"YWAM people often did more harm than good"

May 2004
By a concerned missionary

I have observed YWAM as a missionary stationed in Southeast Asia for many years and was alarmed by their behavior.

My director referred to them as "the biggest bunch of fruits and nuts" he'd ever seen. There are some good and well-meaning people in the organization. But parents or anyone else considering supporting YWAM missionaries should consider the following: YWAM is overly anti-denominational almost in a "cultish" sense.

Young people are recruited out of denominations, but once they have gone through DTS (Discipleship Training School) it seems they pick up on an anti-denominational attitude. I'm sure many parents whose kids did a stint in YWAM have discovered this. I have had more than one YWAM missionary lecture me about the "evils of denominations." They actually appear offended when you suggest they should commit to a local church, rather than float from place to place, like so many of them do.

YWAM missionaries say that they work for the "Kingdom of God" and not a particular church. However, I have noticed this is often just an excuse to have no accountable relationship with a church in the countries where they work. They often develop haughty, superior attitudes towards other Christians. YWAM is an amateur mission organization.

I was involved as an arbiter in a dispute where a group of YWAM personnel attempted to recruit members from a local church in a rather underhanded way.

YWAM was operating a dorm on a university campus and several people were witnesses to an agreement that was made between YWAM and a local church. YWAM agreed to allow a considerably large group of the church's student members stay in their dorm, but assured the church they would not recruit them or run a DTS program in the dorm.

YWAM stated they had no plans to start a church (earlier attempts had failed) and their workers would even volunteer to help the concerned church. They offered full support to the programs and leadership of the church "for a period."

However, later students came forward saying YWAM personnel were speaking negatively about the church leadership, telling them not to go to church meetings and instead to join with them. The eventual confrontation over this matter was ugly. And YWAM personnel and leadership acted deceitfully, childish, and displayed arrogance. In the end they broke their relationship and agreement with the church, and recruited church members.

As an American I had to apologize for the completely bad behavior of my fellow Americans.

The pastor and his staff felt betrayed and decided to complain to the Evangelical Fellowship.

In my opinion YWAM used this approach to win members because they were unable to plant a church themselves.

No matter how many short-term teams or long-term personnel they assigned to that campus, none of them apparently had the ability to establish something permanent. This apparently led them to "sheep stealing."

Some YWAM missionaries get emotionally and spiritually messed up because they are not yet mature enough for their work and/or they have immature leadership. This can bring reproach on the name of Christ and His church.

I would never allow my teenage son to go through the YWAM program.

I don't consider the organization a "cult," but rather a problematic operation that knows how to recruit, but not how to train or manage young people very effectively.

YWAM theology and missiology has gotten a little flaky over the years, but their books are popular with the inexperienced. And I have heard that some of their teachings and practices have become extreme.

YWAM may perform music and drama well, but much of what else they do is not done well and/or organized properly. I have used some of their teams in the past, but finally stopped because of repeated bad experiences.

YWAM people often did more harm than good.

Several career missionaries that I know have expressed similar concerns. But it is difficult for to speak out about YWAM because so many of its personnel come out of the church organizations other missionaries and church professionals belong to.

Copyright © 2004 Rick Ross.

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