Your DTS Guide
From how to choose a DTS
to what DTS life looks like
and how to prepare for your DTS.
Here is everything you want to know about DTS!
What is a DTS?
A Discipleship Training School, or DTS for short, is a 5-6 month missions school with two goals: knowing God and making Him known. It is an immersive, communal training program that will help you to know God more deeply and live more like Jesus, all while you explore missions and your calling.
DTS equips you to carry a missional mindset and bring the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, to various nations, peoples, tribes, and languages – not just during your DTS, but also on into the rest of your life.
Who is DTS for?
The short answer, everyone! The majority of people choose to do their DTS between the ages of 18 and 26, but don't worry if you fall outside of this range. DTS is open to people of all ages, whether you're older or younger.
There are more than 600 YWAM locations world-wide and loads of specialized DTSs. Did you know there is a Cowboy DTS, an Deaf World DTS that runs in ASL and JSL, Family DTSs specifically designed with all ages in mind, a Legacy DTS for those in their 50s, 60s, 70+ There have been DTSs run in prisons and there are DTSs on ships.
There is really no limit to where you can meet with God or who God can speak to.
Don't get overwhelmed with all the options, we will help you choose the best DTS for you in the next section.
Is a DTS worth my time and money?
That's up to you to decide. Here is what Jonathan had to say about his DTS…
I never imagined that this time would impact me so much! I got to know God better and myself. In DTS I discovered my calling and stepped more and more into what God has planned for my life.
- Jonathan, 19 (Germany), DTS Student
Hey Daniel, why did you do DTS?
I wanted to grow closer to God and get a deeper foundation for my faith. I didn't want to start Uni without being in line with my purpose.
- Daniel, 19 from New Zealand, Spain & Germany
Choosing a DTS
So you already know you want to attend a Discipleship Training School (DTS), but you’re in the process of finding the one for you. I know it can be overwhelming and intimidating because you want to make sure you’re making the right decision - these are the next six months of your life after all ;)
Is every DTS the same? Are they all good?
Each DTS is unique. Even if you're going to the same DTS in the same location your best friend went to last year, it's going to be different. God is calling together a specific group of people to a specific time and place, each with their own stories and passions and callings, but all for the same purpose. It's a once in a lifetime moment.
WHere is the best DTS?
There are some great places to do a DTS…and some that are not so great. Beyond comparing the various Instagram accounts, here are 3 things to look for when deciding on a YWAM location to do your DTS.
What is the vision of the YWAM center you are thinking about doing a DTS with? What are they all about? What outreach projects do they have? It's important that you feel like you fit and are excited with the vision of the YWAM center. If you're looking to go on a specific kind of outreach project, make sure the YWAM base has that type of ministry or works with that particular group of people. If that YWAM location doesn’t work with a specific people or have the focus you are looking for... make sure that they are a place that gives room for NEW things to happen!
Look for a YWAM center that is innovative, creative, and loves stepping out in obedience to what God is speaking. After all, Darlene Cunningham (the co-founder of YWAM) defines YWAM as:
"YWAM is young people going everywhere, doing new things in creative and different ways."
- Darlene Cunningham
If YWAM is all about young people going everywhere, doing new things in creative and different ways, like Darlene says... there better not only be young people at a YWAM center, but young people being released in leadership and responsibility. When we say young we mean roughly under 25.
A YWAM center that makes space for the younger generation, makes space for growth and creativity. If a DTS is all about growing with God, it is important to know that there is space to make mistakes and not be perfect. A YWAM center without young people often lacks the ability for people to "go and do NEW things in new ways."
QUALITY IN COMMUNICATION
Find a YWAM center that is communicating and sharing about what they are doing! And a YWAM location that answers your messages in helpful ways!
What is this YWAM location talking about on social media? What is they writing in their newsletters? How helpful is their email communication?
If a YWAM center is not talking about its programs or projects, it might not be a place where anything is happening. A YWAM center with nothing happening... is not a great place to do a DTS. A YWAM location with quality communication shows what it is doing, the lives it is impacting, and helps you get an idea of what your DTS will be like and what sorts of projects you will have the opportunity to work with.
Hannah, why did you do DTS?
Honestly, I needed to get away from my parents (they know), to reconnect with faith and figure out what to do with my life.
- Hannah, 18 from New Zealand
How to apply for DTS
- Go to the website of the YWAM location you want to attend.
- Find the APPLY button and fill out the online application.
