What Makes the Difference?

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This is a question I am often asked when I talk about the life-transforming program of Teen Challenge. Our program works! Lives are changed, hope is renewed, and new creations walk out the doors of our program and have done so for 60 years. That is an amazing history!


So, what makes the difference? The difference is that for 60 years we have trusted and believed that Jesus is the change factor, and we administer a systematic program with elements that are vital to the success of the Teen Challenge program.


The success of any organization depends on continuous improvement in their program and its operations. I know each of you continues to learn and grow in your effort to help the hurting and assures your program serves those coming for care.  Because of that, I want to share what we have learned from the Teen Challenge Family of Affiliates:


Teen Challenge programs around the world generally utilize each of the following:

  • Group studies
  • Personal studies
  • Individual counseling
  • Chapel/church participation
  • Outreach and prevention programs
  • Work therapy or informal job skills training
  • Occupational therapy/life skills development
  • Recreation therapy
  • Healthy lifestyle practices


I understand you may use different words or descriptors to define these core functions within Teen Challenge. The key is that most all of our programs utilize much of this list, if not all, in the operations of their programs.


As the Global Teen Challenge staff travel to conferences and visit individual programs around the world, we find that the best programs are utilizing these essential elements for their programs’ daily operations.


Our success over the last 60 years has provided antidotal evidence that what we do works. I can’t tell you what a joy it is to walk the grounds of a center and see them utilizing these tools to ensure a quality program for their students. The fruit is in the results – changed lives.


I was recently in Costa Rica and met several staff members who were graduates of the program. They showed me pictures of their families, their girlfriends, and their graduation photos. I can tell you the Teen Challenge program works because of these kinds of testimonies.


What we need now is to add the element of data collection from our Teen Challenge Family of Affiliates, so we can confirm the genuine success rates of our graduates. Global Teen Challenge is working on developing a system that can be utilized to help us gather the data needed to validate our success. I know having the correct numbers will help you describe to your government, your donors, and your families how successful Teen Challenge is. In the coming months, we will share more about this program. We hope to have a beta test on the program in August, and then roll it out for every center around the world.


I believe we will affirm that you are doing an amazing job in unique cultures globally.  The discipleship model in Matthew 28:19 is what makes the difference, and we will now have the measurements to validate the numbers.


When a person enters a center and experiences a well-constructed program with the curriculum that assists them in addressing their internal and external issues, it is amazing.  Life transformation generally takes time, and our twelve-month program filled with group studies, personal studies, work experiences, and chapel makes the difference.


When someone enters a warm, loving and accepting environment of grace, it always sets the pace for how a person will do in the program. We have learned and changed over the years and continue to learn from our victories and our shortcomings.


The beauty of the program is that the Holy Spirit works differently in each person. I’ve had students tell me how a staff member walked them through a difficult time, and they came to know Christ. Others may talk about how much they connected to their counselor, and it was that counselor who made the greatest contribution to their change. Others will say that during chapel on a certain date, their lives were transformed.


I often hear that an older student in the program took a newer student under their wing and mentored them. This social setting is critical to feeling safe and open to finding hope again. The length of the program and the process of discipleship makes the difference.


Please know that we at Global Teen Challenge are dedicated to serving you. As God helps us, we want to help every program, staff, and student have access to the tools necessary to provide the best program for success.


We are praying for you,

Jerry Nance, PhD


Global Teen Challenge

1 Comment

  1. Gregg Fischer on May 15, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Excellent article! Very well said. We are working with staff from 6 different countries for the next two weeks in Honduras training in these very principles.
    We want to develop strong programs to see many more lives changed.

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