him hurt. If someone can please give me advice I would really appreciate it. Asap cause he’s going soon.. Thank you all so much!!!

    • ThirstyJon said

      Make sure you research more than just on the internet. There is not an organization or business out there that doesn’t have some negative feedback on the internet.. Any frustrated person can come on here and write whatever they want without having to prove a thing.

      I now many people that have had a great time in YWAM and I know people that had a terrible time.

      I can tell you this – your brother is far more likely to encounter an immature leadership than a “cult.”

      • robbymac said

        I would agree, Jon, that finding oneself under immature leadership is probably a better description than “cult”. Generally, a “cult” usually has — among other things — departed from an orthodox understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ. YWAM cannot be called a cult, if their Christology is still biblical.

        But at the same time, if you were to find yourself on a YWAM campus/base with a heavy dose of authoritarian leadership (hearkening back to the old “Shepherding Movement” — the movement is long gone, but the teachings are still around and very prevalent in some YWAM bases), the level of control and manipulation can indeed verge on being cult-like.

        And for those who are on the receiving end of this kind of spiritual abuse (don’t question your leader, your leader is the voice of God in your life, etc.), it certainly FEELS like a cult. The classic “if you point out the problem, you become the problem” mentality. YWAM calls it a “spirit of controversy” — anyone who raises a question or points out a problem is “destroying unity”. It works quite well as a silencing tactic.

        I’ve been in YWAM for just over five years now. I certainly haven’t “seen it all”, so to speak, but I’ve seen plenty of good, and I’ve seen a whole big stinking pile of crap. It really, truly depends on what base you’re at, and in particular, the character of the base director and the leadership team.

        I’d recommend anyone who is concerned about a friend or family member about to do a DTS to call the base they’re interested in, and talk about your concerns. If they’re honest, they admit that there’s some problems in YWAM and can answer your questions. If they deny everything, then you have your answer already: “Run, Forest, run!” 🙂

        FTR: I’ve been full-time with YWAM for just over five years now, so I’m not writing out of long-ago history with YWAM. I’m writing about current experience and observations.

      • ThirstyJon said

        Dang, I spelled “know” wrong. Left off the “k.” Where is the “edit” button? 🙂

      • ThirstyJon said

        I agree with you robbymac.

        I have stated in these blog comments that I do not believe YWAM is a cult. Having said that, if a person finds himself under abusive leadership, that person should not hesitate to confront and/or get out. The same goes if one is at a church or any organization where the leadership is abusive.

        YWAM not being a “cult” does not mean someone has to stay there if it is not a healthy situation.

    • Well it is always good to make your homework and keep it in mind that if things are turning out worse, there is always possible to cancel it. i did so with my DTS in 2011. I made my homework and when things turned out strange then i just cancelled it and not wasted so much money. The problem is that in DTS they try to keep attendants very busy that they do not have time to reflect over what is going on but sure somehow it will work out. Hopefully you will find the way to talk to your brother about it because it is cruel if you let yourself to be abused by your own or by your parents money.

  128. P.K said

    I am an ex-ywamer and also a victim of spiritual abuse from my time in YWAM. I can say that I had an amazing time in YWAM, went to places I dreamt about, and met wonderful people; but nevertheless I was still abused. I use to think it was all great with nothing wrong going on, but then I wasn’t being honest and was also deceived. I am currently in the process of making restitution with the abuse I suffered. God has brought me through the healing process and given me freedom, literally, from spiritual/religious bondage. And if this sounds a bit “out there” to you, trust me because I was totally taken aback when I was set free from bondage and miraculously healed at the same time. I’m not an “elite” spiritual person, in fact I confess to being a “sinner” who still practices “sin”. But I know that by the grace of God, that in my “sin”, I was delivered and healed. (something to debate on). Without going into too much detail, I will say from my own personal experience that YWAM is ‘cult-like’ in its approach, behaviour, practices, and methods of discipleship and leadership; therefore deeming it a form of cult. Cults (or synagogues of satan is what I like to call them), in my opinion, are any entity that deceives you, violates you in any way, or practices any inappropriate conduct causing you personal loss in some area of your life; whether it be finances, relationships, commonsense, free-will, emotions, health and wellbeing, etc. So it can be theologically and doctrinely sound, be full of genuine, sincere and well-meaning people; but if it employs some form of manipulation or control tactic over someone and abuses them in any way, no matter how innocent or well meaning the person may be, it is most definately a cult. You just have to wake up and open your eyes. But at the end of the day you must judge the truth for yourself. If you believe that it’s not a cult, then thats your truth not necessarily ‘THE’ truth. You see, the devil is the ultimate deceiver and he comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. So the issue with YWAM being a cult, or any other organization, church, or ministry, is for you to decide. Be open at least and investigate some facts. Don’t let yourself be deceived and disillusioned. Check your heart or your commonsense or logic, or your intuition or your spirit; if you are truly open and honest you will at least sense that something is amiss. I’ve made up my mind and come to peace with the truth. I still love my ex-leaders and friends from YWAM. I believe YWAM has a great model of DTS and missions, but am so saddened due to the corruption that plagues it now. I am now counseling friends that have also been hurt and abused in YWAM and bring them to know the truth. My desire is to expose the devil and set my YWAM friends free from religious bondage by reconciling them to the truth, through the Holy Spirit of course. I think it only adds to the devil’s table by attacking people’s character instead of uncovering the truth to expose the devil. But I’m aware of the victims of abuse through YWAM and their hurts to be validated, and those who are faithfully serving God in YWAM and the hurt they receive by getting labelled a cult. (mainly the young ones though because the seasoned “YWAM vets” dont really care. they are so far from the truth and so deceived that it’s not even funny. The fight is not against flesh and blood but against demonic forces. So to all those who have been abused in any way by YWAM, I say speak up and let the devil be exposed. Warn people and allow them to at least make an informed decision. You only advocate the abuse by staying silent. And to the YWAM’ers, open your eyes! I plead from the bottom of my heart. Especially to those who think their base or ministry is “above reproach”. Look around you, are you in poverty while your leaders are living in relative luxury and buying and selling property with no job? Have you scrutinized the financial affairs and where all the fees go? Are you volunteering your precious time to serve in YWAM but paying “staff fees”? Are you in debt because of YWAM but believing that debt is ok or not a big deal, because “God will provide”? I know how hard it is to acknowledge the truth. We don’t want to because it hurts, we’ll feel betrayed, or the emotional high is too amazing.

    • ThirstyJon said

      Great thoughts, although I think your definition of cult is not accurate. If any time any of those things happen you call it a cult, than your job is probably a cult, your church is probably a cult, your family is probably a cult, etc.

      • P.K said

        Please give me a definition of what a cult is. My definition is only “A” definition, not “THE” definition as there are many conflicting definitions out there. My point that in it’s behaviour and methodologies it is demonic and unbiblical; but we can argue until the cows come home so thats why I say to go with your gut, etc, etc; and research and be informed, etc, etc: and if it’s bordering fraud, corruption, etc, and you at all feel manipulated or controlled, then high tail it out of there wherever it is you are in terms of religious institutions being ywam or church or organisation; not your job or family, etc. I think you’re being critical and am not reading my whole statement properly. I believe deception tactics, abuse in the form of maipulation and control and intimidation, telling you that you can’t leave ywam because you’ll be disobeying God’s will type of abuse is at least cult-like in it’s practices. but go hard if you disagree or agree, my heart is to inform those who are looking for answers not debate!!!

    • ywamcult said

      I totally agree what you are saying here. three months ago i entered ywam, because i wanted to be a missionary, but three months later i am exhausted, confused and the leaders treat me as if they have some kind of authority over me, which they don’t. I am 20 years old and i payed them to be there, they didn’t pay me. They force you to be in class, go to meetings and give up individuality. the first two months they love bomb you and then they suddenly turn mean and think they have some kind of authority over whether you leave or not. they also practice witchcraft by saying we must visualize things in order to have them, or they dig out all your personal pasts in order to make you feel emotionally vulnerable while feeding you cheap food that has absolute no proteins even though you payed your butt of and why cant they at least afford decent food?

      They also ask you to beg people for money or work for money, then you have to pay it to the base and they pay whatever needs to be payed… but what about the thousands of rands you payed to be there in the first place?? isn’t that enough money to pay for visas, shirts or even petrol money… it’s like the money just disappeared into thin air and everybody is suddenly poor.

      also the ywam leader men lust after the young girls while their wives bite their tongues hoping their wonderful husbands arent cheating, while ywam seems to enforce physical touch among each other and open love language which is deceiving and kind of bring down peoples emotional guards. but also gives freedom to an environment of sexual connotation. My time being here i have experienced a very thick sexual atmosphere among the men and i have seen sneaky flirting among leaders because of the openness of touching and “loving” each other, as well as setting aside your individuality, giving up your rights as a free person and labeling you rebellious if you don’t follow the rules of everyday living in ywam.

      they want you to write everything about ywam down in a journal so that they can control your actions and if they think you are rebelling, they send you to a counselor making you seem like the problem instead of them.

      I packed my bags and left. only God can reveal to you the truth and He surely will. people can not do that for you. and Ywam teaches you that people are in control, that you are in control, but that is not true. Only God is in control!!!

      • henryJames said

        Dude record their behavior e-mail it to your-self and then show the abusive behavior to the senior authority record this also. The only way to fix this is to expose it.

    • Ellis Cruz said

      YWAM has made blesss our nation and help me to be a man! am from Belize

  129. Bickel said

    My experience with YWAM was awful. It totally fucked me up. The leadership was manipulative and abusive. I ended up having an injury and needing to move back to my home state ( I was on my parents insurance which only worked in that specific state) People kept on praying for me to be healed, and when I wasn’t healed they suspected that it was my fault. That I was doing something wrong, that I was sinning is some way. This was coming from a lady who I knew took medication for a heart complication. Come on! Why didn’t god heal her? Also, people prayed for me in the most manipulative way possible and you know what, I believed them because they were my leaders. It was just ridicules I feel like the 4 years that I spent there really set me back. The emotional abuse was horrible and I am still affected by it. I am still not the same person today. I am still recovering 6 years later.