- Talk to your reference people. Your references could be your small group leader, pastor, close friend, sibling, teacher, etc. Talk with them about why you want to do DTS and give them the link to the reference form.
- Wait to hear back from the DTS team. If you are applying at YWAM Nuremberg the wait will only be a day or two - we just need to hear from your reference people first.
What does DTS Look Like?
DTS is an immersive, communal training program typically split into two phases, lecture and outreach.
While that sounds like we study during the first half and serve in the second half, in reality the two phases are much more blended with training, practical experience, inputs and outreach throughout the whole DTS. The program structure of DTS is a live-learn environment. Meaning we not only learn together in a classroom setting, but also from each other as we share meals, ideas, talents and spaces. It's about learning and growing in character as well as wisdom.
We will be coming from different nations, cultures, denominations and generations, all gathered around a common focus and goal: knowing God more deeply and making Him known in all spaces and places.
Lecture/teaching/training phase, it can be called different things, but it's the first half of DTS and it's all about the mind and the heart. Most often these weeks will be onsite at the YWAM Center. A typical lecture phase is about 3 months long.
These weeks are packed full of great learning and serving opportunities that will allow you to grow into deeper dependence and relationship with Jesus.
What to expect?
- 12 hours of teaching each week, 16 in a bilingual DTS
- To be both challenged and encouraged by the teachings
- Daily times of worship, prayer and meeting with God
- To hear from God and gain understanding of His call for our life
- Living in community, "Wait. Where will I be living?"
- Small groups and one-on-ones to help you reflect and connect what you're learning to what God is doing in your life
Breakfast and Time with God
Developing a rhythm of meeting with God will carry you through DTS and beyond. Use this time to process with God what you're learning, speak and listen to Him in prayer, sit with Him in stillness. This might be one of the simplest parts of the day, but also one of the richest.
Worship in a missions school? Yes! Absolutely! There is something so powerful about singing together and gaining God's heart for His people, all people!
Other days this could be an intercession time, where we pray together for a nation or people group, a workshop or community event.
Teaching with Guest Speaker
Each week a different person will share from their experience and knowledge about who God is, life with Him and missions.
It is the most formal part of the day but is always interactive with room for dialogue and questions. Don't worry we won't just sit in chairs for 3 hours straight ;)
We all come together at lunchtime to eat, yes, but also community is built over meals. This is the best time of the day to discuss the morning's teaching with the speaker, or share life experiences with your classmates, or dream together about what God might be calling you into. Good food and good conversation, that makes a good lunch.
One part of living in community is working together to keep our spaces clean and contributing to the running of the community. Maybe you'll be sweeping the dining room, washing the front windows, prepping tomorrow's lunch, cleaning bathrooms, or going on the legendary "Bread Run." You'll also be practicing leadership, growing in responsibility, teamwork and communication.
We don't just wait for Outreach Phase to share Jesus. There are people around us in need of the Gospel wherever we are! Local Outreach could be speaking in a youth group, praying for someone at the train station, playing soccer with teens in the neighborhood, teaching an art class for refugee kids, the possibilities are endless!
Other afternoons we might have small groups, outreach team prep, workshops or activities. If your DTS has a track or special focus that might come out more strongly in these types of activities.
We always eat dinner together as a DTS and sometimes we make a bigger deal about it by cooking together and sharing culture, food and traditions from our home nations.
Community life doesn't end with scheduled programming...it's up to you and your fellow DTS students to create what the free times outside the schedule become.
What about the weekends?
During lecture phase, most weekends are typically free (at least at YWAM Nuremberg, but each DTS creates its own schedule and rhythms). Use the weekend how you feel you need to relax, recover and re-energize.
Maybe you need to recover from the week by doing your laundry and sorting your thoughts. Or you've been itching to spend hours outside biking along the river - cool! Or you could get to know the city by going to a cafe and museum with your roommates. Need more adventure? There are tons of train connections through Nuremberg, spend the day in the Frankenjura or the weekend in Salzburg or Berlin. Do whatever gets you ready for a new week of teaching and growing!
Who Teaches in DTS?
Each week new guest speakers come in to teach in the DTS classroom.
These speakers are not only theoretical experts on the topics, they live out what they teach. We will learn together from a variety of teachers whose stories and insights bring not only head knowledge, but life transformation.
Who are they?
A mixture of local and international - missionaries, ministry leaders and pastors - younger and older - some working in YWAM others working in other Christian ministries and networks.
They come from different contexts and some of our guest speakers may even contradict each other on certain points - and that’s okay!
