Discipleship Training School (DTS) is YWAM’s “bread and butter” so-to-speak. The acronym gets thrown around so much, and while you may have heard of this training school before, you may not actually know what it is, or what makes it unique. As a basic definition, DTS is a six month intensive course, made up of three months of lectures and intentional discipleship, followed by three months of cross-cultural missions, in order to be catalyzed in your relationship with God and be equipped for His unique design for your life. During my four years of serving with YWAM, I have been a part of three DTS’s: my own, which I graduated from in August, 2015, Detroit’s first DTS, which I staffed during fall, 2017, and our most recent DTS, fall of 2018, which I had the honor of leading. Each of these experiences have contributed to my growing love for the structure and the purpose of the DTS, and my passion to see young people truly know God and surrender to His transformation in their lives. Allow me to take a moment to share with you three specific reasons why I love DTS!
1 . You Hunger for God
When I arrived in Brisbane, Australia, (February 2015) for my DTS, I’d never seen so many people my age worshipping God out of true love and devotion. Sure, I’d grown up going to church, Sunday school, Christian summer camp and youth group, but this kind of love for God was something totally new to me. Being surrounded by these staff and students stirred in me a deep longing to know God the way they did. This was the first time I was hungry for God.
I can clearly remember the third week of my DTS. Our lecture topic for the week was “The Holy Spirit” and one day, our speaker simply prayed that we would encounter God that morning, and she let Him take over the classroom. Immediately after her prayer, I began weeping and laughing at the same time, totally overwhelmed by the love of God. I looked around the room and acknowledged that many of my fellow students were experiencing the tangible love of God in a similar way. That morning my hunger for God was satisfied and yet deepened even more!
The first reason why I love DTS is because you truly hunger after God. Being a part of a live-learn environment, where your peers are worshipping and seeking God, is both challenging and contagious. You may be skeptical at first, but the beauty of the body of Christ is that the hunger of others stirs up hunger in your own heart. Why not spend six months with people who will encourage you to listen to, seek after and worship God more?
2 . You Develop Character
Character is defined as, “The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” This goes much deeper than our personalities or the things we like or dislike. Character is displayed in the way we respond to people and situations that are difficult, challenging and stressful. Last winter, I was a part of a team of staff and students who went to Lesvos, Greece, for the outreach portion of DTS. While on the small island, we volunteered 40-80 hours a week in an overcrowded refugee hotspot. Everyday we performed a variety of duties to serve the people at the camp who were living in makeshift homes made out of tarps and camping tents. These families did their best to make due with what they had, all while surrounded by mud, disease, cultural tension and filth. Without a doubt, this was the most difficult, challenging and stressful two months of my life.
One of the purposes of the DTS is to inspire and cultivate one’s relationship with God, in order to develop Godly character. You see, while coming face to face with people who have lost everything due to war and violence every day was extremely difficult, God also did some rewarding work in my heart. I had to face discomfort, differences and conflict to develop His character. It's under pressure that my ugly tendencies of pride, anxiety and entitlement were exposed, and it's only when those were uprooted that God began to plant His ways of humility, grace and endurance into my heart.
The field assignment, or outreach portion of the DTS, is an essential part of the course because it the time where, “the rubber hits the road” for students. During outreach you’re not just talking about forgiving one another, serving the poor and needy, or communicating with integrity; you are forgiving your teammates for waking you up at night, you are exhausted from your whole day of building a house for a family who’s never had one, and you are sharing the Gospel with the man you met on the bus. This is when our hearts are most ripe for God’s character to be developed in us, and the fruit is priceless!
3 . You Expand Your Worldview
The third reason I love DTS is because it expands your worldview! One of YWAM’s values is to be international and interdenominational. The impact of this value is profound and is an essential ingredient to the DTS. Did you know that Swiss Germans are highly punctual, or that Thai culture holds in emotions? Have you ever been in a class with people from the west coast discussing what the Bible says about relationships? When was the last time someone prepared you their favorite childhood meal for you or you celebrated the Norwegian national holiday?
I am so grateful to say that for the past four years, I’ve always lived with people who are from different nations and cultural backgrounds then I am. Why? Because it's extremely humbling and it's so much fun! There is no better way to learn how to get along with people and love them then living in a house with them. From meal times to classroom lectures, from small group discussions to laid back movie nights, each moment of the day is a chance to learn something new and relate with people the way Jesus does.
I hope these reasons give you a glimpse of the unique and valuable time that DTS is in an individual’s life. I want to remind you that six months is not forever. However, what if you took six months and gave God room to develop spiritual hunger, character and a new worldview that will shape the way you live the rest of your life?
If you’re interested in doing a DTS yourself, I invite you to inquire today about our DTS in September! For cost, info and dates, please click here.
Written by Dana Bullock, YWAM Metro Detroit staff