    • P.K said

      I know how you feel as I am too still recovering after 7 years since i left in 2005 and since i first did my dts in 2002 which adds up to 10 years.
      I would like to help you and all who were abused and still recovering.

  130. Pat said

    In reading all of these comments i cant help but feel Sad… i have been involved in ywam in australia for the last two years an in it have found one of the most supportive, open and real environments i have been in… YWAM offered me an opportunity to get back to basics of faith… a place to deal with past hurts and fears, and provide a place to let my faith grow as I continue to learn more about God… The leadership I have had the privileged of being under have been so supportive and even through incredibly hard times in my own life have stood by me and helped me through…There is a possibility of abuse and that sort of thing in YWAM because it is such a large organisation and with an emphasis on a young leadership team problems can arise… I ave seen this happen on one of the schools i attended where a leader who probably was not ready was placed as the leader of an overseas outreach team and problems that arose form it but even though this situation was tough the Growing process i went through on that outreach was priceless…as it says in the bible God makes all things work for those who love him. To people out there who are not sure about YWAM all i can say is get in contact with the base that you are looking at going to (all contact details of bases can be found at and have a chat to the school leader about the school… and discuss any fears that you have with them… from what i have found they are more than willing to discuss these things with you. There is always going to be an element of risk when being part of something like YWAM because of the type of organization it is and beyond that because missions work is always going to be risky…
    But what God does do through the experience is very very special
    As part of the organisation i do want to say sorry for those who have been hurt at different time by YWAM and spiritual and emotional abuse is not acceptable in any way and i do pray that you will find healing and wholeness.
    For me YWAM saved my life in many ways for even when i have been rejected by churches and other groups YWAM believed in me and that God has me on a Journey and for that i can not thank them enough. and i pray that other people would have the same sense of Joy and hope that i reciced through YWAM

    • henryJames said

      I had been through a major let down years ago at YWAM. But, I had gotten un-lucky with the staff members that I was stuck with. Essentially I got the worst two in the whole base and guess what: they were the two biggest suck ups to the senior authority, and the most demanding and controlling towards the students. You guys just keep having problems because the good staff are too gullible or naive and don’t question people who come in and tell them everything they want to hear. Which makes sense nice people don’t like confrontations.

      Also I can’t help but think your brain washed: “missions work is always risky” yeah going to another country and telling poor kids how pride and lust are responsible for ruinning their lives and buying a bunch of crap and going home is risky, seriously you guys must be trying to get the DTS ers killed doing that kind of stuff.

      If your there because you care about your generation then fine, if your there because of the social structure which is what it sounds like then fine, but for the sake of the rest of us, stop worrying about working with the program and worry about working with God and enjoying the abillities he gave you including the ones that have to do with sounding like a candy coated christian. And watch out for the kids that come from rougher back grounds they’re the ones that arre most likely to get attacked and they’re also the ones that are most likely to coveted by the staff.

      YWAM isn’t going to really going to get any terrritory unlless its able to reach people that are less perfect: Jesus said I came not for the righteous but for the sick.

    • Corry said

      Hi Pat,

      What you may not realise is that YWAM has been a suspect organisation ever since its inception. It does not hold to traditional mainstream theological views. It was built on a brand of theology that was identified as heretical as far back as the 4th Century. I too was with YWAM for 4 years and spent a year of that in Australia. YWAM’s fundamental theology is heretical – that is the problem. The abuse and misjudgement are by-products of bad theology. You consider that they are taking you back to the basics of the faith, but let me assure you that what you have been taught is based on a particular view of Scripture that is not accepted in all serious theological colleges and seminaries. YWAM’s theology was unacceptable to the Assemblies of God, and that is why Loren Cunningham was asked to leave the AOG. Beware of the spin within the organisation, YWAMers are accustomed to dealing with this type of criticism, and your best source of information can be found in ex-YWAMers who came to understand the errors of YWAM’s system.
      Kindly meant,

  131. Pj said

    I spent several years with ywam in the U.S. And in Asia. I wouldnt go as far to say they are a cult but I can surely say without a doubt they have allowed a lot of new age thought enter in. Also there is a lot control issues amongst the leadership. In the beginning of ywam, most all of the staff were raised in the church and well grounded in the bible. Now is not the case. Most come as an escape. Some are coming out of jail, drug abuse, and have no foundation in the bible. One of my base leaders was a homeless man who came right off the beaches of Hawaii and joined ywam. he took a DTS , he was very charismatic so….Walah! BASE LEADER. This is mainly how people rise to the top. Charisma, and if you play guitar it’s a plus!
    Then there was to Toronto blessing movement. And for some reason anything that wasn’t well understood but had a sense of spirituality it was automatically from God, and if you questioned it you were blasphemous. I was told to repent because I questioned the whole moment.
    At one point I was on staff in Texas and a
    student who was taking my council was
    considering going back home after DTS. During
    this time other higher up staff members told me
    sternly to give him advice so he would take the
    next school. (soe) . The idea of ywam is to keep
    you taking schools. And you keep taking schools
    the you become staff and staff schools while all
    the time you think you are building the kingdom
    of God in the world when actually you are
    making fisherman who make fisherman who
    make fisherman. And this provides a nice cash-flow for the top. Do not be deceived that the big head honchos of ywam are living by faith. They are rolling in it. I have friends whose parents were in that top. Write a few books and then make it required reading for the schools, and then consider how many schools are taking place all over the world. It’s a pretty smart littl pyramid. I spent several years in ywam in Asia, Thailand, Korea and japan. During my time one ywam family felt the Lord was telling them to give up their newly born son for adoption. This way they could relate to God having to give up his Son. Crazy! One other guy who was very charismatic and mid level leadership got a local girl pregnant. The base tried to keep this from others and keep him in leadership. He didn’t ” feel led” to marry the girl and provide for the baby. He was taken care of not reprimanded.
    Study about the new jersey base and what happened. If you talk to the people who left the base after that happening you will see a whole nother side of ywam. There are so many many stories. I would never ever recommend ywam to anybody!! Just go fishing:))

  132. eclipse said

    Hi there

    A friend of mine is about to start her dts in townsville oz does anyone have any information about this base and its leaders. Is the practice of confession still going.


  133. shoulder said

    comments really should often be made whenever you read something as great as this, thanks a million

  134. […] is detrimental to youth, because of its oppositions to scientific materialism.[8] Is YWAM a Cult? Jen's Weblog I would strongly recommend praying about it and asking God to guide you. __________________ […]

  135. Buzz said

    I had the pleasure of attending a DTS and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I found 99% of the staff and instructors to be sincerely serving the Lord.

  136. robere said

    Karen, my reply is way too late I know as you posted April 7 last year. I haven’t looked at this thread for a while. However, I am taken back that no one appears to have contacted you officially from YWAM. I would have thought that at least one leader would have read your comment and made contact to investigate your claims. Shame on them. Let me say though that you need to see someone outside ywam from a reputable counselling service. They may not be christians, but may provide a good listening ear and may be able to help you find direction. Sorry I can’t make a referral to a psychologist colleague, but I am far from the USA. Pity. I have a daughter at university and would be most concerned if she were to be exposed to such an apparently disorganised and unprotective situation like you seem to have encountered. All the best with your life. Don’t despair, just keep moving forward. Cheers, Robere.
    PS. Maybe we need to set up a web helpline for ywammers and ex-ywammers like yourself.

  137. Helen said

    Hello, can someone help me. I am 17 and from england and planning on doing a DTS in Colorado Springs starting in september. I was so exited till i read this. Is this bad leadership still going on, and what do you know about this location? I’m just really upset and confused because I’ve heard so many good reviews about YWAM from people and didn’t expect this. Why is it that the course looks and sounds so good on the website, but people get all this abuse? Why do hundreds of people still do the DTS every year? What do people recommend I do? Is there other organisations that do a DTS? Thanks

    • Dino said

      It is a good base. It is also very outward focused – it has a very strong commitment to reaching unreached people groups of the world. There are some excellent and God-fearing leaders there as well. At the same time, there may be a few leaders/staff that may not be that mature. But for sure, I can tell you that most of the folks there are committed, God-fearing people with a passion for God, for people and for the lost. I know because I’ve been there and I know a lot of people there every well.

    • Jay Sherm said

      there was shooting in colorado because of ywam in 2007 2 were killed 4 injured.

    • Whichway? said

      Hi Helen.. i am in your situation right now..i am also thinking about a dts in Colorado springs, i was very excited but now i am having doubts! Did you go ahead and do the dts? if so, what is your experience?

    • Corry said

      Hi Helen,

      I know your frustration about finding something like YWAM that is orthodox and healthy. YWAM is attractive because it is a short cut into ministry. Do a 3 month school, and then you’re a missionary. No character test required, no experience, no qualifications – you don’t have to come before denominational mission boards or spend years in training. But the reality is that there are no short-cuts if you are serious about serving God. It takes hard work, serious training and submission to proper Christians. YWAM leadership has always been flakey, don’t be beguiled by their self promotion. YWAM is a major part of the problem – give it a wide berth.

    • Lee said

      Can you let me know if you ended up going. We are looking at doing the same thing, any thoughts would be so helpful. Thanks a bunch

  138. Jordan Barrett said

    hey what you have said about YWAM being a cult is WRONG.

  139. Spencer Grau said

    Can someone suggest a really good outreach/teaching/mission based community to get plugged into, then? I’m 20 years old, and was excited to start looking into YWAM, but I’ve heard some things, similar to the stories that are being posted here, that kind of turn me off to the whole idea.. I would love to be able to get out of my “bubble” and go sit under good, loving and theologically sound teaching/mentoring and then try to apply it somewhere in the world. (of course, going overseas sounds much more fun to a 20 year old than staying in the states, adventure awaits, after all.)

    • Jay Sherm said

      RZIM has wonderfully apologetic training.

