For Parents: Answers to Your Questions about DTS

If you’re reading this, your child is probably considering a Discipleship Training School with YWAM.


If that’s true, the following may be true as well:

You have a few reservations about this YWAM thing, because, well, you’re a good parent. And good parents ask questions.

If that’s you, then you’re in the right place.


My name is Dave. My wife and I have worked with YWAM since the late 90s.

We’ve had our 3 oldest children leave home to attend DTS and our 4th child is planning on DTS this summer. Even though we currently staff with YWAM and fully believe in its purpose, my wife and I have wrestled with seeing our own children leave our care and trusting that a group of ‘youth’ can look after them like we have.


As a parent of 3 DTS students, I’ve definitely had questions. The following are some of the struggles my wife and I have had about releasing our children into YWAM, and some of the things we’ve learned along the way. I hope these answers put your mind at rest as your own child considers a Discipleship Training School.

Are the overseas outreach locations safe? What about closed countries?


My wife and I learned as parents to trust God and YWAM leadership regarding both the choice of outreach location and the day-to-day events that take place. We had to remind ourselves that God is better than we are at protecting our children and giving them the experiences needed for spiritual growth. Every time a DTS begins, there are staff who set aside their entire week-to-week schedule to focus on the discipleship and well-being of the students. 


What exactly does that look like? That means they help out with shopping runs, host them for the holidays on occasion, process the DTS experience for long hours, and are practically on call as a mentor and friend for 5+ full months. This same commitment even carries over onto the outreach portion of the DTS. The staff are signed up to look after your child’s emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being, believing each aspect is equally important.

Of course, when traveling internationally there’s an element of risk. Entire overseas locations have been changed two weeks before flying due to safety risks at the original destination. No one in YWAM wants to endanger students, and we’ve witnessed that firsthand as our 3 children have completed DTS. Rest assured that when they go, they will partner with long-term missionaries, churches, and established organizations. Orientation for culture and ministry is given shortly after arrival to help eliminate risks that are unnecessary.


What happens if my child gets sick?


In life (and DTS) injuries and sickness happen. When those situations arise, YWAM staff jump into the role of caring parents. Knowing that staff will do everything they can to care for our kids’ needs is reassuring. I have witnessed over the years how YWAM staff have sat tirelessly in hospitals with students who have sprained ankles or gotten stomach sickness from overseas food. YWAM staff make sure to know where the nearest embassy, hospital, or clinic are in case of emergency.


How much money will my child need during DTS?


Every need is covered (including every meal of the week), apart from laundry and toiletries. It’s helpful to have some extra money for outings with friends or to practice generosity when a need arises for another DTS student.

*At YWAM Louisville, one of the first steps for outreach fundraising is sending a newsletter. We ask that each student has at least 100 street addresses to send their newsletters to. This is also a personal expense.

If your child is raising money for DTS, here are 10 easy steps that can help them raise money for their mission trip.

Can I talk to my child while they’re in DTS?

We had many meaningful conversations with each of our children during both their Campus Phase and Outreach Phase. On outreach, WiFi is limited but during their Campus Phase, they always had access to the internet. It was important to hear directly from them what they were learning and what God was doing in their hearts.


How can I best support my child while they are in DTS?


Pray for them, provide emotional support, and remind them they are loved and appreciated for the decision they’ve made to do DTS. Another way you can show support is to keep your church, friends, and family up to date with news of what your child is experiencing. This will reinforce how proud you are of your child for investing this time in missions training and gaining an understanding of God’s plan for their life.

A wonderful gift of some homemade cookies helps, too (if there is enough to share it may bless more kids than just your own).


How does DTS set my child up for future success?


For our children, DTS helped them to be faithful in representing Jesus in every area of life. At college, the workplace, church, or in their friend groups, our children began to share the love of Christ. They had a much deeper Biblical perspective on life and were more prepared to face both the social and academic temptations of college. They knew their identities in Jesus and could stand up to the challenges on today’s college campuses.

For more information on the benefits of taking a gap year before entering college, check out this study.


What is the course load and how is my child assessed?


The DTS is a pass-fail program within the University of the Nations, and the academic load is light compared to a more traditional college. Your child will be assigned 3-4 books to read with a simple book report for each one. They’ll be expected to memorize parts of Scripture and reading the entire New Testament is also assigned. That makes up approximately 5 hours of homework per week.

A traditional Bible college primarily offers an academic, in-depth study into the Bible with a considerable amount of homework. In contrast, DTS offers missionary training to help your child effectively advance the Gospel wherever they go. It accomplishes inner transformation through hands-on training in a discipleship focused, live-learn atmosphere. 


How will my child get around if they don’t bring a car?


The YWAM campus transports students for DTS events. YWAM staff and students often give those who don’t have a car a ride to church or other locations.

Remember my three kids that did DTS? Here’s a snapshot of what they did after they graduated:


  • Our oldest went to university and is currently running his own teaching business along with pursuing music as a way to reach this generation with the Gospel.
  • Our second went to university for sports before DTS, but later admitted he wished he had done DTS before pursuing college. He’s hoping to start Bible college soon.
  • Our third joined staff with YWAM for two years before pursuing nursing school as a way to travel for the Gospel.


What do you think my fourth kid will accomplish with God after DTS? What do you think God will call her to in DTS?


My children say that even after growing up in a Christian home, it took getting away and doing a DTS to fully understand everything my wife and I had been instilling in them. The DTS was a much-needed season to grasp who God was to them, not just to mom and dad. The DTS not only reinforced our years of parenting from when they were young but also served as a crucial opportunity for our kids as independent adults to pursue God and become who He created them to be.


As a Christian parent, the most important thing is that my children know God and realize how to make Him known to others. After DTS, they understood that. They understood how to fully become who God created them to be and freely bring joy to His heart.


And that brings joy to my heart, too.

About the Author

Dave nettles author bio

Dave and Kathryn Nettles joined YWAM in 1993. After living as missionaries in Eastern Europe, they joined staff at YWAM Orlando in 2002. They help young people realize their full potential in Jesus and advance the Gospel wherever they go. They have four children.