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YWAM DTS vs. Bible School – 4 Key Differences

October 19, 2020 - January 1, 2030

YWAM DTS vs. Bible School

YWAM DTS vs. Bible School – 4 Key Differences

YWAM DTS vs. Bible School – 4 Key Differences

If you’re a Christian and you’re weighing up your post-secondary options for how you can grow in your faith, there are likely two options (among many) that have risen to the surface for you: Bible School/College and a YWAM DTS (a cross-cultural Discipleship/Missions experience). Maybe you’ve heard about YWAM from a friend or relative who completed a DTS and returned completely different than when they left. Maybe you’ve visited a local Bible College campus and gotten intrigued by the resources and training they have to offer. Regardless, chances are, if you’re considering both options, you’ve probably wondered how they are similar and how they’re different. We’re here to help.

Below you’ll find a testimony from one of our staff who has completed both a YWAM DTS and has taken graduate level Bible School courses at a seminary in the United States*. The lessons she’s learned are invaluable, and they changed her life. You’ll find that both YWAM DTS and Bible school are valuable, but they serve very different purposes in the life of a believer. Keep reading to find 4 key differences between a YWAM DTS and Bible school and learn more about what your next step may look like.

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.

YWAM DTS Praying for Students
YWAM Marine Reach NZ SPHC School of Primary Health Care

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.

YWAM DTS at Marine Reach

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.

Marine Reach YWAM NZ DTS New Zealand Missions Training


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October 19, 2020
January 1, 2030
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