    • Mike Klausmeier said

      I would strongly suggest the YWAM Tampa base. Art and Ellen Sandborn are beautiful people who I would send my own children to do a DTS with. They love the Lord, and are actively working to spread the Gospel In the S.E. Asia area. They are running a Preforming Arts DTS right now, as this is their major area of emphasis.

    • Lee said

      Can you let me know if you ended up going. We are looking at doing the same thing, any thoughts would be so helpful. Thanks a bunch

  140. ThirstyJon said

    what’s with the comment spam? Are you still here monitoring, Jen?

  141. Dino said

    I am in YWAM leadership in an Asian country. I’m Asian. Personally I have had more positive experiences than negative ones. But I acknowledge that misuse of authority in YWAM does happen. I have also seen, talked and prayed with people who suffered some sort of spiritual abuse in YWAM. As far as teaching is concerned, there is a lot that is biblically sound and spiritually edifying as well as some that is quite flaky. However, it is my concern too that a lot of YWAM staff are weak in their understanding of God’s Word.

    One of YWAM’s values is ‘championing young people’. So young people are encouraged into leadership roles. Is there biblical support for that? I think there is. But just because there is doesn’t mean that risks don’t come along with it. But it is not only the young leaders that fumble with leadership responsibility. Some older leaders too display immaturity in their leadership.

    Having said the above, does it mean that YWAM is a super-sorry and dangerous organization? I don’t think so. Misuse of authority, spiritual abuse, unsound teaching, immature leadership among other things have always been historical and universal problems across every spectrum of the Church. There are problems, weaknesses and gaps in every stream of Christianity – the Reformed church I grew in is filled with nominalism, weak discipleship, backbiting and politics. The Charismatic Evangelical church I joined more than 12 years ago is suffering from spiritual decline, weak and compromising leadership, and disunity. The Baptist churches in our geographical region to which many of my friends are affiliated to are plagued by nominalism, materialism, red-tape, worldly competitiveness and yes, weak discipleship also. The Pentecostal and Brethren churches to which some of my relatives and friends are a part of are suffering from legalism, oppression of women and hypocrisy. Many independent churches and parachurch agencies around us are losing credibility because of financial integrity issues, politics and abuse of power. And please remember I’m speaking from a context where we have our Christian islands spattered across the huge ocean of non-Christian (Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist) populations. Think about testimony!

    Despite all the negatives mentioned above and much more not mentioned in the Church including YWAM, there is no doubt that there are aspects and there are people in the Church including YWAM that do reflect the nature and character of God to the world and between each other as His followers, many redeeming qualities and actions such as forgiveness, genuine servanthood, a commitment to pursue biblical integrity both in life and ministry. In every stream of Christianity, there are strong as well as weak points. YWAM happens to be one that do have certain strengths that have been a blessing not only to the believing world but also to the non-believing world, as well as some prominent weaknesses that unintentionally cause us to misrepresent God and hurt people too. Some of the most godly, loving and gracious people I have met in YWAM. But of course, the opposite is also true. So is YWAM a cult? You tell me…Am I promoting it? No way. But am I debunking it then? I think the answer lies in this long comment I’ve written here.

    My heart goes out to all who have had bad experience in YWAM. May you find it in your heart to forgive and, when you find healing within, to ultimately to pray for those who may have wronged you. That would be Jesus’ way, isn’t it. It’s also good to voice concern over what you see as wrong or unhealthy such as in a blog like this. But I think it would be very un-Jesus-like to judge, attack, spew bitterness and paint with one brush an entire movement for the negative/sad experiences you had. After all, one day we all must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ isn’t it and give an account of all that we have done, whether good or bad.

  142. Jay Sherm said

    when I attend church(which is every week possible) I have never felt any darkness in the light inside that building….when I attended a Harriburg Life Center the only thing my spirit decried was terror. I felt as though spirits were being brought here attached or unattached to angels and kinda surrounding my friends and I because we weren’t participating in ‘worship’ of the unknown….I’ve been around this thing for 3 years I will not call it a cult for the respect of it’s members what I will say is I felt a persistent and pervading evil in that building backed by sublimination and trance like chants. This has a lot to do with money seeing as not anyone I’ve spoken to is really aware of where the money goes after the ‘missionaries’ collect it…

    doctrinally I would say intercessory prayer is ok. However, the holy spirit speaks in groanings indescernable to the human mind and only known by Gods I truly believe a bigger step of faith is saying Hey Abba I don’t really know whats happening here but could Jesus please help us out…to ask for spiritual gifts I find morally and doctrinally reprehensible because of what paul says in Corinthians.

    if you are hesitant to read the bible without being ‘led’ by an elder I would caution you are on very infirm spirtual ground where you are handing your heart to a man to intercede and give you the answers. STUDY JESUS! PRAISE HIM but, be careful what you wish for when you invite the spiritual realm to dwell amongst you.

    for more info look into (assembly of God, World Assembly of God, Charles Harrison Mason, and the 1914 revivalist movement, for even more information ask a leader at YWAM for a doctrinal packet and try to read it in context and meet with God and test the content)

    love and blessings

  143. P.K said

    I would like to say that the issue about ywam being a cult or not is not the real issue and it just causes people to be offended or more confused rather than enlightened or informed. It’s apparent by all the research I’ve done; website info, blogs, my personal experience, and personal friends who are currently serving or no longer in ywam; that there are serious control issues and abuse going on all over the world in regards to ywam; you dont need a PhD to have a valid research credibility.
    What I’ve discovered now is that ywam in it’s spirit is simply abusive; and i’ll tell you that abuse should not be tolerated wherever it is. All these people defending ywam to invalidate peoples claims dont realise the arrogance and insensitivity (which is typical of ywam and i mean it in the nicest way possible) that is coming across to the people who have been hurt by ywam. the discussion here is not about other churches or organisations but is about ywam. if you want to talk about other churches or organisations then open a specific thread for it.
    arrogance is a huge spirit in ywam, which i must say is spiritual not directed at the person personally. a lot of that arrogance is naivety and rooted in fear and guilt. come on people the devil is the culprit here not you or me. people, including myself, are just expressing what was experienced by this specific organisation. and so if this organisation is abusing people then wake up if you’re truly a child of God; a christian. lets stamp this out and expose it and bring it into the light as the bible tells us to.
    if you want to be defensive or attack the hurting people who are posting their experiences of abuse then you my friend do not know Christ and have no love and sensitivity in you. For God’s sake people are hurting and are looking for healing not criticism or condemnation (which is also typical of ywam).
    maybe my tone in this is coming across condemning to you and if so then i am sorry; but if I am condemning to the behaviour of spiritual abuse then i make no apologies!!!
    for those looking for answers learn about the Jezebel spirit in 1 kings. the spirit behind Jezebel was a proud and arrogant spirit who controlled and manipulated everyone around her. this spirit is a highly abusive and lusts after power. also learn about cults in how they behave and their practices and methodologies, and how in their nature they are very deceptive, manipulative, and deceptive. also get godly counsel from various other institutions; churches/ministry, pastors, counsellors, etc who specialize in spiritual or cultic abuse.
    but if you know who you are in Christ then the devil is alrready under your feet and so no weapon formed against you shall prosper.
    there are certain people on this site who are defending ywam to the t and not giving any creedence to peoples claims and discrediting all the testimonies of people’s stories of abuse committed by ywam.
    the spirit behind ywam is very demonic and destructive in every base, not the people themselves. its all rooted in pride; spiritual pride which is the most damaging. i’ve been attacked over and over by ywamers which is not loving or christian. so I’d advise to stay away from ywam.
    dont bother getting any sympathy from ywam as they do not care one bit because in their pride they feel personally attacked if you mention anything wrong about ywam and take offence.
    all i can say is that there is hope if you’re willing to know the truth and truly have a heart to follow God.
    Good luck and God bless!!!

  144. Loren said

    Bottom line is this. People need to take legal action against them, just like they did against the catholic church. I can’t see anything changing otherwise. It’s been this way for so long now. I think it would be more powerful if done as a group but individuals should do it also if that isn’t possible.

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  146. what's happening? said

    hey. can someone tell me the biblical basis of ‘everyone pays for themselves in order to serve’ and the financial situation of ywam? the whole, everyone pays for themselves, but i’m pretty sure someone somewhere does get paid. I was a student and then a staff for a total of more than 2 years so far, and i have not seen accountability with regards to finance. personally i, family and friends have invested a lot of money into this organisation and i personally know that are extras because i am a staff and outreach leader, and have NO CLUE what they do with the money. can someone explain the financial situation of ywam and the biblical basis for ‘everyone pays for themselves’? i personally find it stressful, inefficient and ineffective. i know SO many staff who have left because of money issues. this is wrong to me, not taking care and not providing for the labourers who are in the field. what do you think?

