YWAMers – How did you leave?

July 30, 2014

Long time, no post.
This blog has taken on a life of its own, facilitating a necessary  outlet for those who are or have been in YWAM, as well as their family members.

I would love to hear stories from former YWAMers:

How did you leave?

Were you kicked out?


Open discussion is welcome. Let the healing begin.


14 Responses to “YWAMers – How did you leave?”

  1. Benjamin said

    I have blogged before,but now I progress in slow stages going from the negatives side of YWAM: partly by taking the positives and using that a guide to Christian development and maintaining our relationship with the One God,through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
    Sometimes the methods of evangelism in YWAM were questionable and even in contraversy.
    Some teachings were spot on and is proven to be a guide in dealing with everyday life in or out of YWAM….,too many souls were asked to leave and shunned when they questioned authorities,they were ex-hippies given too much power over others and they couldn’t deal with it,or go on a trip in being spiritual leaders…., I’ve seen it many times…,on balance I met a few who gave and had compassion and patience with difficult people who needed to be there. Good leaders/Bad leaders…YWAM is still a large global organisation with all it’s good intentions and flaws to boot.
    My experience on the Ark was mostly a good one….,My experience at DTS Hawick wasn’t. It was a boot camp,petty ,niggardly elders (In fear of the leader themselves) giving us students too much stick over petty things….for all the prayers/singing (pentecostal) it was no disciple training school.
    I along with many who had this experience would have left YWAM,slightly somewhat damaged and we would be taking years of our lives trying to get it together with God in the “Matrix” world we live in,,,,not everyone does,like the prodigal sons (And daughters)..that wine ,women and song.
    Many born again Christians are scattered,not church going perhaps. maybe a little bit to much rubbish coming from the church I suppose.

  2. kassy said

    Im don’t have to much to say about ywam. Accept there will always be a abuse of power when it come to people whi are searching for meaning in their life. However my experience was one of truma and broader line abuse. So much so im taking part in the royal commission . Left ywam not kick out but informed me that I I was evil because I was abused.

  3. How did I leave? I had to beg to get my passport that was kept in a locked office along with the rest of the captives so that we could not escape. The leader was out of town and I convinced the guy he put in charge to unlock the door and give it to me. I feel sorry for him as I’m sure he got “disciplined ” for letting me escape. I found a taxi outside of the gate and headed for freedom. I’ll never forget that taxi ride.

  4. Lisette Defoe said

    What is the purpose exactly of this blog? I hope not to bash like the question invites. We have been part of YWAM for 11 years. How we are no longer I would not discuss here for healing. It would not be the place. For wisdom and seeking healing the godly way, I would want to go to others who can pray individually with me if I needed healing. Many blessings.

    • John said

      Wow, what familiar language. It makes me a little bit sick to hear it.

      • Sorry but your answer sounds superspiritual. The way you would get help is not the only Bible way to get help. Even Paul mentioned people by name who were hindering him or the gospel, and the doctrine that there is one “godly way” and that is only to “pray individually if I needed healing” is fine, however, there is not always available anyone to pray with. Most answer like you did….don’t talk about it. The don’t talk rule is strong in abusive environments.

        Your comment that people are “bashing” is prejudicial and the word itself has implications that are unfair.

        Talking about an abusive experience or even about the faults of an organization or ministry is not bashing. It is exposing the truth.

        Exposing the truth is not the same as bashing.

        Your comment sounds like a good example of the problem we are here discussing…a mindset that equates only certain actions as Biblical without any real Biblical support.

        By the way, I did go directly to the YWAM leaders first so you cannot accuse me of
        not doing things biblically. However, due to their own beliefs, lack of knowledge or
        problems, they chose to respond in an inappropriate, unnecessary and abusive
        manner. So my talking about it to the church, church by the way means the Body of Chrsit, is biblical.