Hearing from people from different church backgrounds and with different theological views gives us all the opportunity to think carefully and critically. To really dig in and process, discover and articulate what we believe, rather than accepting everything we hear as an untouchable truth.
Questions are welcome in the classroom and having the speakers come to us to teach means that there are many opportunities to sit down over lunch or with a coffee to ask your questions and delve into the topics more!
What do they teach about?
A whole bunch of different things! Here are some potential topics in your DTS:
- How to hear God's voice
- Intimacy with Jesus
- How to encounter God in the Bible
- The Kingdom of God
- Holy Spirit and His gifts
- How to renew your mind
- The power of prayer and intercession
- How to share the Gospel
- Repentance and forgiveness
- Worldviews and what is a Biblical one
- Discovering your gifts and calling
- The Great Commission/Missions Mandate
What do the DTS staff do?
While the speakers come and go each week, the DTS staff are with you through the whole DTS! They are the ones setting up this whole DTS and preparing for your arrival. They will be leading the classroom, small groups and local outreach, and involved in all things DTS.
You'll get paired with a staff member for one-on-one discipleship, basically this is just another opportunity reflection and processing to help you grow throughout the DTS. There will be a whole mix of internal and external processors in the DTS.
All YWAM staff members have completed a DTS - so your staff not only have DTS training but their own DTS experiences to draw from. They've all been in your shoes ;)
Your DTS staff will also become your outreach leaders for the second half of DTS, Outreach Phase!
Outreach phase is the second half of DTS and it’s all about reaching out to people with the love of Jesus! This is where we really get to put into practice what we’ve been learning all throughout lecture phase. All while continuing to learn about the diversity of cultures and God’s purposes for the places you’ll visit and people you will meet. A typical oureach phase is 2 months long.
There is a whole world of outreach locations! Some DTSs will have already decided where the outreach will go, others will share the outreach locations after you arrive. As YWAM Nuremberg we typically take our outreach teams to the 10/40 Window because that’s where the need is the greatest. Some possible locations include: Nepal, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Thailand, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and Kenya. What is the 10/40 Window?
Who decides the locations? How do they/we decide?
The outreach locations are chosen by the missionaries at the YWAM location running the DTS. A combination of prayer, talking with long-term missionaries in the possible countries, current events, and long-term strategy of the YWAM location all come together when deciding where to send DTS outreach teams. Often YWAM locations send outreach teams to the some of the same countries year after year. This can be a really cool way to continuously pour into a nation or people group and really helps when building relationship with long-term missionaries in that region. It’s so neat to go back to a neighborhood and see the impact of the seeds planted by the DTS team the year before!
When will I know where I’m going?
Sometimes the outreach location is already defined by the focus of the DTS, for example a Summer Olympics DTS would be going to Paris in 2024 or a DTS with YWAM Ships would be likely be going to the Pacific Islands or at least somewhere coastal. But more often the outreach locations are not known from the name of the DTS. In both cases there was a process in deciding where to send a team.
How you find out the locations looks different in each DTS, but most often the outreach locations will be announced in the first few weeks of DTS. Maybe there’s just one location and everyone is going there or maybe there will be seven different teams and seven locations. When there are multiple options what usually happens is something like this… In the first couple weeks of the DTS you will learn about hearing God’s voice, and this is a time to practice that! In prayer you’ll ask God for direction on where you should go for outreach (usually the location options would already be announced). You’ll share what you felt with the DTS staff team. And then the DTS leaders will put all the pieces together, pray and create the outreach teams.
It can feel like a high pressure moment and you might be feeling all sorts of emotions, but take a breath and remember, God’s heart is for every person on earth, He is already at work in every nation and He will go with you no matter what country that might be!
Are the DTS outreach locations safe?
There is always and element of risk when traveling internationally. You will travel with your outreach team, your outreach leaders will have made housing arrangements and prior plans with missionaries working on the field in the outreach nations.
The YWAM DTS leadership takes your safety very seriously especially during the outreach phase. We are constantly reading about what is happening in the region and talk with missionaries working in the area to determine risk factors. If something does come up before or during the outreach, YWAM is very quick to respond and ensure the safety of every member of the outreach team.
If one of the outreach locations is considered high risk, there will also be a lower risk location available too.