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  151. Tony C. said

    I did a YWAM DTS school and other programs. Overall, the group was generally positive and good. I met a number of beautiful people from all over the world, of different races. At no time did I observe financial or shepherding abuses. I can’t say those things did or didn’t happen, just that I was not cognizant of them transpiring.
    However, a few other types of bullying or mistreatment did occur. The abuse didn’t seem to come from the group leaders, but rather, poor attitudes manifest from a few individuals acting on their own.
    For example, I volunteered with YWAM in Tijuana Mexico (location has been shut down for several years). My job was to help build cute little houses for poor people in Mexico.
    An American young lady stationed at the same YWAM base in Tijuana MX, “Roxann” physically and verbally attacked me a couple of times. One time, she kicked me, and another time she slapped my hand. She also went to leadership and conveyed incorrect and inaccurate information about me to leadership, and seemed to hate me without a cause. The leader became angry with me but showed little or no interest in hearing my side of the story. I was told by a leader that I would go to hell if I didn’t show Christian love to her, but she was never corrected, as far as I am aware.
    At that same YWAM location in MX, I was given a place to stay, as a single person. My bed was in the middle of a living room in a one bedroom apartment, on the bottom floor of the apartment block. This living situation was very difficult. It meant that I could not sleep well, as all night long, Mexican YWAMers were entering, slamming the door, banging things around, talking, making noise, whistling etc. When I asked them to allow me to sleep in peace, they became offended and hostile. They had been given better facilities, with private rooms, whereas I just had a bed in the middle of their living room. I felt that they may not have liked me because I was American. I also heard several anti-American slurs or comments during my time there.
    However, to be fair and balanced, I met a number of absolutely lovely Mexican people who were caring and had good hearts, and were kind to me. A really kind and magnanimous couple from, I believe, Scotland reached out to me in all this tribulation and tried to help me. Truthfully, the good people outnumbered those who behaved poorly.
    After a couple of months, II left the YWAM base very hurt and damaged. When I had worked there as a volunteer, I was told I was a good worker several times, but the leader(s) who did an evaluation gave me a “2” out of “5” which is a poor evaluation. I was surprised.
    Would I recommend the group? I would say that for many young people, YWAM can be a great experience. You can serve Christ, help the poor, and see and experience exotic and interesting foreign lands.
    Some individuals have labeled the group a “cult” but I am uncomfortable with that description. I don’t feel YWAM is a cult. However, If you are somewhat of a loner, the group may not be right for you, or if you get hurt easily, I cannot convey to you a recommendation to join.

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  153. Hello to everyone,

    as I was reading the post of “stronghold” I really felt as if he/she is talking out of my heart…when I think of the stuff I experienced in ywam I get sad..I joined ywam because I was hungry for God..not knowing what I actually did. I’ve done my DTS in 2009 in Germany and seven weeks after I did my SOIP..but had to directly leave after the school because of finances, i can tell you that i was well doing before i joined ywam, had a work right after school and was a free young girl.. directly after I left the SOIP i thought the whole world is evil (beside me) i know the truth now and need to fight for it…After I had a huge fight with my family because of my “new” attitude i dissappeared into a new city and just did what ever i wanted…i was deeply depressed and the only stuff i thought of was that I failed..God does not want me anymore..Iam not good enough..because I was not able to do my quiet time as often as I did it while I was in ywam..and even the worship or the preaching in church was empty for me I did not want to listen anymore..where is the truth now, who is right and who is wrong??. Until today I struggle to listen to a preaching of a “normal” Pastor… I sometimes feel I am completly on the wrong side now and question christianity hard.. It has destroyed my picture of beeing in love with Jesus.. Just want to say short thatNew age is often used in is just a question of time until the people will all worship nacked..”because the room is filled with holy love without shame and sin” I actually wanted to find myself in ywam, my realy identity and the origin of who God wants me to be and now my life is messed up and I dont know how to live life now,.Thanks to God that he gave me a wonderfull husband ( he joined ywam in 2011) i was already out of ywam while he was still inside..but because of him i moved back to a ywam base in England where he did a school (you can imagine how they tried to be against our relationship but we made it and married because of the help of our local church) now iam happy i was able to take him out of this organisation..he is really hurt and disappointed about the things he personally experienced.. Its one year ago now that we left together the Base in we finally back in germany but life seems to be soo hard after using all your savings to pay the fees…but life keeps going..we have to deal with it. I think it will take me maybe my whole life to recover from this brainwashing i went through…

  154. Ana Marie said

    I just want to say that I went to YWAM Maui for DTS and it was the most life changing and best experience of my entire life. I learned who God really is, and it changed my life for the better. Everyone working on base really poured into us and answered any questions we might have with what we were learning. I believe that maybe there are some YWAM bases out there that are really strict and MAYBE ‘cultish’ but don’t label every single base out there as a ‘cult’ because in fact if I didn’t do DTS at YWAM MAUI and went to Nepal for my outreach, I wouldn’t be here today.

    • Corry said

      Hi Ana Marie
      Your language betrays the problem with YWAM; it believes that they have a dynamic personal relationship with the real God that churches don’t seem to get or understand. YWAM teaches that each person should experience God as a dynamic personal director and the Scriptures are used for securing personal guidance. This makes people feel good, and they may feel that they are connecting wit God, but it always proves to be illusional. God can be know from the Scriptures, but you should look for what it says about Jesus, not read it for personal guidance. YWAM instills in its students that it has something that others have neglected or rejected – that’s what makes it a cult. It is elitist, and refuses to learn the lessons of Christian history. What they teach about God (the character of God) is pure heresy. Please be careful and speak to a mature trained pastor.


      • ThirstyJon said


        You said “YWAM instills in its students that it has something that others have neglected or rejected – that’s what makes it a cult…”

        This stateent is a real stretch. I’ve been to many churches in my life, and almost all of them seem to believe that they have something that others have neglected or rejected.

        Often, you can see it in the very name of the church! (Reformed? So other churches aren’t reformed? Baptist. So other churches cannot also believe in Baptism of Repentant Adults? Etc., etc.)

        Believing that you are emphasizing something that other Christians are not emphasizing does not make you a cult. Not at all.

        If a group believed they were the only true Christians, now that might make a group a cult.

        YWAM works with many churches and denominations. I have never heard YWAM teach that only YWAM has the true Jesus or any other such nonsense.

        I still don’t believe that YWAM is a cult, and the reason you give is really lame.

    • ThirstyJon said

      You go Ana!

      I’m glad to hear that your life was changed for the better.

      May you always be coming to know Him more and more and more.


    • ThirstyJon said

      Hey Corrie,

      My journey as a YWAM staff member formally concluded in the end of 2009.

      Sometimes I still work with YWAM in other ways though.

      I could write a bunch of blog articles about stupid stuff in YWAM.

      I could also write a bunch about good things.

      I am not surprised that many people struggle with their YWAM experience and need to process that. This need-to-process doesn’t offend or distress me.

      However, I’ve been a part of lots of groups (religious groups, school classes, job settings, etc.) and some of the things talked about on this page are common in all of those settings. They are part of the stupid ways we treat one another as human beings.

      I don’t believe, though, that these things make a group a “cult.”

      I haven’t observed YWAM to be a cult either doctrinally or sociologically.

      Just stupid and immature at times, like most organizations. More than some, less than others.

      This doesn’t belittle any problems.

      It’s just that sticking the label “cult” on something stirs up fear.

      I”d prefer a direct facing of strengths and weaknesses.

      • Corry said

        Thanks for the courteous reply.
        YWAM is not a cult because of its conduct, woeful as that is some times.
        YWAM is a cult because of its foundational beliefs. There is a reason why it is quite difficult to get YWAM teaching on line, that is because it would horrify most serious Christians.
        Often YWAM teaching is just silly, but when it gets serious about pronouncements concerning justification, the Fall, the character of God, spiritual warfare, hearing God’s voice, intercession etc., it exposes its foundational moral government roots. YWAM is an organisation that is based on the systemitised teachings of Charles Finney. Finney rejected the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the full sovereignty of God, and original sin.
        Occasionally, an honest YWAM teacher will declare plainly the beliefs that have shaped YWAM (these include Winkie Pratney, Mike Saia, Jesse Morrell), but most just believe this stuff and try not to expose it too much in their teaching.
        You may not have any trouble with Finney’s teaching, but I am certain it is not the Gospel that was passed down by the Apostles as the only teaching by which we can be saved.

        By the way, I still count the years that I was with YWAM as the most enjoyable of my life. I had small complaints when with it, and did not suffer excessive harm, but I did see plenty of others who did. My criticism is that it tries to portray itself as in the mainstream, when it is a subset of a deviant 19th century theology that has been branded as heretical by most strands of the Church.

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  157. Austin Hellier said

    Back in the mid 1990’s, I was living in Alice Springs (Central Australia) and that is where I first encountered YWAM. They had come from Perth, WA on a DTS to ‘the Centre’ and had arranged some billets through the local Salvation Army. They took enormous risks in getting there, as they traveled up a dusty old, unpaved road known by the locals as the “Gun Barrel”. The Gun Barrel was a dangerous road for those experienced with it, not to mention a group of green YWAM youths. Arriving in Alice Springs, the youths made their way to the local Salvo hall to be accomadated there without any adult supervision. Yep! Young teenage guys and girls were to sleep opposite each other, in the same room and basically sharing the same amenities.

    Meanwhile, national leader Steve Ahern was to stay in(by comparison) luxurious surroundings at a nearby motel! Nest day, I was invited to partake of the DTS first session, where Mr Ahern proceeded to talk about the mor eimportant things in life – sex and money, and he did this in a most off handed and inappropriate manner.

    It may well be YWAM’s ‘policy’ to speak openly and frankly about such things, but if I were a parent of any young person present, I’d be taking them out of the DTS and straight home. Hisoverall approach to these subjects was disgusting, and borderline depraved. Then I witnessed a session of a process that II now understand to be called ‘intercession’. A young single woman was taken alone into a room by Steve Ahern, and then mentally poked and prodded until she began to cry. She was asked the most intimate questions about her private life, and was made to answer most of them, and mostly in tears, with no female companion to offer her support during this unGodly and uncalled for ordeal.

    A few days later I contacted a man who had lost a son to YWAM years before and he gave me the address of their Australian Headquarters. I and five or six other people (who had witnessed the progression of Mr Ahern’s DTS) wrote letters of complaint in to their board. Subsequently Steve Ahern was removed from his leadership role and sent packing.

    I have no personal axes to grind with individual YWAM people3, but I must underline several noticeable traits amongst them. They tend to have a “use up” mentality – they also try to latch on to local established churches for support without coming under their direction – they have often been called nick names, like Youth Without Any Money and all for good reasons. Sometimes they will resort to odd jobs such as pizza delivery or car washes etc, but nothing is more important than the “mission” – to get more and more people involved in YWAM!