        You sound like you are afraid and trying to shut people up. Why? If there are no problems at YWAM why are so many people sharing horrible experiences? And wouldn’t real Christians want to know to either protect them or their children from such
        or if affiliated with YWAM, to be concerned and to know what has been going on in their ministry? I would think some care and concern would be shown.

        Your answer to me does not sound caring. What about all the people who have been badly harmed?

        I agree YWAM should not be unfairly “bashed” however, if they are indulging in abberant or harmful or abusive practices, even if it is out of ignorance and not intended,
        that should be brought to light and addressed or healed.

        I am not trying to defame anyone at YWAM by name. I love the people at YWAM
        but I do not agree with some of the behaviors and teachings that they were engaged in. Why is it wrong to talk about that?

        Where does the Bible say not to discuss this? Please don’t use the old “do
        not touch God’s anointed”> We are ALL as Christians, God’ anointed.
        And that verse applies to David not killing Saul, it does not apply to speaking
        up about things verbally.

        May God bless you….good example of the widespread mindset that has
        pervaded the Christian church in our day and is through to be Biblical.

        Time to line up wihat we believe or are taught with the Bible itself. You will see that Paul publicly rebuked Peter (who would technically have been his elder, having been in ministry longer and a pastor) when he was wrong. How does this action fit with what we are taught today: be quiet and don’t talk, never question or rebuke anyone, especially when they are “over” you. God’s authority is God Himself and the Bible. While we should respect everyone and the order of authority, no one is immune from error or even
        the potential for sin or abuse. Telling people to be quiet is one way the error or
        abuse can just continue unabated, and in many cases, unknown. It can grow and
        get worse. This is not God’s way …God teaches us to rebuke what is wrong or evil.
        That is not just the privilege or job of leaders in the Body but applies to all of us.
        If someone is not following the Bible or abusing others, it is not wrong to confront them, and if they are not willing to listen or feel they are immune due to their title or position, then it is not wrong to discuss it with the Body of Christ, someone else, or even online.
        Especially where no names are even given.

        I appreciate your concern and your viewpoint but I point this out because Christians are being taught, even brainwased, that it is sinful to discuss or expose these things without true biblical support.

        God bless you, this is not meant personally but I think this needs to be pointed out.

    • I don’t want to sound mean here, but what you post above is your opinion only. It is not supported by the Bible itself. I say this because it is a common misconception Christians are given and taught, that we must not “touch the anointed” (that verse applies to David not killing Saul, and not to speaking against something), and the fact that you have people who can pray individually with you is great. However, not everyone here has that. Secondly there is not one “godly way” for wisdom or seeking healing. Personally I went directly to the abusive leaders in charge but they would not listen. I had no access to anyone else above them in YWAM. So the Bible tells me now to take it to others in the Body, and that can be done here or personally.
      Also, I am not the only one who needs healing here. Those who mistreated me at YWAM. and the organization/ministry itself, also need reform and healing.
      Paul publicly rebuked Peter, who technically would have been his elder and was pastor of the church at Jerusalem way before Paul’s conversion, because he was wrong.
      Rebuking wrong doctrine or abuse is not necessarily mean. The Bible tells us to reprove those who sin against us. We cannot do so when they hide behind their position, power and title, so doing so online is not unbiblcal.
      You are free to do as you believe God wants, why interfere with others who are seeking healing from abuse?
      Yes there should be love and forgiveness, and I do not name names.
      However I point this out for those who have been practically brainwashed within Christianity that they are sinning by speaking out and are not doing things in a “godly’ manner
      when this is actually just one opinion.
      Using the term “bashing” is prejudicial and a loaded term…talking about abuse one has received is not “bashing” rather it is exposing it or seeking help for it or discussing it
      especially when no one is named.
      God bless.

