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What Makes the Best YWAM DTS Locations?

October 19, 2020 - January 1, 2030

YWAM Marine Reach NZ DTS Best YWAM DTS Locations

What Makes the Best YWAM DTS Locations?

What Makes the Best YWAM DTS Locations?
5 Essential Ingredients of the Best YWAM Bases

If you want to do a YWAM DTS (Discipleship Training School), there are literally thousands of options for you to choose from, in hundreds of nations around the globe. Each YWAM location seems to offer the same basic discipleship program (DTS), and each operates under the guiding principles of “Knowing God and making God known.” So how are you supposed to know which one is the best YWAM DTS location for you? Don’t worry: we’re here to help.

We’ve assembled our top 5 essential ingredients that we think make up the absolute best YWAM DTS locations, and here they are:

  1. Plenty of testimonies of transformation
  2. Solid leadership
  3. Focused outreach strategy
  4. Variety of programs
  5. Timely and personal communication

The Fruit Test

There are plenty of other things to consider when choosing a location to do your DTS (e.g. geographical location, size of the ministry/schools, state of the facilities etc.), but we think these 5 are the core elements that will help you navigate through the hundreds of options available, and land on a quality choice. Jesus himself encouraged his followers to take note of the ‘fruit’ that a ‘tree’ is producing (Matt. 7:15-20). So let’s take a deeper look at these essential ingredients, and hopefully you’ll be equipped to find the best YWAM DTS location.

*Disclaimer: This article is coming from Marine Reach, a YWAM ministry with it’s own unique flavour of doing missions and discipleship, so please bear that in mind. Also, this list is in no particular order.

1) Plenty of Testimonies of Transformation

When researching YWAM locations at which to do your DTS, one of the first things we suggest is to put your ear to the ground and listen for stories of what God is doing in that community. Don’t be distracted by flashy videos or high-resolution graphics; what’s the content of the stories they’re telling? 

If, as you’re considering a location, it seems like there are incredible God stories of transformation oozing out of every corner, then there’s a pretty good chance that God is doing something very special in that community. God is likely on the move there (cf The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), and the people there are likely well equipped to help facilitate the growth, transformation, and discipleship that you are looking for. 

If, however, as you’re considering a location, it seems like there aren’t that many stories of transformation coming out of that location, take note. It could simply be that their social media presence and storytelling capacity are a bit lacking. But it could also be a sign that this community is not in the healthiest place at the moment. Ideally, all YWAM ministries around the world would be thriving, and it would be obvious that God is moving in love, power, and grace in all of them. Sadly, this is not quite the reality. Ministries go through various seasons; ebbs and flows; seasons of fruitfulness and seasons of pruning; seasons of building up and tearing down. This doesn’t necessarily mean that God won’t lead you to a YWAM location that isn’t bursting at the seams with miracles, or even that God isn’t leading that ministry. It’s just something to take note of when doing your research. 

Most YWAM ministries are thriving, and God is doing incredible things in the lives of thousands of people around the world through the YWAM movement. Praise God! Whether or not a YWAM base’s social media feed is chock-full of miraculous testimonies is not the only test of whether this is a ‘good’ YWAM base, but it may be a good place to start. It’s also a good idea to ask the people at the base you’re considering to share some testimonies of what God has done in their lives!

YWAM Marine Reach NZ DTS
YWAM Marine Reach NZ SPHC School of Primary Health Care

2) Solid Leadership

This may come as a surprise to you, but there is not a single ministry on the planet with perfect leadership. Every ministry, whether local church, mission, or humanitarian, is led by humans, each with a past, current struggles, and various levels of shortcomings. You can only expect perfection from one leader: Jesus.

That being said, there are some ministries that are led by people who are in a healthier place than others. It’s not about finding perfect leadership; it’s about finding healthy leadership. YWAM ministries are meant to be operating by the 18 Foundational Values of Youth With A Mission, which are incredibly insightful, and will create a greenhouse of growth if implemented under the Lord’s guidance. When researching which YWAM ministry to join, find out who’s in leadership there, and what their track record is. Ask good questions and don’t be shy. If you’re going to join a 5-6 month YWAM DTS, you’re going to want to know whether the leaders there have set up a healthy culture or not. Here are some example questions you can ask the people at the YWAM base you’re considering:

  • Who is in leadership at the base?
  • How long have they been in leadership?
  • Have they been in leadership at other (YWAM) ministries?
  • Would you say those in leadership model the YWAM Values well?
  • Do the leaders have families?
  • Is there diversity on the leadership team? Age? Gender? Ethnicity? Denomination?
  • Would you say the leaders are humble?

