YWAM Louisville's Mission is to be a family of missionaries multiplying, equipping, and launching faithful leaders who actively fulfill the great commission
What is YWAM?
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is a global movement of Christians from many cultures, age groups, and Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world. Also known as YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), we unite in a common purpose to know God and to make Him known.
Back when we began in 1960, our main focus was to get youth involved in missions. Today, we still focus on youth, and we also involve people aged 9 to 90. We currently have tens of thousands of staff (called “YWAMers”) and we work in thousands of teams and locations.
One of the joys of participating in YWAM is to work with people from many nations. YWAM’s staff come from nearly every country in the world, including places like Indonesia, Nepal, Mozambique, and Colombia.
Where Did YWAM Begin?
It all began with a vision. In June of 1956, Loren Cunningham (the founder of YWAM), spent a part of his summer break in Nassau, Bahamas touring with a singing group. One night after a busy day, Loren had an unusual experience. “I lay down on the bed,” he recalled, “doubled the pillow under my head and opened my Bible, routinely asking God to speak into my mind. What happened next was far from routine. Suddenly, I was looking up at a map of the world. Only the map was alive, moving! I sat up. I shook my head, rubbed my eyes. It was a mental movie. I could see all the continents. Waves were crashing onto the shores. Each went onto a continent, then receded, then came up further until it covered the continent completely. I caught my breath. Then, as I watched, the scene changed. The waves became young people–kids my age and even younger–covering the continents. They were talking to people on the street corners and outside bars. They were going house to house. They were preaching. ‘Was that really you, Lord?’ I wondered, still staring at the wall, amazed. Young people–kids really–going out as missionaries! What an idea! And I thought ‘Why did God give me this vision?’”
For more on the start of YWAM and Loren Cunningham, read his book: Is That Really You God?
YWAM Louisville Is A Part of That Wave
YWAM Louisville was birthed out of that vision. It began as a dream in the heart of God, a dream that he began stirring in Andy and Carmelita Landers challenging them to risk something new for him. At the time they were serving in a role they loved at another established YWAM training center. Pioneering a new ministry was neither in their plan nor their comfort zone. The more they prayed and asked, “God, is this really you?” the more they sensed him saying, “Yes!”
With the blessing of their leaders at YWAM Nashville, they began inviting others to join the dream. In the fall of 2006, our core team of nine YWAM staff came together. At the time they didn’t even know where they were going; all they knew was that God was calling them to create a missionary community that launched others into pursuing their own God-given dreams. As they sought the Lord together, it became clear that he was sending them to Louisville, Kentucky.
Started Training in 2007
After a season of preparation, in February of 2007 YWAM Louisville was commissioned at the annual gathering of YWAM’s southeast district. At that point we didn’t even have a place to live in Louisville! But one thing God kept assuring us from his Word was that he would provide “houses we did not build” just like He did for Israel (Dt. 6:10-11). And he did just that: a few weeks later we moved in and got to work.
That first year we hosted mission trips for several church groups and launched our first Discipleship Training School. Since that time our staff family has grown, our schools and outreach programs have multiplied, and our student enrollment has threatened to outnumber our bunkbeds. We’ve now lived in several “houses we did not build,” and we’ve seen God provide for our teams to minister all over the world. We’ve sent some of our staff to minister long-term in unreached nations and we’ve expanded the ways we share Jesus locally.
We’ve come a long way. But there’s still so much more that God has for us.
“The dream is about more than a new YWAM base; the dream is about a missionary community – a place where we not only work together, but where we pursue the face of God together. The dream is of being a ‘family army’ where we deeply love one another and furiously fight our battles together, and where God speaks to us and leads us in victories together.
“The dream is about thousands of people who come here to learn the ways of God and then find that they meet Him face to face in a new and real way. The dream is about teenagers whose lives will never be the same. Here they will hear the call to live the life of surrender and adventure and they will say to Jesus, ‘Yes, take my life and spend it for Your pleasure.’ The dream is about our staff and students being friends with sinners and being ‘priests’ to our community. The dream is about spinning off many new ministries from our missionary community, raising up young leaders and thrusting them ahead into their own dreams.
“Of course, the dream is about the Great Commission. The Lord Jesus, King and Creator of the universe, has given us a wonderful task to complete – a task that He's already shed His blood to make possible. The result of our faithfulness to the task will be men, women, and children from every tribe and tongue and people and nation worshiping around the throne of God.
“Now the terrifying part: it’s a huge dream. It’s way too big for us. Pioneering is hard work. We’ve never done it before. It may take a couple of years just to get things off the ground. There are lots of unknowns and lots of opportunities to screw things up. We’ll be leaving the security of an already established YWAM base. Are we spiritual enough? What if we let somebody down or miss God somehow? Is this really You, God?
We believe it is; let’s go!”
YWAM is committed to know God, His nature, His character and His ways as revealed in the Bible, the inspired and authoritative Word of God. We seek to reflect who He is in every aspect of our lives and ministry. The automatic overflow of knowing and enjoying fellowship with God is a desire to share Him with others.
Make God Known
YWAM is called to make God known throughout the whole world, and into every arena of society through evangelism, training and mercy ministries. We believe that salvation of souls should result in transformation of societies thus obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations.
Louisville is an entirely different type of Southern.
We take the best of Southern, Midwest and Eastern Appalachian culture and make it our own. Louisville's been called the northernmost city in the South and the southernmost city in the North, but that's just the beginning of its cultural variety. Our city not only hosts the Kentucky Derby (and accompanying festivities, including the Thunder Over Louisville airshow); it's also home to America's oldest free professional Shakespeare festival. It's the home town of Thomas Edison and Jennifer Lawrence as well as Diane Sawyer and Muhammad Ali, boasts an acclaimed concrete skate park and the nation's largest urban forest, and gave birth to the famous Slugger baseball bat, the "Happy Birthday" song, the cheeseburger, and chewing gum.
We aren't just located near Louisville. Our facilities are nestled in a quiet suburb in Louisville's east end, and it won’t be long before you start feeling right at home.
What's Special About YWAM Louisville?
“Community” isn’t just a buzzword for us; it’s a calling that works itself into our day-to-day realities
Share Life Together
We live together in shared homes and enjoy family-style meals together. We also share the responsibilities to take care of those homes and prepare those meals. This isn’t just a way to stretch resources: we believe in working together and offering hospitality.
We share more than space – we also share our lives. That means the fun stuff – a pick-up game of Frisbee on the lawn, a competitive card game, a spontaneous jam session-turned-worship-time, an impromptu dance party.
That also means the tough stuff. The challenges of trusting God for provision for our mission trips. The struggles of walking with Jesus, whether from outward circumstances or inward heart-battles. No matter what we face, we face it together – around here, there’s always someone who will drop everything and pray for you.
Pursue Jesus Together
The heartbeat of our community life is our regular gatherings to pursue Jesus. On Wednesdays we enjoy fellowship, worship, and hearing what the Lord has to say to us. Friday mornings we focus on praying for the nations as God directs us. Throughout the week, small group discussions, class time, team meetings – even coffee breaks and mealtimes – are opportunities for us to come alongside each other as we follow Jesus.
Think this might be the place for you? Come see what it’s really like. Get in touch with us to plan a visit.