    I also subscribe to the view that YWAM appears to show some very sharp traits of cultishness. They may not be regarded as a cult by some experts, but many many people have been burned by them. Jesus Christ warns us in Matthew 7:13 through 24, to stay away from false prophets, who will endeavour to take us from that narrow door that leads to life (Jesus is that door – John 10) and to deceive us into travelling along the broad way to destruction. We will do well to heed His warnings in that regard. We need to inspect the ‘fruit’ of every ‘tree’ (ministry, church and individual that comes our way making claims concerning the kingdom of God) and see that the fruit is good (Galatians 5:22) and not bad (Galatians 5:19)

    Austin Hellier
    Brisbane Australia

  158. Austin Hellier said

    Mat 24:27 – Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    A clear warning NOT to follow false prophets out into the wilderness (remote locations =bases?) or into the ‘secret chambers’ – the inner sanctuary of some false prophet organisations. Jesus Christ warns us Himself, as does the apostle Paul in Acts 20:

    “28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

    29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

    30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

    31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”

    Here’s a link about my own walk of Faith, which includes encounters with false prophets in my neighbourhood:

    God bless you all

    Austin Hellier

  159. Austin Hellier said

    Oh dear,
    you’ve disallowed my two posts – and may I ask why? Afraid that I’ve named some names? I thought that your website allowed most comments in the interests that all viewpoints may be examined – I got that one wrong didn’t I?

  160. Austin Hellier said

    OOOOPppsss!!! Looks like the posting software left my last two posts off the list – sorry about that, but I’ve had this done to me before and on at least one of those occasions, the website was deceptively run by the ‘cult’ in question, (the Potter’s House group down here in Oz) in order to trap former members “back into the fold” by enabling them to contact the local cult church of Potter’s House where they had moved to.

    I just want to give you folks one final friendly warning, and then I’ll leave you alone for a while:

    I remember encountering a group back in the late 1970’s, known as the COG (Children Of God) and they were set up along similar lines in some respects to YWAM. I’m not making a direct comparison here, but they had decentralised communes, ‘training sessions’ and each ‘colony’ as their communes were called, was run by the COG “shepherd” – usually a hard liner male, who dominated the group through fear and mistrust. Disobedience to that man would almost certainly send you on your way to Hell…

    Money was begged off passers-by in shopping malls, bus stops and at the beaches. People were asked to donate to a ‘worthy cause’ to the COG “missionaries” and they often went out selling flowers, trinkets and their suspect literature to unsuspecting donors. They never took government money (dole cheques or pensions) so that they could avoid detection by the police.

    They often changed their names to spiritual sounding names like ‘Sky’ for women or ‘Aaron’ for men. Their leadership had a gross intolerance towards anyone who challenged their beliefs or who dared to ask any ‘awkward’ questions – like “how come your two kids are sleeping with strangers in the caravan tonight, but you’re not there as well?”

    That group is now known as “The Family” and it has already been taken to court here in Oz over serious child sex abuse allegations in the state of Victoria. Unfortunately the case was thrown out, and the ‘Family’ then went underground for many years. I stayed at a property in Newcastle NSW for some months during 1980 while a college student, and they were billeted in a caravan in the backyard.

    I was offered a ‘training session’ one night with one of their single women – alone! I declined the invitation and went off to my normal church midweek study, and it wasn’t until some time later that I realised just what was ‘on offer’ that night!
    The COG proactively promoted their publications known back then, as “Mo Letters” with clear teachings that it was OK for adults to have sex with children – it was OK for ‘Christian people’ to be pedophiles!!!

    While I don’t suspect that YWAM leaders have crossed the line here, it only takes a few people at the top of the food chain, to think that they can make up the rules for the organisaton as they go along, and you may well find at some future date that similar serious aberrations (bends and twists in their teaching and practices,) may occur in other areas.

    David Moses Berg, the founder of COG came from a good family whose parents were prominent evangelical ministers. He refused the discipline of the church eldership over his own ideas, and went on his own way. According to the testimony of scripture, I leave you with 1 John 2:18,19 – “they went out from us, because they were not of us” – Cult leaders will always attempt to get you away from your familiar surroundings of family, friends and church involvement, because they have a different agenda to that of the local church – building their own kingdoms, and in this case the ‘kingdom’ is YWAM, and obviously not the kingdom of God!

    Austin Hellier

    OOOOPppsss!!! Looks like the posting software left my last two posts off the list – sorry about that, but I’ve had this done to me before and on at least one of those occasions, the website was deceptively run by the ‘cult’ in question, (the Potter’s House group down here in Oz) in order to trap former members “back into the fold” by enabling them to contact the local cult church of Potter’s House where they had moved to.

    I just want to give you folks one final friendly warning, and then I’ll leave you alone for a while:

    I remember encountering a group back in the late 1970’s, known as the COG (Children Of God) and they were set up along similar lines in some respects to YWAM. I’m not making a direct comparison here, but they had decentralised communes, ‘training sessions’ and each ‘colony’ as their communes were called, was run by the COG “shepherd” – usually a hard liner male, who dominated the group through fear and mistrust. Disobedience to that man would almost certainly send you on your way to Hell…

    Money was begged off passers-by in shopping malls, bus stops and at the beaches. People were asked to donate to a ‘worthy cause’ to the COG “missionaries” and they often went out selling flowers, trinkets and their suspect literature to unsuspecting donors. They never took government money (dole cheques or pensions) so that they could avoid detection by the police.

    They often changed their names to spiritual sounding names like ‘Sky’ for women or ‘Aaron’ for men. Their leadership had a gross intolerance towards anyone who challenged their beliefs or who dared to ask any ‘awkward’ questions – like “how come your two kids are sleeping with strangers in the caravan tonight, but you’re not there as well?”

    That group is now known as “The Family” and it has already been taken to court here in Oz over serious child sex abuse allegations in the state of Victoria. Unfortunately the case was thrown out, and the ‘Family’ then went underground for many years. I stayed at a property in Newcastle NSW for some months during 1980 while a college student, and they were billeted in a caravan in the backyard.

    I was offered a ‘training session’ one night with one of their single women – alone! I declined the invitation and went off to my normal church midweek study, and it wasn’t until some time later that I realised just what was ‘on offer’ that night!
    The COG proactively promoted their publications known back then, as “Mo Letters” with clear teachings that it was OK for adults to have sex with children – it was OK for ‘Christian people’ to be pedophiles!!!

    While I don’t suspect that YWAM leaders have crossed the line here, it only takes a few people at the top of the food chain, to think that they can make up the rules for the organisaton as they go along, and you may well find at some future date that similar serious aberrations (bends and twists in their teaching and practices,) may occur in other areas.

    David Moses Berg, the founder of COG came from a good family whose parents were prominent evangelical ministers. He refused the discipline of the church eldership over his own ideas, and went on his own way. According to the testimony of scripture, I leave you with 1 John 2:18,19 – “they went out from us, because they were not of us” – Cult leaders will always attempt to get you away from your familiar surroundings of family, friends and church involvement, because they have a different agenda to that of the local church – building their own kingdoms, and in this case the ‘kingdom’ is YWAM, and obviously not the kingdom of God!

    Austin Hellier

    ccccccOOOOPppsss!!! Looks like the posting software left my last two posts off the list – sorry about that, but I’ve had this done to me before and on at least one of those occasions, the website was deceptively run by the ‘cult’ in question, (the Potter’s House group down here in Oz) in order to trap former members “back into the fold” by enabling them to contact the local cult church of Potter’s House where they had moved to.

    I just want to give you folks one final friendly warning, and then I’ll leave you alone for a while:

    I remember encountering a group back in the late 1970’s, known as the COG (Children Of God) and they were set up along similar lines in some respects to YWAM. I’m not making a direct comparison here, but they had decentralised communes, ‘training sessions’ and each ‘colony’ as their communes were called, was run by the COG “shepherd” – usually a hard liner male, who dominated the group through fear and mistrust. Disobedience to that man would almost certainly send you on your way to Hell…

    Money was begged off passers-by in shopping malls, bus stops and at the beaches. People were asked to donate to a ‘worthy cause’ to the COG “missionaries” and they often went out selling flowers, trinkets and their suspect literature to unsuspecting donors. They never took government money (dole cheques or pensions) so that they could avoid detection by the police.

    They often changed their names to spiritual sounding names like ‘Sky’ for women or ‘Aaron’ for men. Their leadership had a gross intolerance towards anyone who challenged their beliefs or who dared to ask any ‘awkward’ questions – like “how come your two kids are sleeping with strangers in the caravan tonight, but you’re not there as well?”

    That group is now known as “The Family” and it has already been taken to court here in Oz over serious child sex abuse allegations in the state of Victoria. Unfortunately the case was thrown out, and the ‘Family’ then went underground for many years. I stayed at a property in Newcastle NSW for some months during 1980 while a college student, and they were billeted in a caravan in the backyard.

    I was offered a ‘training session’ one night with one of their single women – alone! I declined the invitation and went off to my normal church midweek study, and it wasn’t until some time later that I realised just what was ‘on offer’ that night!
    The COG proactively promoted their publications known back then, as “Mo Letters” with clear teachings that it was OK for adults to have sex with children – it was OK for ‘Christian people’ to be pedophiles!!!

    While I don’t suspect that YWAM leaders have crossed the line here, it only takes a few people at the top of the food chain, to think that they can make up the rules for the organisaton as they go along, and you may well find at some future date that similar serious aberrations (bends and twists in their teaching and practices,) may occur in other areas.

    David Moses Berg, the founder of COG came from a good family whose parents were prominent evangelical ministers. He refused the discipline of the church eldership over his own ideas, and went on his own way. According to the testimony of scripture, I leave you with 1 John 2:18,19 – “they went out from us, because they were not of us” – Cult leaders will always attempt to get you away from your familiar surroundings of family, friends and church involvement, because they have a different agenda to that of the local church – building their own kingdoms, and in this case the ‘kingdom’ is YWAM, and obviously not the kingdom of God!

    Austin Hellier

    • Matt said

      A rather belated reply (after not having been here for quite a long time), but still:

      Austin, to highlight some of the genuine issues which have sometimes arisen with YWAM leadership or even teachings is one thing. To compare them to the COG (disclaimers aside, that seems to have been the point) is quite another. This was really a bit much.

