The president of an evangelical Christian recovery ministry called “Teen Challenge USA” is hoping that people both inside and outside the church will give recognition to the life-changing program during a national day designated to honor the organization this coming Sunday.
The ministry, which is closely connected to the Assemblies of God denomination, states that its mission is “to provide youth, adults and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems in order to become productive members of society.”
Teen Challenge USA began 53 years ago as a ministry led by the late Rev. David Wilkerson, the founding pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan, N.Y. Wilkerson died, at the age of 79, in a severe car crash in April.
President Jack Smart, 56, told The Christian Post that although the organization’s roots are with the Assemblies of God, Teen Challenge also partners with many Christian organizations and is interdenominational.
The way in which Teen Challenge Day is recognized will depend on whether churches and groups within the local areas of the ministry’s 234 centers throughout the country have planned anything, Smart said. He did not have any specific details from any centers relayed to the national headquarters in Ozark, Mo.
“We hope that churches of all types will recognize teen challenge for its contribution to the Kingdom of God and what we do to help people that are in need,” Smart said. “This is another way to remind people that there is a place for help to those struggling with drug, alcohol, and other addictions.”
“They don’t have to continue to go it alone when they are facing these kinds of problems and needs,” he added.
Smart emphasizes the faith-based element of the program.
“This day is to remind people that Teen Challenge is there 365 days out of the year ministering to people who are in need of the grace and the love of God,” he said. “We have the privilege to be there day in and day out and see the miracle of God transforming lives.”
Teen Challenge's staff and students visit prisons, schools, and churches, and conduct outreaches to share with more than 1.8 million people annually what God has done in their lives, according to the group.
“When you see lives transformed that’s what Teen Challenge is really all about,” Smart said. “It is celebrating what Jesus Christ does to transform lives and the lives of thousands of people a day.”
When asked about the reason for the program’s success, he answered, “The first thing you have to say is the Jesus factor – the fact that Jesus transforms lives. The second key thing is the wonderfully dedicated people who serve in various capacities in our Teen Challenge centers as staff members and volunteers.”
Smart, who has been the organization’s president for one year, said he previously served in a local area center for more than 30 years. He said there are many people at Teen Challenge that have dedicated their lives to the ministry and served many years.
“You have to have people that carry that message that Christ gives and we are blessed with so many people across this country that have committed their lives to a ministry that transforms people,” he said.