Teen Mania Ministries – Caveat Emptor!

"To provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take his life-giving message to the ends of the earth".

Teen Mania Mission Statement

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=19376&picture=peoplePeople

Ron Luce…  Perhaps you've heard of him.  He recently wrote a book entitled Resilient in which he purports to know the secret for building resilient men and women of God.  The bio on the back cover of his book states: 

RON LUCE is the president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries.  He is a sought-after speaker who has traveled to more than sixty countries and has made numerous media appearances, such as Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio broadcast, CNN, The O'Reilly Factor, Nightline, the 700 Club, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Hannity.  He has a bachelor's degree in psychology and theology and a master's in counseling psychology, and is the author of thirty-five books for teens, youth pastors, and parents.

Pretty impressive, huh?  Here he is explaining why he wrote Resilient.

Now let's take a look at his life's work — Teen Mania Ministries.  According to the board of directors page on the ministry website, this is how the ministry began:

In 1986 Ron Luce and his wife Katie started Teen Mania Ministries with a dream to raise up young people who would change the world. The ministry has expanded greatly and has become very influential within today’s Christian youth culture.

So how's that going for them?  Well, several years ago MSNBC aired a documentary called Mind Over Matter, which exposed the underbelly of Teen Mania and portrays it as a mind-controlling cultish organization.  Here is the trailer for the program that aired on November 6, 2011.  The spokesman for Teen Mania is none other than Ron Luce.

I have taken the time to watch this shocking documentary, which lasts about 45 minutes.  You can watch it in three YouTube installments here, but be forewarned — there are some very disturbing scenes.

Soon after the documentary aired, Charisma News published Ron Luce's reaction.  Here is some of what he had to say:

MSNBC’s broadcast is not only an attack against Teen Mania, but an attack against Bible-based Christianity.

Luce, who was interviewed for the article goes on to make the following claims:

The producers came to us under false pretenses

The program offered massive distortion and took things out of context

Then he explains how they reached out to the girls in the documentary.  Luce says:

My heart goes out to these girls. You can tell that they are really hurting. We have met with most of them over and over again over the years trying to assuage them and love on them and help them walk through the challenges they face. We’ve asked them to forgive us for anything we’ve done to hurt them while they were interns. We are not a perfect organization, but we seek to improve ourselves and get better. They were taken advantage of by this MSNBC group for the sake of sensationalizing a story and generating revenue.

The Charisma News article ends with this:

We are going to be releasing our own documentary in the next few days that gives context and tells the story from kids who have had a positive experience.

MSNBC responded to Luce's accusations, and The Christian Post published an article with their rebuttal.  They contended:

The documentary features former interns from Teen Mania Ministries who say the group did them more harm than good and may even be a cult.

In the wake of the CNBC broadcast, Teen Mania's financial woes became public knowledge.  Just last April WORLD Magazine published an article called Management Mania, which revealed:

Teen Mania’s financial woes have been building for more than a decade. Daniel Williams, a Teen Mania board member from 1995 to 2012, cited three primary reasons: the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 recession, and an organizational structure that “worked really well when it was small, but it got too big to manage.”

Despite this, the WORLD Magazine article goes on to state:

The ministry hasn’t suffered from a lack of revenue: Teen Mania has brought in almost $300 million since 2001. Jacob Morales, a former volunteer who went on four Global Expeditions trips, left Chase Manhattan to become Luce’s executive assistant in 2007 and 2008. Acting as liaison between Luce’s office and the accounting department, Morales saw “reckless spending. … Letters are going out saying, ‘Help, help, we’re going under,’ yet we’re dropping $100,000 for a guy who is going to speak for 50 minutes.” 

That payment, Morales said, went to Dallas minister T.D. Jakes to get him to speak at a New York City BattleCry event on Feb. 8, 2008. (Jennifer Saunier, then Teen Mania’s sales director, confirmed that figure; Jakes’ organization did not respond to a request for comment.) Morales says Teen Mania chartered a $21,000 private jet and spent more than $4,000 on a two-night stay at the Ritz Carlton for Jakes, whom Luce wanted as a Teen Mania partner. Morales says he had discretion over $10,000 in cash to buy imported flowers, chocolates, rare bread, candy, iPods, and other gifts for the Jakes family to find in their hotel suite, green room, and two Cadillac Escalade limousines.

Saunier, Teen Mania’s development director in 2011 and 2012, says she would solicit donations for specific projects, but “was never comfortable that we were doing the right things with those funds.” She raised her concerns to superiors and nothing changed. Luce ran in a December 2012 marathon “to raise awareness and support for reaching America’s 26 million teens with the gospel of Christ.” The effort generated about $250,000 in donations, but within months Luce spent $68,000 on campus carpeting projects, $45,000 to install a coffee shop, and $25,000 to build the new conference room. At least one employee resigned in protest.

Then last May WORLD Magazine published a follow-up article entitled Teen Mania Turmoil Continues.

Once again, Ron Luce's response was communicated by an article in Charisma News.  Luce remarked:

"We're not afraid to admit we've made mistakes, and we are correcting those," Luce said.

