YWAM Calling

Welcome to the Communications, Misunderstood tour, where I offer unsolicited advice on the communications strategies of different missionary initiatives.  I’d like to start  with an organization with an unquestionable track record of missions sending.

This year, Youth With A Mission celebrates 50 years of sending young, mostly untrained, volunteer missionaries around the world. These guys have the reputation of being radical– while other groups are making plans and raising money, YWAMers (as they like to be called) will be among the first to move into an area and make the most of every opportunity.

Why start with YWAM? Because they have put a lot of work into establishing channels of communication. There are lots of groups with bad websites and no plan. But communication is much more than having a cool website (they do) or using Twitter (nearly every day). YWAM is the sort of organization that doesn’t have to dream up stories to tell– they’re out there making new ones every day.

While YWAM is certainly getting the job done on the field, their survival as an organization depends on their ability to communicate with their supporters, recruit new volunteers, and raise awareness of the tremendous need for what they do. This is a big job, because YWAM does just about everything a missions agency can do, from Mercy Ships medical ministries to discipleship training courses to sports ministries.

Entry into closed-access countries they can do. Building a fiercely loyal family of unstoppable volunteer missionaries, no problem. YWAM’s biggest challenge is how to communicate with supporters and potential missionaries all that they’re seeing God do among the peoples of the world.

Before we evaluate YWAM’s approach to communications, I want to point out the value of its people. As an organization of 16,000, YWAM doesn’t just have a single voice, it has thousands. Add in alumni, supporters, and lives touched, and they have the potential to saturate the media with stories of God’s global activity. The potential is tremendous.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at YWAM’s website, ywam.org.

2 thoughts on “YWAM Calling

  1. I’ll be interested in this series. The one thing that I would mention at this point is that YWAM’s survival as an organization really doesn’t depend on its organizational communication. YWAM as an organization doesn’t really have centralized communication. YWAM is a swarm. There is no centralized receipting of gifts for example, thus no centralized fundraising letters etc. YWAM as an organization doesn’t formally exist – it’s not registered anywhere – it is a shared idea…

  2. Justin,
    You’re right about YWAM’s decentralized structure. But this has increasingly become a problem for the organization. If anyone can start any sort of ministry and call it YWAM, there really isn’t any consistency of mission or message at all. That’s why they’ve recently had to revisit their corporate licensing agreement. The original ministry is, in fact, a registered non-profit organization in the State of California.

    The plurality of ministries operating under the name YWAM underscores the need for the organization to have a comprehensive communication strategy. Someone decides what goes on each of YWAM’s websites. How do they decide what to talk about? What does it mean to be part of YWAM? How should the individuals who are associated with the group communicate with their supporters? These are the questions I’d like to discuss.

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