      If one is going to identify genuine issues, with bona fide anecdotes or experiences, then fine. But please: Leave off the insinuations of connections between YWAM and genuine cults such as the COG/Family. I get that you’re making an analogy, but it is a poor one.

      • Austin said

        Matt, it was just a comparison, but what I must point out is that no one thought that the COG under David ‘Moses’ Berg, would end up where it is today either. Berg came from a Godly home, and his parents were well known and recognised in evangelical circles, but that did not stop him from becoming rebellious and an apostate from the faith, with an obviously reprobate mind.

        There’s nothing to say that the leaders of YWAM will not go the same way, if they do not take heed to the many thousands of warnings issued by Christian people, the world over.
        Highlighting the issues is what this blog is about, and while many agree that YWAM has abused many thousands of its followers, over many years, they still disagree that it is a cult.

        I have no qualms in calling it out as a cultish organisation, which has used deception and gross manipulation on many occasions over decades. That is not a good track record Matt, and Jesus told us to be good fruit inspectors, I find very little, in terms of Biblical fruit, hanging on the ‘branches’ of the YWAM tree…

  161. China Mart said

    Rege Inconsulto. one court of justice. The Legacy. The S. Matthew. X. 26, 27; XXV. 31-46, S. Iohn. III. 19-21Praecipe Notice And Claim, to those named in the matter and all and or any to whom these Present(s) come: Peace be to this house. Repent ye, for the kingdome of heauen is at hand. Please take notice of: a fifty-four tables (Habakkuk II. 2. “pages”) document perfecting qui tam claim(s) against incorporation entity(ies): INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OFPRAYER, INC. / FRIENDS OF THE BRIDEGROOM, INC. 3535 East Red Bridge Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64137; YOUTH WITH A MISSION INTERNATIONAL, INC., UNIVERSITY OF THE NATIONS, INTERNATIONAL, UNIVERSITY OF THE NATIONS, INC. 75-5851 Kuakini Highway, Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 96740 is S. Matthew. X. 26, 27 posted as a witness unto all of the world at link:, for edification of the body of Christ; and, a one hundred twenty-two (122) tables document : a 19 megabyte pdf file safe download, at link: ; notice: ; swinefest: fangin’ for Jesus YWAM Organic worldwide:; YWAM : Your Wife And Mine:; and, wolues among us:
    Said post is done further because judgment debtors, Jeffrey Asher Motola, and/or Loren Cunningham, indispensible partner(s) of the thief and robber of life time commitments / wives / holy things (the Actes XX. 29), though as a matter of Law in default consent and agreement to the contrary are overtly doing NOTHING but partaking in the justification of such theft, and of the sequestering sneaking mindset (S. Iohn III. 19-21) that they are above the requirements of the testament of the Lord on the matter and do not correct the lie. S. Matthew. V. 23, 24; S. Luke. XVI. 10; and, that they have unaccountable, unreviewable presumptive authority over your marriage vow(s), and your wife’s vulnerable naïve heart and soul (II Timothie. III. 6; II Peter. II. 13). The momentus occasion in the proof of the man/men to the use of a trust in the pulpit for the self-stated despicable God slandering preying on marriage struggles “for affirmation” So shocking – see the Legacy of A Predator: and a pattern and practice it is okay for that vile using a “YWAM” / “UofN” blindness as a banner to thieve a man’s wife by using the isolation of her and all, and by keeping her and all isolated from the full truth, by her naiveté, vulnerability and admiration in the advantage (Iude. 16), and then just let the wife thief tell devil lies and all parade sport off their own wives and yours (S. Iohn. XVI. 1-3) the true bill: ; scandalous, and never acquire nor require actual face to face accountability and repentance and restitution, giving lip service to same only, and thereby facilitate condone and encourage as demonstrated hereby, to assault the vulnerability of marriage, thieve holy things of men, use the fraudulent lack of due process, scandalous betrayal of men, despicable things, originate, evolve with, and keep the audience sequestered dumb and blind and pollute the body of Christ. As during stated missions visits to the portion of the kingdome known as Kansas City, circa acceptable yeere of the Lord, Two thousand ten and, Two thousand twelve, this continued pattern and practice in this sacrilege corruption was recently demonstrated by whispered followed pattern and practice to continue in this sneaking shunning Lord-flaunt-it-over-men works of devils and to ignore the matter, and condone the actual unaccountability for the sequestered sneaking use of the pulpit as means and cover for the theft of holy things of men, their wives – allowing the corruption, deception, and pollution of self-stated despicable God slandering wife thieving, self-excusing Ezekiel XXXIIII. self-feeding hypocrisy to be nurtured and believed, a grieving doctrine of the unrepentant devil(s) and works of devils. Isaiah. LVII. 5 speaks of you; and thereby have forfeited stewardship over these incorporation entities and consent and agree to the within minister who shall and does, a seruant for the master, in accommodation, in trust forfeiture, to have forever and perpetual remedial oversight of these incorporation entities, now trust res for the master, for any and all in need. For it is written, Therefore say I vnto you, the kingdome of God shall be taken from you, and giuen to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. This is that kingdome.
    This document at:
    Therefore, this is a call2all to awaken from the stupor, and Repent o ye stiff neckes. Ieremiah. XVII. 23. . This continues and is an ever present danger and an ongoing and continuing threat to the safety of the entire body of Christ, worldwide, with these doctrines of devils used to beguile, deceive, seduce more than even these who are yet poised to errantly influence those unwary soules lured therein, through “one thing” conference(s) and other(s): Bernie Tsao, Beverly Blatz, “Brenda Wilcox,” Bruce E Blatz, Carol Jean Jackson, Charlie Roberts, Dan Ladd, David M Ross, Dawn Heres, Diana Sanny, Dianne Wicker, John Sanny, June Mataia, Ken smith, Libby A Goehner, Lori Durham-Melsom, Luther Matsen, Mark R Spengler, Millie Lieberman, Nancy C Roberts, Paulo Mataia, Pieter Heres, Stew Lieberman, Susan Tsao, Steve Wilcox : Not all, but many of these were in the original sequestered and groomed group deception of the now removed theefe and robber (S. Iohn. X. 1) Approve, facilitate, and promote same contrary to the Creditor of record’s judgment. Proven to be Psalmes. XXXVII. 28; Isaiah LXI. 8; S. Iohn. VII. 24; XII. 48; XVI. 11 good, by the works (S. Iohn X. 25), by the removal of the unrepentant stiff necked brute thief and robber from the pretended pulpit, and who merely does continue the deception in part by the hypocrisy leauening (S. Luke. XII. 1) of that originally groomed and seduced, these named, and others leavened by them, actually sided with and promoted this. NONE of these have the full complete true story. NONE have required due process accounting, nor risen to even the State level of due process safeguards. ALL polluting the body of Christ with the devil lies, pretending otherwise, jeopardizing the future safety of the people that come into contact with these now derelict incorporation entity(ies). Who should shun such thief and robber, most so blind to appallingly embrace and even facilitate it, till today, and do require this without repentance perpetual notice and claim, by your Creditor. No offense to those awakening from the stupor, all found in. While there is future hope, to date ALL named have proven S. Matthew. XIII. 13-15 and S. Iohn. IX. 40-41. A S. Matthew. XXV. 31-46, Ephesians V. 14 command is upon you, indeed. Remember that the woman with the alabaster boxe hath done, as a memoriall vnto her. For it is written, be yee sure of this, that the kingdome of God is come nigh vnto you.
    It is here by the Church Organic Spiritual Alive so done and so ordered. See ye to it. Amen.

    Hee that is faithfull in that which is least, is faithfull also in much: and he that is vniust in the least, is vniust also in much.

  162. Austin Hellier said

    Hey Jen,
    I’m just wondering why you disallowed my post? Please email me to discuss.


    • Martin said

      This blog is a direct assault by satan upon Youth for WYAM.
      Keep up the good work WYAM missionaries and do not be discouraged by the satanic attacks. I am praying for you. I don’t see much proof of these tales by those who dishonor and deny the very name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Keep the FAITH WYAM Missionaries.

      • Austin said

        Martin – i’m afraid that I have to respectfully disagree with your view. It seems to me, based on experience, that it is YWAM who have unfortunately become a satanic attack on church youth. I know of cases here in Brisbane where church youth have gone on their DTS, with some of those who attended, coming home empty, restless, and throroughly wrung out after the experience. Their parents and pastors have noticed that the changes in them were not for the better. Even their basic personality traits seem to have changed.

        Others have returned only briefly only to pack their belongings and head of to a YWAM “base” (compound/commune) never to return home again.

        It seems to me Martin, that the main purpose is not to preach the Gospel to the lost, but to consistently destroy any links between these young Christian men and women and their homes and churches, and thereby increase the numbers in YWAM membership.

        You can sugarcoat the process any way you want, but the end result is the same – they either come home with no spiritual growth and no desire to genuinely grow in God or they leave home forever and become disconnected from their friends and family. That is not taught as the way of discipleship in the New Testament. Study schedules and career planning are thrown out the window as well.

        One way for people to safeguard themselves against involvement with a cultish group or church, is to use the principle of “informed consent”. In other words, if I am to become involved in your group/church/outreach/mission then you will have to fully inform me of the following:

        1. Who are the group’s real leaders at the top?
        2. What is the true history of the group – its origins and purpose?
        3. What does the group teach in relation to the Bible – is it a ‘toxic faith’?
        4. How is money handled in the group – are leaders accountable to the members?
        5. How are relationships formed and maintained within the group?
        6. What will be expected of me as a new member of the group?
        7. Can I leave the group with impunity, if I choose to do so?

        It is best to get something like this in writing. If the group/church/mission is genuine then they will have no problems presenting you with a written publication that answers most if not all of these questions. Groups who say things like “we’ve run out of copies of our core document” (for weeks and months on end) or say that “these are minor matters, we’ll share that information with you later on – after the training sessions” – that’s not good enough!

        Demand documentation as to the group’s associations, government registration and taxation status, leadership structure and financial arrangements – if they can’t or won’t supply even that basic kind of information, then pack your bags and leave – immediately!

