YWAM DTS vs. Bible School – 4 Key Differences
October 19, 2020 - January 1, 2030
1) Finding Your Tribe
“I did DTS about 25 years ago in the tiny Central American nation of Belize. I had no idea what I was getting into really, but I knew very soon that I had found my tribe. I think that’s probably the biggest difference between my experience of seminary (I did graduate classes through Trinity Evangelical School a long time after I did DTS). I learned a lot of things in both, but in DTS, I found my people.
2) Styles of Learning – Informational vs. Transformational
I loved my seminary classes. I’m a total Bible nerd and learning more about the Bible always brings me joy. What struck me when I did seminary though, was how good the quality of my Bible training was within YWAM. It wasn’t always as scholarly (although I was taught by true scholars a few times as well), but it was always focused on application. Seminary gave me a ton of information, but no professor ever thought to tell me how it ought to be affecting my life. And no professor ever prayed for me, ever personally challenged me, ever ministered to me, at least not to my heart – only to my mind.
I was challenged over and over again in DTS to think about the kind of person I was becoming. I was constantly pointed back to obedience to Jesus and walking with Him. My relationship with Him was pointed out to me over and over again as the single most important focus of my life. And it wasn’t just taught from the front. It was what everyone around me was trying to do. Sometimes we failed in that goal spectacularly, but then we had the opportunity to repent and get it right the next time. And we did.
3) Learning Environment – Institutional vs. Live/Learn
I lived 24/7 with my DTS classmates. There was no getting away from them in fact, even when I really wanted to. Seminary was sitting in rows listening to a smart guy talk. I chatted with my fellow students during breaks, but I didn’t form an actual relationship with a single person. That wasn’t the purpose. In DTS, I sat in classes with my fellow students, I mopped floors with them, I ate meals with them. All of the women students slept in the same one-room eight-sided hut on stilts. We worshiped, prayed, fought, laughed, played endless games, even got sick together. All of it together. We challenged each other to be everything God wanted us to be. We were passionate about Jesus and about reaching people. We suffered together on outreach. We ate weird things together. We counted mosquito bites together. We saw Jesus show up in amazing ways that we did not expect in amazing places like Cuba. We saw revival break out in a high school in rural Belize. We failed utterly in Orange Walk Town when we didn’t have our relationships right when we went out to minister. You don’t forget experiences like that. They mark you. They change you.
4) Cross Cultural Experiences
I guess the final difference I see between YWAM DTS and seminary was that I experienced first hand that other people live differently from me. Not only were half of my DTS classmates NOT North Americans (like me), but all of our outreach was among people who had lives nothing like mine. I learned so much from them. I was so impressed by the complete joyful abandon with which the Cuban Christians worshiped Jesus out of their complete poverty and oppression. And everything we learned in the classroom was for the blessing of the nations. No one in seminary ever thought of applying what we learned in the nations. It just wasn’t really discussed.
I’d say both YWAM DTS and Bible school have their place. Sure, go to Bible school. But do a DTS first. It gets into your DNA, and you can’t ever think the same way again. At least I couldn’t.”
As you can see, a YWAM DTS and a Bible school both aim to equip believers with the tools they need to follow Jesus authentically and whole-heartedly. However, they go about accomplishing that goal very differently.
If you’re at the stage in your walk where you’re confidently doing life with Jesus, surrendered to His will, and joyfully pursuing your calling, then maybe Bible college is better suited for the stage of life you’re in. However, if you’re ready to establish your relationship with God on firm ground, learn how to surrender to Jesus and put those nagging sin issues behind you (for good!), and have an incredible cross-cultural experience while you’re at it, then a YWAM DTS is definitely for you.
*Disclaimer: We acknowledge that this is one person’s experience, and that no two experiences are completely alike. There are many people who’ve had transformational experiences in Bible College/Seminary contexts, and even some people who’ve had very difficult experiences in a YWAM context. Our goal is not to criticize, but simply to highlight the general differences we’ve noticed in the approaches taken by these two common post-secondary opportunities for young Christians, and to help you discern which path is generally going to be a better fit for you in your current season of life.
“Before DBS the Bible was a bit overwhelming to me and I wasn’t sure if I was capable of receiving understanding for myself; especially when it comes to the hard questions or more complex passages. After DBS, that questioning was stripped away and my relationship with my Heavenly Father has gone deeper than ever before.
DBS taught me how to see the Father heart of God. I learned to see God’s justice, faithfulness, and consistency from Genesis to Revelation. My life and relationship with Jesus will never be the same. When I read God’s Word it speaks loudly to me in full color. I cannot get enough of my Father’s words!! DBS equipped me to search out the scriptures for myself and empower me to share what I’ve learned with those around me. DBS was the sweetest time of my entire life.”
“This is the craziest stream ever, not just doing fun activities, but the people I was with; they are wild as! Throughout the school, I’ve learned so much from the Bible that doing life with God and living my life on the edge is so much more interesting.”
“I decided to do a DBS because I wanted to know as much about the Bible as I could. And yes, I learned a lot about the Bible, the historical background and so on. But my biggest gain from the DBS was to learn and see the Bible come alive and active in my own life. The Bible used to be a boring book to me, with a bunch of unrelatable stories and letters. During DBS I got to know how to apply God’s Word to my life and how to be discipled, transformed and guided by it. My life changed so much through that and is still changing. I believe that’s what the Bible is for, to lead us closer to God and to help us to become more like Him.”
“The Medical Compassion DTS gave me a glimpse into the medical side or missions. The compassion part was what caught me. I saw that when we see with Jesus’ eyes of genuine compassion, we must get our hands dirty.”
“Prayer and Passion completely changed my outlook on the true power that prayer has. It had always been something that I knew worked and I did, but it was boring. Being a part of this stream gave me new understanding of how prayer is worship and fuels the power of heaven connecting with earth. It will move you to a place of praying out of your relationship with the Lord rather than giving him a list of things you want. You will gain a newfound intimacy with God as your prayer life is propelled.”
“The GoPac Stream challenged me to broaden my view for the people around me, to step out of my comfort zone, and to expand the love that God has put inside of my heart, to love Him and others more.”
“My life used to be run by my fears, my struggles, and my failures. I had no way of fighting them because I didn’t know the truth. Over my time with YWAM and beyond, I have encountered so much freedom as God has shown me the truth of who He is in His Word. Dive into the Bible on Cover to Cover and watch God transform you as He begins to show you who He really is and who you were really made to be.”
“I have just finished my Worship DTS at Marine Reach NZ.
When I signed up for the worship DTS I thought it was just about praising God. It’s about the role we play as worship leaders, it about how you lead the worship session, when to pray, and when and how you end. I recommend the Worship DTS to everyone who is inspired by the worship at your home church.”
“We had been married for 5 years when we came to Marine Reach. As a married couple, we learned a lot about each other and ourselves and gained a lot for our marriage. What we enjoyed most during the GO PAC stream times was the mix between the depth we dove into God’s Word, getting to know His plan for us better, and the times thinking and learning about the interesting Pacific cultures. We think it is so important to get to know new cultures. At the base, there are many different cultures, but you really want to get to know the one culture where you live and where you’re going on outreach. We experienced that when spiritual basics are understood with the heart and not only with the mind, that is what brings change into your daily life, and that is what you can carry home after DTS.“
“Wild at Heart? Yes, of course! But whatever adventure I went for, I wanted to be the one in control. During my DTS, God changed my heart to go wild with Him. I learned to trust in God and that I don’t have to be in charge, as long as I know the One who is!”