Question: "What is Youth with a Mission (YWAM), and what are their beliefs?"
Answer: Youth with a Mission (YWAM) defines itself as “an international volunteer movement of Christians from many backgrounds, cultures and Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.” The stated purpose of YWAM is “to know God and to make Him known.” Ministry teams focus on evangelism through teaching, house construction, medicine, sports, performing arts, and other methods.
Youth with a Mission offers training through the University of the Nations, which they operate in 650 locations in 160 countries and about 100 languages. Part of the University of the Nations training is an intensive, five- or six-month Discipleship Training School meant to prepare individuals for cross-cultural ministry.
YWAM was founded in 1960 by Loren Cunningham and currently has over 18,000 staff members in more than 1,000 locations worldwide. Its statement of faith includes the following:
• the Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative word, revealing that Jesus Christ is God’s son; that people are created in God’s image;
• God created us to have eternal life through Jesus Christ;
• although all people have sinned and come short of God’s glory, God has made salvation possible through the death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ;
• repentance, faith, love, and obedience are fitting responses to God’s initiative of grace towards us;
• God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth;
• the Holy Spirit’s power is demonstrated in and through us for the accomplishment of Christ’s last commandment, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
In addition to its statement of faith, YWAM affirms the Manila Covenant, the Lausanne Covenant, and the Christian Magna Carta as being consistent with its beliefs. Various devotional practices supported by Youth with a Mission include Lectio Divina, speaking in tongues, and contemplative prayer. Also problematic is their recommended reading list, which promotes works by mystics and Catholics such as Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, and St. John of the Cross.
Focused on world evangelism, YWAM frequently partners with other ministries and churches for the purpose of spreading the gospel message to new people. Past partnerships have included alliances with groups such as Christian Aid, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), the International Mission Board, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and World Vision.
Youth with a Mission has openly embraced the Catholic Church. In fact, YWAM has a self-governing, international branch called Kerygma that works primarily in the Roman Catholic world. Members of these “KTeams” are of various church traditions, but they operate with what they call a “Catholic Ethos” (from the YWAM KnowledgeBase website). The goal in Kerygma is to allow “Catholics to participate in YWAM’s calling, and at the same time have these Catholics remain rooted in their church and be free to express their Catholic faith” (from the official Kerygma website). In other words, although Youth with a Mission is predominately Protestant, they no longer evangelize Catholics but work with them to build the Catholic Church in some areas.
In its more than 50 years of existence, YWAM has done much good work, operating in many areas around the world and helping countless individuals find Christ and grow in their walk with God. Its commitment to ecumenism, however, is troubling. More information about YWAM and its efforts can be found at ywam.org.