        Cultish groups and churches always make important issues seem minor, compared to “the cause”, but the “cause” often ends up being the altar on which all relationships and your own life goals are sacrificed, so that the group can continue its agenda at you and your family’s expense. They have a “use up” mentality and will take whatever resources they need to accomplish their goals – which may not be your goals at all!

        If they can’t or won’t FULLY inform you with those details listed above, then you cannot give your ‘uninformed consent’ to join the group and partake of its activities. They must ‘inform’ you so that you can then give your consent to join in. Informed consent may well protect you in many situations, but your “uninformed consent’ could well be your downfall, so don’t be so naive as to give it in the first place – check everything out or you could end up ruining your lives.

        “Beware of false prophets…” Matthew 7:13+


      • Austin said

        Actually ‘Martin’ – there’s plenty of proof all around you, if you have eyes to see it and ears to hear. While there may well be decent people within the YWAM organisation here and there, what many commentators have evidenced both here and on other blogsites and websites, is the gradual deterioration of doctrinal and moral standards within the group.

        There are many complaints about ‘bad behaviour’ eg: shepherding – asking people for money until they’ve got none left – taking youth away from their home churches (after a DTS) to the point where many of them are not seen for months or years after – some never seen again.This is heartbreaking for the families involved, who innocently sent their church youth kids to YWAM for a short period of time. I know of one case where the ‘youth’ is now a grown man who resided in India for some 30+ years – his mother has seen him 3 times in that period – and there are many more like that…

        In Australia, YWAM is nick named “Youth Without Any Money” and most churches choose not to support the travelling “teams” when they pass through town. They look and act more like Children of God ‘colonies’ than they do some kind of credible parachurch organisation.
        They tend to have a controlling spirit in many places, and the “newbies” often suffer interminable abuses at the hands of their lecturers and ‘shepherds’, virtually becomming their personal slaves until such time as they wake upto themselves and leave… Then the heartache begins, as the former ‘disciples’ realise just how deceived they really were while inside YWAM

        Open your eyes ‘Martin’ these are not Satanic attacks – it is Satan that has divided a large proportion of Christ’s body off into this soul less organisation called YWAM – brainwashed them with cult like behaviour and taught them false doctrines regarding the Christian faith.

        Things are not always what they appear to be…

        “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ravenous wolves…” Matthew 7:13+

  163. lealea3 said

    I really don’t think that you could just blanket the whole of YWAM as a “cult”. Both YWAM’s i have been to were actually the total opposite of what is said in this.

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    • Roland Frank said

      DON”T GO TO WYAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Love you too, dear, but you’re being just a bit too silly and closed-minded for my liking. Speaking of which, how’s your life going? And why are you adamantly against this organization, if you don’t mind me asking. 😉

      • How can people know about the things that go on here and support it. It is against god and purely idolatry. They follow YWAM not God.

  167. PlayOn said

    I attended a YWAM DTS a couple of years ago and never again will I be apart of YWAM for as many as the same reasons many of you have talked about already. From my experiences, Ywamer’s do not act like Jesus at all. A lot of them are quite selfish and all about themselves and they love to give you the guilt trip as many of you have talked about if you do not agree with them and their beliefs. Sure there were a few great people there that I still keep in contact with but many of them do not keep in contact with you at all after you leave, even though I tried many times to stay in contact with them, they just ignore you until they need help in getting more money. I haven’t heard from one of the staff leaders in many months then all of a sudden I get an email from him saying he needs me to give him $2,400 for a laptop! Trying to give me the guilt trip and saying God has chosen me to give him that money. He didn’t even say ‘Hi’ or a ‘How are you doing?’ I responded to his email saying that I never heard God tell me I was suppose to give him $2,400 for a laptop and that I only support my local church in tithes and offerings. I never heard from him again. Another thing I found out while I was at YWAM is that they like to twist Bible verses to their liking. Sure a lot of people outside of YWAM do this too but I found it very strong in YWAM.

    As many of you have said as well that YWAM loves to raise up the price of the outreach phase. Many of us were really upset about that because that is not what they advertised at the beginning but as the lecture phase went on, they kept raising the price for the outreach phase. My friends and I were saying they were doing this just so they can get more money for themselves to enjoy. We even talked to the leaders about it but they kept denying it saying it was for ‘travel fees.’ I don’t believe that one bit. YWAMER’s also love to beg people for money so they can survive at YWAM. Doesn’t the Bible say in many places in scripture that were suppose to work for a living? Even Jesus had a job as a carpenter!

    Their teachings are very weird too which I did not agree on most of them. One of the teachers even taught us that Jesus is waiting for Satan to repent and to turn to Jesus before Jesus would return to Earth.The Bible clearly tells us that this will never happen. Satan will never repent and Jesus will come back one day in victory over Satan and sin and that no one knows when Jesus will return. Those who believe will be with Jesus while those who do not believe will perish with Satan in eternity. I don’t know how YWAM could teach that Jesus is waiting for Satan to repent and turn back to Jesus. They have a lot of weird teachings like that. I even challenged many of my leaders as well and sure enough, slowly they stopped having ‘deep’ conversations with me.

    I highly recommend anyone thinking of joining YWAM to NOT join YWAM! Like many of you have said YWAM also messes you up spiritually and emotionally. Thankfully I was old enough when I went (and being a pastor’s kid) I was strong enough to handle it and it didn’t effect me but I’ve seen what it has done to the other DTSer’s while I was there. I suggest you stick with your local church, do mission trips with your church or find another missions organization that is doctrinally sound.

    Over a year ago I have stopped having anything to do with YWAM. Except for my few close friends I have kept in contact with. I even asked YWAM politely to stop giving me phone calls which they would call every couple of months asking for donations and if I need prayer for anything. Thankfully they don’t do that anymore. My close friends wanted to go back on staff at YWAM but they thanked me for talking them out of it and showing them this website and other sites about the warnings of YWAM.

    I am very involved in my local church with a very loving church family who accepts everyone and does not show judgment or anything that is abusive. We love everyone the way Jesus loves. That is how it’s suppose to be. YWAM could learn from that.

    • ThirstyJon said

      I can’t speak to all of the things you felt about the YWAM center you were at, but there is one thing I’d like to address:

      It is normal and good for missionaries to raise money for their mission. It is the clear teaching of the Scriptures that Gospel-Preachers should earn their money by Gospel Preaching. Gospel Preaching IS working for a living.

      For example, see I Corinthians 9:14.

      So… I can’t speak to whether or not the folks who interacted with you did so in a good way, or whether or not they are effective Gospel-Preachers, etc.

      But, I invite you to be more careful about putting down the fund-raising aspect of missions work.

      There is nothing in the Bible that says you should only give money to your local-church.

      • I fully support PlayOn’s post and state that ThirstyJon has no right to tell PlayOn to be carefull about putting anything down.

      • ThirstyJon said

        But I am free to state my opinion and invite Playon to “be more careful about putting down the fund-raising aspect of missions work.”

        And Playon is free to disregard my invitation (which would be unfortunate).

        Your “no right” comment is bizarre.

      • Apollo said

        “It is normal and good for missionaries to raise money for their mission. It is the clear teaching of the Scriptures that Gospel-Preachers should earn their money by Gospel Preaching. Gospel Preaching IS working for a living.”

        That being the case @thirstyJon, why do YWAM “missionaries” constantly flog friends and family for money, if they are “living off the Gospel”??? The apostle Paul denied himself this ‘right’ most of the time, stating only once that he had “robbed other churches” to minister to one particular church. 2 Corinthians 11:8

        Him being a prime example to his disciples, taught them to work for a living, not be idle, not be gossips and trouble makers etc. People who go into ‘full time ministry’ often fall foul of some sins, control and domination being one of the chief ones.

        I’m not ignorant of these things, as I have witnessed this many times, and going by the complaints on this blog alone, I’d have to say that YWAM is one of the worst. Finally, I believe that YWAM exhibits most,if not all the hallmarks of a cult, whether you Ywammers like it or not…

      • ThirstyJon said

        Well Apollo, I’m not sure why I am being notified of your comment so far after you wrote it. (I literally just got the notification a half hour ago).

        I know that Paul on at least a couple of occasions did NOT follow the normal Jesus-Commanded Pattern for missionary support.

        He was in a place where he felt he needed to be a specific example.

        But consider this: the reason he had to make such a big deal about explaining that he was working an additional job for a short time rather than being paid by donations from believers was because what he was doing was NOT the norm. It was not what Jesus straight up commanded. (Which was that those who preach the gospel should live off of the gospel).

        Pointing out that Paul made an exception does not cause asking for funding for one’s mission to be a bad thing.

        Pointing out that some people may “flog” their friends and family for money does not negate the clear teaching of Scripture.

        Missionaries are primarily to be supported by the GIVING of the members of the body of Christ.

        “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” ~ I Cor 9:14 (

  168. Frank Candlish said

    I was part of YWAM from 1972 until 1977. I attended a Mobile Training Team school in Sunland as I felt led to go into youth work, but God had other ideas. I did get closer to God and yes, I did hear Him speak to me and used me in ways I never thought possible, and yes I saw God provide in miraclous ways that could have never been possible other wise. I have the oppotunity to work in the international office as a sound engineer and worked under Jim Dawson. Things went great there also..I went on to going to the School of Evangleism in Lausanne in 1975 and later was on staff in the video production unit, in which I worked under Don Stephens…In my eyes I saw Ywam become more “cultish” when they started with the Mercy Ship ministry and it didn’t out. They went to extreme levels seeking holiness, confessing sins, and went to the extremes of headship, etc. I later went to The South African Base, in which I worked as an audio engineer under an inexperienced leader. He treated everyone like children and controled their every move. I stayed because I knew the Lord wanted there and did not leave until the Lord said it was time to go;. When I returned the US it seemed those I worked under and respected shuned me causing me great pain..However, I connected with God closely before ever encountering Ywam and grew closer to Him. But many were not as fortunate and turned away from our Savior..My life moved on. God has used my life in ways I could have never imagined and touch the lives of people in many ways. My life in God took me behind the borders of 25 different countries (some which do not exsist anymore), and yes “Where God guided, He did and continuely provides”. Never had to beg for money when God deployed me. I am sad to see this does not seem to be apart of YWAM now as they require the staff to raise month funds…When considering YWAM, make sure it is God guiding you there and also check out many other excellent missions and short term mission..YEs, God did put me with Ywam and took me out. Would I go back, not unless God specificly directed me.. Life with God is truly a tremendous adventure and does not have to end with a bitter experience. God is always there for us.. Hope may be my journey will help someone. God bless!!
    Brother Frank Candlish (God’s Struggler)

  169. Irene Linton said

    Was excited but now nervous after reading some of these posts. I will soon be doing DTS at YWAMDENVER. Does anyone have comments, concerns for the YWAM Denver location?