As we said earlier, there are no perfect leaders. But there are healthy ones – and that’s where you’re going to want to join.

3) Focused Outreach Strategy

This may not be an obvious thing to look for, but it really speaks to how seriously a YWAM base takes Jesus’ mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20). It can seem glamorous to have an exotic list of dozens of nations visited by past DTS outreach teams. But the real question to ask is this: How much impact did those outreach teams have for God’s kingdom? Was there any follow-up? Did those ministered to get connected to local churches for continued discipleship? Did future teams visit the same locations to support those ministered to by previous teams? Does the YWAM ministry have long-term staff on location? These are some good questions you can ask to find out how committed a YWAM ministry is to discipling a nation.

A DTS Outreach is an amazing opportunity to spread God’s love in practical and spiritual ways. It provides people with a real taste of what the mission field is like. But that’s all you can do in 7-11 weeks: get a taste. In a lot of cases, it takes multiple DTS outreaches before any real fruit is observed in an outreach location. A long-term investment is what it looks like if a ministry wants to impact a nation because discipleship and transformation is a long-term game. If a YWAM ministry is willing to commit to discipling a nation, with multiple return visits, even long-term staff and facilities on location, this is a sign of a ministry with a healthy view of outreach. If a YWAM ministry is throwing darts at a world map, they may not be as serious about discipleship as others. 

When researching YWAM DTS locations, ask what the long-term outreach strategy is for that ministry, and take note of their answers.

YWAM Marine Reach NZ DTS

4) Variety of Programs (Especially Bible Focused Ones)

If you’re looking for a pioneering YWAM ministry to join, then maybe this point doesn’t apply to you. However, if you’re looking for a well-established, thriving YWAM ministry, then keep an eye out for how many different programs (a.k.a. ‘Second Level Schools) they have on offer. Having more is not necessarily better, but it does say something if the ministry has different programs cropping up: It means people want to stick around there, and the leadership there has created a healthy environment for growth and diversity. 

In YWAM, DTS is the doorway, and Second Level Schools (as the name suggests) are done afterward. To run a variety of programs in YWAM other than DTS, the leadership has to be willing, and there have to be people who want to come back and provide further specialized training at that location for others who’ve graduated their DTSs. And you can’t run programs without students. If the YWAM ministry is running a variety of Second-Level Schools, it also means that people have had such good experiences on their DTS that they want to stick around and get more training. 

Furthermore, if a YWAM ministry is running Bible-focused programs, it means they take the Bible seriously. You can bet that if a ministry is consistently running programs that spend significant time teaching and studying the Bible, it’s going to have a natural flow-on effect on the health of the rest of the base, bringing correction and stability in a variety of areas. 

5) Timely and Personal Communication

Many of the 18 YWAM Foundational Values are closely linked to this idea of good communication and you can tell a lot about the health of a ministry simply by how quickly they get back to you. This is not a hard test to give to a YWAM ministry, but it can tell a lot. Don’t pass over a YWAM base if they don’t get back to you within 30 seconds of inquiring. But if you haven’t heard from them after a week, or even two, maybe it’s time to keep looking.

When they get back to you, does it seem like there’s a real person on the other side of the line? We can all smell a pre-written marketing email a mile away. Have they taken the time to reach out to you personally? Have they called you on the phone? Communication isn’t everything when it comes to the health of a YWAM ministry, but it can be a quick litmus test for how well they embrace the YWAM Foundational Values.

Podcast Tips to inspire


All in all, these are just helpful points to consider. The real gold standard for choosing the best YWAM DTS location is prayer. If in prayer, God leads you to a YWAM DTS location, then it trumps all of these things we’ve discussed in this article. These things may confirm what God is speaking to you, but don’t let them pull you away from the direct leading of the Good Shepherd. He knows the condition of your heart and which ministry is best equipped to further your walk with Him. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
-Proverbs 3:5-6

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October 19, 2020
January 1, 2030
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