  5. Katy said

    When I was sent away, they repeatedly said, “You are not being kicked out, you are not being kicked out. You can come back when you are ready…” I’m not sure how this wasn’t being kicked out though. I was lost and confused throughout all of the training portion, but I felt convinced that God would finally answer me if I went on outreach- as it says in Isaiah ##, once you do whatever, then your light will shine and it will be clear. The day before I was supposed to leave for outreach (after the other teams had already left), the leaders pulled me aside and told me that I was too much of a disruption of the team’s unity. It was a complete shock. They accused me of several things that were only slightly true, but they had heard through other people. I felt like they didn’t know me at all but they practically insisted that they knew me better than I knew myself. As far as the team’s unity goes- they told me, verbatim, that “anyone who is not in unity with the team is like poison in a well”. So, basically I was poison. How did I create disunity? In my opinion, simply by thinking critically. Most of our speakers had never had Bible training outside of YWAM and taught theologies that conflicted with what I learned in my theology classes at a Christian university. When I tried to discuss this with other students, I was punished and told that these speakers had been put in authority by God and should not be questioned with such a spirit as I had. The discussions I had were the kind that were encouraged at my university, it was so foreign to be told this was sinful! I was very lucky that my parents were able to change my plane ticket home and that I had somewhere to go after they handed me my bags. I knew many people who were promised such saving experiences at YWAM that they sold all their belongings and they would have been homeless had this happened to them. Its been 3 years now, but I still can’t go to a church without these memories coming back to. I haven’t given up on God, but I now avoid church. No one from YWAM sincerely followed-up with me after I left, and several of the ones I did reach out to for clarification never responded to me. This happened in the Fall of 2011 at the YWAM base in Herrnhut, Germany.

    • john said

      hey, im very worried about my firend. she is at the base in herrnhut as well. has been there for a very long time. plz can u contact me. 2815502461

  6. Paul said

    Hi Jen and all,

    I was in YWAM Tyler for about a decade some 30 years ago. Yes, I progressed into leadership roles, and yes, I sometimes used techniques which I now consider manipulative. I experienced various levels of manipulation and control, I saw lots more and I am sure I missed much too. Some people did so out of a desire for power over others (isn’t that a common refrain in all aspects of the world), others out of excessive passion for the people they supervised thinking they knew best and others out of simple ignorance. I recall one public event where I was, obvious to several hundred people there, not willing to be manipulated to do something I did not agree with – it was painful but showed that one could stand up in YWAM and not be attacked – if I say more I would reveal who I am to a few hundred people because it was much noted and appreciated by many who did not have the quiet resolve I did. I often disagreed, I often argued theology, I DID NOT BLINDLY OBEY THE RULES. I spoke out and I encouraged the more controlling people to step back and reminded them that God does better work than us. Basically, what I found in YWAM was no more, no less evil, bad or terrible than I find daily in the workplace, the church, prayer groups or society in general.

    I was certainly not the best small group leader or team leader – I regularly stuffed up not out of a desire for power but because I am human and fallen. No one ever yelled or abused me (no leaders, but some students who were frustrated and tired – totally understand – so was I and i am sure that sometimes affected my decisions – like should we stop now or in half an hour). I can recall 2 situations where I think I shamed people – I wish I could apologise to them face-to-face. Maybe there are more who have a good case to ask me to apologise – I am happy to do so. Yet, many of my friends are ex-students (some who are still stubborn, headstrong and very opinionated), many long term staff, some who left hurt and others who will never leave. I love them all.

    I left because I felt it was time even though it was clear that I was still very welcome even as a relatively, non-outgoing introvert with slightly lacking social grace skills (and cultural) still needed to learn. I married a YWAMMer who went through much worse things than me but still loves the people like I do and miss many of them terribly. There was no pressure to stay, no emotional blackmail, just a simple “Going to miss you”. Truly, that easy. Maybe it was “thank heavens – no more Mr conscience” – no, I know that is not true.

    BTW – I went through Moral government teaching indepth. You know what I learnt – most people don’t know what they believe theologically and many cannot handle much beyond “milk”. I now accept nothing without true enquiry; nothing preached from the pulpit or the oval office or the newspapers. But I am absolutely steadfast in one thing – God is good, awesome and is love. I can argue with the best (OK, maybe just the very good) on theology but having met devils with great theology and saints with terrible theology, I think i will side with the saints while gently encouraging them to change their theology.