  170. Shafted said

    I had a bad experience of YWAM in England at The Kings Lodge, after having great time initially doing a DTS and BCC course i was then on staff with my wife where we became completely isolated, we werent invited to group events no one inviting us to share in meals or asking how we were getting on personally, there was absolutely NO mentoring of staff by the leadership team who were very aloof and would not allow anyone to question them, they broke the rules of the base often but still expected others to keep them, they did little to help with practical works around the base and insisted on appointing sometimes VERY immature leadership members as well. saying that God was raising up a new generation thereby insulting and ignoring many often much better candidates. Their own constant self-congratulation was staggering and completely out of proportion with reality making many claims about numbers reached and saved which were simply fabricated or untrue, the leadership were more concerned with making themselves look good with Senior YWAM leadership than they were with their own staff. After myself and my wife were asked to leave, we given no support and our difficulties were not effectively addressed or belittled by the leadership team, I was told to leave because of a minor incident with a member of staff, but the leadership did not listen to my point of view at all and only took into consideration the position of the other member of staff because they were considered to have been there longer and had a more senior role. I would SERIOUSLY tell someone who really think twice about being a long-term staff member as i felt totally let down by them and given no chance to challenge there decisions.
    The base continues to function and take many students and staff but there some of us who have been let down by you and have seen the dark underbelly of YWAM Nuneaton ‘The Kings Lodge’

  171. grace first, truth second said

    I’m living in the post communist country in Europe. I did my dts in 2003 i was really struggling to go or not to go … i need to admit that I have been involve in ministry of ywam called King’s Kids in the 1990 ish … I Love that people in KKI who lead me, actually had time for me and invest a lot in my spiritual growth , did they were perfect , NO they did not but there hearts were honest …those people invited me to be part of actually God is doing today not tomorrow and (besides my parents )gave me possibly to see the real LIFE with all this junk and good thing but always see God in the center , even i did not understand sometimes what is going on in my case lead me to search the Truth , truth in His Living Word which is The Book – Bible. Of course i learned to listen God but Never ever i felt that somebody is pushing me to do that. So i had a lot of great experiences with god in my early teens years BUT still i was rebel and I always was looking for something BAD in ywam , time to time I wanted to tell them that they are stupid and they are a sect and they are like in different world … till later when i went to do my DTS being proud and selfish to prove that I will not gonna learn anything new because i was well prepared by my parents …. two weeks later seating in my bed in one of dts room I was weeping because I found out that my attitude is literarily suck – I’m sorry for this word i used , but this is how i felt … and how i acted , what was the reaction of my unexperienced leaders the whole time ? prayer for me and giving all this behavior to God.

    5 months later I understood, that God changed my character and opened my heart to see other higher then myself and Look for all weird, wild , strange situations first: By HIS grace and then By His Truth , i hated confrontations but I learned to ask God fro Guidance and Help first.

    Dear Blogger , Dear People !
    We are not perfect and we never will , we should be like Jesus but unfortunately we are falling and need HIM every day , His grace and His forgiveness ! it is truth that we are new creations and we are saved but still need His grace. Therefore God is the Judge and Hi will do this perfect at the time He only knows and then we will see.
    Why the guy in Denver shoot and killed people ? I do not know, but what I read and I know is that if you look for Hebrew 11 there is plenty of examples how people were die because of the gospel. And you need to be ready for anything if you in HIS plan , one more time His plan ! Are you spectator or contender ? ywam-ers also have to ask themselve this questions and evaluate theirs heart ! true about ywam is that there is many people unexperienced who sometimes have no idea what to do BUT somebody give them the chance and put trust on them that God want to use them because For SOME REASON they are forgotten in their own local churches and ignore because of age, unexperience, perhaps wirdness … I observing some young people like that and it is truly sad that because they are to fun or have some challenges or dysfunction , very often have to fight to prove that they are worthy …. Jesus wasn’t like that He took random guys and make them disciples.

    Finishing in my broken english 🙂 is all about your attitude before GOD , whatever you will Go even to You dear Blogger is always THE CHOICE you have to make , you will do this with God or NOT.
    SO DEAR BLOGGER , please forgive those guys and pray that if its something wrong God will show them BUT always first grace and then truth.

    ps. my life changed and I see many mistakes ywam does but still there are people who are there to lift you up and help you to fulfill His calling. and again it is about our attitude and choices we do with God or without Him.

  172. grace first, truth second said

    …… were people are there is always problems and concerns because we are sinners, saved but without the perfect nature of God. So whatever church , denominations, organization , fellowship you will go or you will attend they always will be problems because of ME and YOU 🙂
    We all need GRACE AND HUMBLE HEART ! – Corinthians are the exact example of this – they have Apostol Paul teaching them but still they split because of gifted speaker Apollos – is all about your personal relationship with Heavenly Father and the Attitude of Your Heart toward your neighbors.

  173. Pam McBride said

    Although not a perfect experience, two of my daughters lives were changed forever for good with thier experience at YWAM. So grateful! Looking to do a DTS myself!

  174. Chris said

    My daughter is evasive to any questions concerning this “mission” she’s on. She’s off to Thailand today. I’m frightened. They took her cell phone away last night? Why?

  175. Chris said

    I’d like to know if there’s anything I can do to locate my 21 year old daughter, or if anyone could please respond. Ywamla sent her to Thailand 12-18-16. Their phone and website is no help and unresponsive.

    • ThirstyJon said

      I don’t know the context of them taking her cell phone away, but that certainly sounds bizarre.

      The YWAM Center in LA is probably on Christmas Break.

      I don’t know how long that break goes. Possible through Monday, but also possibly into the New Year.

      Jen is right, your daughter should have communicated an emergency contact number for reaching the team in Thailand.

      Do you know where in Thailand they went?

      There are YWAM Centers there as well.

      Perhaps you could try contacting YWAM in Thailand? IT looks like they coordinate all outreaches coming into that country through a central hub.

      Their contact info is here:

      • nursemm said

        Hi! I had the same Exact worries as you did when my 18yr old daughter (my only child, the love of my life, my best friend) left for Australia & Uganda for FIVE months!!! She didn’t call when she arrived, she sent a few very vague texts the first week. I was FREAKING out!!! Well, it turns out that she Was simply being a typical teenager and not realizing that her parents might be super concerned with her in another country with total strangers. She absolutely LOVED the entire experience amd I can honestly say she came back a different person…. in a very good ,healthy, beautiful and secure way. My best advice is to NOT do what I did….which was to basically hire a private detective to find her & report back to us to let us know she was okay & hadnt been abducted into a human trafficking ring. I was so paranoid, but for nothing. I hope everything works out for all of you!?!

  176. ThirstyJon said


    Silence for a long time and then suddenly a blitz of comment notifications from wordpress.

    Some of the comments from back in 2015.

    Whatup Wit Dat?


  177. Noby said

    thanks you too,is this business in the name of God? i feel like that,not only me.Most of the people does understood the Protestantism is a silent business for earning personal benefits and also expecting donations and gifts from others.By words all you will say its not profitable but in action vice versa.Always accepts the gifts and donations silently and say to others God blessed,they do not have conscious mid because silently they were begging.That’s the true

    i don’t think protestant people does not have humanity,sincerity and integrity.That’s why every day the group is splitting and forming a new new groups.

    In kochi ywam base also doing the same thing.They are tells like bla bla n bla but reality is so far away from their bla bla.They are showing that we are okay and we will change in the world but reality is they will do the favor for the people those who cling or rely with them.This is a partiality.More over they will say we don’t have pre planned ideas and everything is through God.Unfortunately they would prefer their own pre planned ideas and they make the kingdom of their self not for God!

    yes,am going to withdraw my application and i will not be the part of ywam. You know,Protestantism exports from US(the ideas come from thier own mind not from God!!) and they are spending (as donation or gifts) crores and crores dollars. That’s why here the people took Bible put it on their armpit and going to preach somewhere,also do not want to change their attitude. If they did not get anything they will not carry,am sure for that.

    Indian people who understand this is the best way to cheat others and nourish them self.If you doubted please watch over the pastors life here.Most of them are posh life leading one and exploiting ordinary people.By words all these people are okay but in their action they are making fool.

    Ywam also silently support to cheat people so am quiting


  178. […] Ten years ago on December 13, 2007 while living in Hong Kong, I wrote a blog posting entitled Is YWAM a Cult? […]

    • KonaQuiche said

      I just stumbled across this blog I haven’t had a chance to read it all but I have to say I live in Kailua Kona Hawaii where the University of Nations is based, and have had to deal with members and they are obviously brainwashed! Even a 54 yr old member which lied on a rental application. When I researched her online I found she was involved in the university. When I confronted her she stated “I have nothing to do with that place it’s a big cult”. Shortly after I allowed her to rent an apartment in my building she began having numerous young people in her apartment, she then left the country within about a month after moving in. She had some of these people staying in her apartment..they refuse to give me their names or phone numbers to give to the building owner per her request. Looks to be a court eviction will be in order..

    • KonaQuiche said

      Starting to wonder if they are involved in human trafficking as well

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