Why YWAMers don’t receive any salary

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is called to practice a life of dependence on God for financial provision. This provision comes primarily from people who believe in us and what we’re doing. We give of our time and talents to serve God and others with no formal agreement or expectation of financial remuneration.

Some people wonder why we would choose missionary work and this lifestyle over the traditional method of receiving a salary. Here are the reasons why:

In the early years of YWAM, our founders, Loren and Darlene Cunningham, endeavored to hire a secretary and pay her a salary. But after prayer and careful consideration, they were strongly impressed that this was not God’s plan for YWAM. They felt instead that she was to partner with others for her financial provision in the same way they did.

Fifty years later we see God’s wisdom in how He led them:

1. The Growth Factor: Because no corporate office controls the flow of finances, YWAM has grown into the largest international, interdenominational missions organization in the world today.

2. Every YWAM worker is surrounded by people who are supporting them and praying for them on a regular basis. If five decades ago, Loren and Darlene had decided on a corporate model, with finances being funneled through one central headquarters, YWAM probably would have remained relatively small with a significant portion of our income going to support the organization itself, rather than the missionaries on the field. I’m not sure if Loren realized it at the time, but as it turns out, this relationship-based support system is similar to what we find in the Bible.

Old Testament Examples

In the Old Testament, God set apart one of the tribes of Israel for a special purpose. The Levites job description is found in Numbers 3:5-7. They were to serve Aaron, the priest, minister to the needs of the people, and take care of the tabernacle. The support system for the Levites was to come through the tithes and offerings of the other eleven tribes. God gave strict instruction that they should not engage in secular work or till the land because their inheritance was not in the land, but in the Lord (Numbers18:1-24).

There was a time when the eleven tribes stopped supporting the Levites. The result was that the House of God was left unattended because the Levites had to go back to work. Nehemiah was troubled (Nehemiah 13:10-11) when he observed this. He contended with the leaders of Israel to resume their giving so the Levites could go back to doing God’s work.

Another example is found in Deuteronomy 25:4. Under Mosaic Law, animals that trod out the grain were not allowed to be muzzled. This permitted the oxen to eat from the grain whenever they were hungry.

Paul later used this principle to explain why full-time Christian workers should be supported through the ministry itself (“For it is written in the Law of Moses: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” 1 Corinthians 9:9).

The participants in our missionary work and volunteer abroad programs are doing God’s work, and your financial support helps them continue to answer His calling.

New Testament Examples

Jesus said in Luke 10:7 that a “laborer is worthy of his wages.” He was referring to how God would provide for missionaries. The context of this verse is related to laborers being sent into the harvest fields of the world. He was saying to His disciples that God would take care of them if they would do His work.

Jesus Himself was supported by a group of His friends during the three years of His ministry on earth (Luke 8:1-3). And Paul reiterates the premise Jesus lived by in 1 Corinthians 9:14, “Even so, the Lord commanded that those who preach the Gospel should live from the Gospel.” In 1 Corinthians 9:7-14, 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, and Galatians 6:6, Paul lays the foundation for living by faith.

“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:7-14

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-14

“Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” Galatians 6:6
His premise is that there should be equality between those who work in the secular world and those who devote their time and energies entirely to the Gospel. The purpose was that those who are taught might share out of their financial provision, and those who teach, from their spiritual provision, “that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:14). This method of support is a carbon copy of the Old Testament model we referred to earlier.

With our volunteer abroad programs and missionary work, we are preaching the gospel. Just as Corinthians teaches us, those who preach the gospel should receive from the gospel as well.

So, why did Paul Make Tents?

Paul used his tent-making skills to support himself for two main reasons. The first is that he was constantly ministering in areas where there was no established church. By the time a church had been planted, Paul was on the road again. The second reason for Paul’s tent-making was that only one of the churches he had planted felt the responsibility to support him once he had left (Philippians 4:15). Paul had a skill, and he employed it, but it was never the ideal arrangement.

Conclusion

God’s intention for the church seems clear. Those in ministry should be supported through the tithes and offerings of the people of God. What would happen today if all Christians tithed? A church of one hundred could support ten full-time workers who would make the median income of their salaries. A congregation of one thousand could sustain one hundred ministers, missionaries and administrative staff. Can you imagine how strong the church would be and how much more effective we would be in reaching the world with the Gospel?

However, not everyone tithes. And secondly, there’s an underlying attitude in our culture which says, “Asking for support is invalid,” “It’s begging for money,” and “A real job is one with a salary.” Where do these concepts come from? Certainly not from Scripture; it comes from our secular, cultural worldview.

Living a lifestyle of complete dependence on God for financial provision is not a cop out. It’s not irresponsible or negligent, but a system that God Himself set up to provide for those in full-time ministry. If anything, it’s actually more biblical than receiving a salary for missions work because it links the giver in direct relationship with the ones he or she is supporting. The only consideration should be this: is this person a worthy workman? If so, then they are also deserving of financial support.

Your financial support means you’re not only contributing to our volunteer abroad programs, and not simply our missionary work, but that you are living out life in His way, and through His teachings. Anything you can donate means everything to us—we are so grateful for your help. From all of us at YWAM Denver, thank you.