    I left and have never been back – and I probably won’t – not out of fear, hurt or anger – my faith is not so easily affected by the immature among them because they really did train me well – that is people are fallen, only God is totally good and reliable. I say this despite having more family in YWAM than most (many for some 35 years and leaders all). It is simply not where I am going on my journey with God though I dearly love many who are still there, with all their faults and their excesses and annoying views and….so on.

    • Thank you for sharing. I am happy for you that you were never thrown out. Could be partly because you handled the situation better and had better communication skills, I don’t know. However those who were literally physically thrown out were understandably hurt by this and from my research it appears (don’t know all the facts) some were done very unfairly or on the whim of a leader. Obviously any organization that does this is unhealthy. Therefore I have to disagree that it is basically the same or no worse than any other organization. Yes abusive or unfair things happen in all human groups and organizations, however we do still have some organizations which would not commit this type of action. Also they should make it clear up front before you enter that they do this at times. Still I’m happy your experience sounds less traumatic than some. Thanks for sharing yours.

  7. I also went through a horribly spiritual abusive experience in YWAM. I was thrown out (literally allowed one phone call) and dumped in an airport with only my airline ticket and no money. I would have been on the street if God had not provided an acquaintance, who I had called with my one call, who agreed that I could stay temporarily with her. This type of throwing people out was almost a ritual at YWAM as well as other Christian ministries at that time. I am not sure how it is now. One staff member who was thrown out of YWAM wrote a book about his experience which used to be available free online. The control, degrading treatment, and the changing whims of the staff were very unhealthy. I would not recommend this ministry to anyone for any reason. I am thankful for any good they do, and of course it varies with time, place and who is in charge. I think the staff were basically treated that way and thought it was normal Christian ministry leadership. They didn’t know better. It was horrible. After studying spiritual abuse for several years and learning about “shepherding” I would say imo that YWAM as well as other ministries such as Teen Challenge, at least at that past time and in the locales I experienced, were practicing the shepherding philosophy in which you are basically required to do whatever those over you decide, without questioning or thinking. If you ask a question you are viewed as rebelling not only against them, but against God because they view leadership as representing God in some way. They did not teach this or openly state it while I was there (although YWAM was then known for promoting this with their staff). It is a very authoritarian, whim-based, tyrranicl method of leading. I also heard staff at YWAM then putting down Catholicism although later YWAM accepted catholic people into their leadership and staff. Confusing and abusive in many ways. Also as a client on this (probably bottom tier level) you have no way to leave and nowhere to go. I asked our leader several time about info on YWAM’s schools but was not answered. If you are taken in without any money or any home to go back to, although that is an act of mercy, you have no way to leave unless you can come up with somewhere else to go to and a job….you are isolated in their little confines and separated from the real world.

    I do not recommend YWAM to anyone, either as an aspiring student, missionary or in any capacity. Their leadership really needs to look at and investigate the problems and as far as I now know they haven’t been willing to do that.

    The shooting that took place in Colo several years ago was related in some way to that
    YWAM not accepting the shooter or rejecting him as a student….of course there is no excuse for this horrible action, but the point is that YWAM seems to have in some ways perhaps contributed to the problems he was having by their rejection and by the way they treat people. I do not know whether this is the case or not, but it fits the overall pattern.

    YWAM and other ministries need help evaluating their leadership and how people are treated. People should be given consistent and clear rules and not expected to just jump whenever the person over them thinks they should jump. Other reforms are also needed, including an overveiw of whether the doctrime they teach is really biblical or not.


  8. Glen Atkinson said

    I left at the end of my agreed term. I am aware that some people have had a bad experience but I have to say that for me it was a positive, life changing experience. It wasn’t easy but worth it. I found it very hard adjusting back into normal life afterward though there are great similarities with people who have come out of the army. I would definitely recommend YWAM. Glen Atkinson

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