A Typical Day in DTS Outreach Phase
Since outreaches are in a wide variety of countries and cultures, an average day on one team might look totally different to the other, but to give you an idea, a day on outreach could look something like this:
Wake Up and Personal Quiet Time
Developing a rhythm of meeting with God will carry you through DTS and beyond. Use this time to process with God what you're experiencing, speak and listen to Him in prayer, sit with Him in stillness. This might be one of the simplest parts of the day, but also one of the richest.
Breakfast and Team Time
Every day after breakfast your team gathers. You are sharing today's devotional and then your outreach leader reminds everyone of the plans for the day. As a team you spend time in prayer for the nation.
Renovating a Community Center
The community center got a new roof, now to finish up the renovation the rooms need cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. You team helps finish up this project.
We still eat our meals together on outreach. The style of food might be something different but connecting over mealtimes in an important part of community in every culture.
Next week programming starts up again at the community center. Your team will run a soccer camp as well as English classes. You spend an hour preparing your lessons and the messages you will share with the groups.
You're all still sweaty and covered in paint from the morning's activity at the community center. You take the rest of the afternoon to rest and freshen up for the evening events.
Dinner with Local Pastor
Dinner tonight is at a local pastor's house. You meet the family and hear about the growth the church is experiencing among the refugee community.
Worship and Prayer Meeting
After dinner your team heads over with the pastor to the church. Your teams is leading the weekly worship and prayer meeting.
Connecting with Local Believers
After the prayer meeting your team stays around to chat with some of the local church members. You hear about their excitement for the reopening of the community center and how has impacted the local community.
What will we do on outreach?
Again this totally depends on where you are, what is possible and what missionaries and churches your team is working with.
Debrief after Outreach
Debriefing, processing, or reflecting on major experiences in our lives can bring closure and so much more depth to the learning and personal changes that took place. After DTS outreach there will always be a few days of debrief. These days are lead by a debriefer, someone from outside your outreach team, who is there to listen and ask questions. They will walk your team through times of reflection on all that happened, celebration of what God did, conflict resolution (if needed), and opportunities to share growth you’ve seen in yourself and one another.
And after DTS? What’s next?! 👉 Live out your calling!
Mona, why did you do DTS?
I did DTS after university to travel a bit before getting stuck in the day-to-day of work.
I did not expect that going on a mission trip to Ethiopia would redirect my career path and sharpen my understanding of purpose in my life.
- Mona, from Germany
Preparing for Your DTS
After you've applied and been accepted into a DTS you'll receive an "Acceptance Packet" or something along those lines. This will include the specific information you need to prepare for your DTS.
Here's a quick checklist of things to do to prepare for you DTS:
- communicate with your pastors/mentors about your DTS
- fundraise for your DTS
- figure out your health insurance
- pick your emergency contact person
- get all of your needed immunizations
- get your passport, double check the expiration date!
- book your flights! (and trains, buses, etc.)
- pack your bags
You probably have a ton of questions about DTS. You're not alone! Here are the answers to a bunch of frequently asked questions. And hey, if you have another question, shoot us a message and ask!
1. How do I apply for DTS?
2. Is there an application fee?
3. When is the application deadline?
4. How will I know if I've been accepted?
5. Why haven't I heard back about my application?
6. Is there an age requirement to attend?
7. Do I have to come from a Christian background to do DTS?
8. How long do I have to have been a Christian to do DTS?
9. Do I need to be Christian to do DTS?
10. What if I don't have any missionary experience?
11. What if I don't speak English?
1. Can I do DTS if I'm married and/or have kids?
2. Can I bring my children to DTS? Can families do DTS?
3. Can I do DTS without my spouse and/or kids?
4. Does DTS cost extra for a family?
5. Can single parents do DTS?
6. Is there childcare available?
7. Can I start dating during DTS?
8. What if I'm already dating or engaged before DTS?
1. How much does a YWAM DTS cost?
2. Why does the price of DTS vary so much?
3. Why is YWAM DTS so expensive?
4. What don't DTS fees cover?
5. When are payments due?
6. How do I pay?
7. What is the refund policy?
8. What if I do not have all my DTS fees?
9. Are there any scholarships or financial assistance available?
10. Can people give towards my DTS fees?
11. Is DTS tuition tax-deductible?
12. How can I raise money for my DTS?
13. Can I work during the DTS?
1. Is housing provided during DTS?
2. What is the housing like?
3. Can I live off-campus if I want to?
4. Can I bring my pet?
5. Is food provided?
6. What does an average day look like?
7. How many hours of class will I have?
8. How much homework will I have?
9. What is "work duty" and how much of it do I have to do?
10. Will I get time off during DTS?