Teen Mania suffered a public-relations black eye last month when WORLD magazine published a scathing review of the ministry's finances and operations. Luce said the Christian periodical "took hearsay from terminated staffers and treated it as data without checking it out as good journalists do." But he declined to discuss a point-by-point rebuttal of the magazine's assertions because he said he did not want to throw more fuel on the fire. He did, however, answer some of the criticisms in a letter to Teen Mania Alumni that was published online.

As a result of some of the internal reforms that were instituted months before the magazine's review was published, including plans to move the headquarters to much smaller space and outsource certain work to set up Acquire the Fire events, the ministry expects to slash its annual overhead expenses by more than 90 percent from $2 million to about $175,000.

Part of the reason Teen Mania acquired an untenable debt load, Luce said, was that when its finances were flush before the Great Recession, the organization borrowed to erect new dormitories and other buildings on its large east Texas campus. Donor support dropped dramatically, as it did for many ministries and secular charities, after 2008.

And the bad news keep rolling in… Charity Navigator recently listed 10 charities in deep financial trouble, and Teen Mania is 4th on the list.  Not only that, Teen Mania is no longer accredited by the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability(see screen shot below)

http://www.ecfa.org/formermembers.aspx

Finally, Doug and Wendy Duncan (who were featured in the CNBC documentary, listening to the victims) have published an article on their website entitled Sound the Warning Bell on Teen Mania, in which they formally identify Teen Mania as a cult

Who are Doug and Wendy Duncan, and why should we heed their advice?  Here is some interesting biographical information on their website:

Doug and Wendy Duncan are former members of a religious cult, the Trinity Foundation, in Dallas, Texas. After leaving the cult where he was a member for over twenty years, Doug earned his master’s degree in counseling and is now a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas. Wendy is a licensed social worker and holds a master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is also the author of I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult, the true story of the couple’s involvement in and eventual separation from a cult. (link)

Since renouncing their membership in a cult, Doug and Wendy Duncan began a ministry to help individuals coming out of cultic groups and to teach churches how better to minister to these hurting people. The Duncans are available for author visits, speaking engagements, and training workshops on the topic of cults, spiritual abuse, and recovery. Visits may include their personal testimony, an introduction to cults, training on helping individuals coming out of cultic groups, warning signs of potentially abusive groups, and understanding cult mind control.

Because of their experience of the damage cultic groups can do to individuals, Doug and Wendy have a passion to help others who have been caught up in spiritually abusive groups and to help Christians understand how to minister to these hurting people. Individual counseling is available, as well as support groups. (See “need help” page for additional information).

There are no fees for the workshops, presentations, or support groups.

As a public service announcement, please be aware of these recent developments with this so-called ministry — Teen Mania.

There's really nothing else to say about Teen Mania Ministries except CAVEAT EMPTOR…

Lydia's Corner:  Exodus 29:1-30:10   Matthew 26:14-46   Psalm 31:19-24   Proverbs 8:14-26

Comments

Teen Mania Ministries – Caveat Emptor! — 71 Comments

  1. Any charitable organization that has taken in nearly $300 million over the past 14 years (average over $20 million per year) and is now insolvent is not worthy of any conscientious person’s support. The organization has clearly lost its way.

  2. I had a question about your last paragraphs: You said “As a public service announcement, please be aware of these recent developments with this so-called ministry:.

    Which ministry is being referred to–Teen Mania or to Doug & Wendy Duncan’s offerings?

    Great article! Had no idea of any of this.

  3. molly245 wrote:

    I had a question about your last paragraphs: You said “As a public service announcement, please be aware of these recent developments with this so-called ministry:.
    Which ministry is being referred to–Teen Mania or to Doug & Wendy Duncan’s offerings?

    I was thinking the same thing. I’m pretty sure it’s Teen Mania; it doesn’t make sense in reference to the Duncans.

  4. My Teen Mania Experience http://www.recoveringalumni.com/ is a good read – former TM’ers. They were featured in the MSNBC doc, and have a lot more background on the blog. They took a great deal of flack from Teen Mania for standing up and helping others stand up.

  5. From the Duncan’s website:

    “Bizarre practices, such as putting roaches on someone’s head, pressuring a young person to crawl through a sewer pipe, or rolling down a hill with patches of vomit are strangely linked with genuine Christian commitment and true discipleship.”

    It’s almost exactly how Jesus trained His disciples… Oh, wait, maybe it was a little different…

    Good grief! That’s just sad 🙁

  6. Just look at their name: TEEN MANIA.

    Does that sound like a “Can You Top This?”/”Burn Them Out in a Frenzy” group or not?

    With the added bonus of WE ARE THE ONLY ONES ON FIRE FOR THE LOORD WHO WILL SPEW YOU LUKEWARMS OUT OF HIS MOUTH ON J-DAY!!!!! You can see where all this is headed.

  7. Joe wrote:

    From the Duncan’s website:

    “Bizarre practices, such as putting roaches on someone’s head, pressuring a young person to crawl through a sewer pipe, or rolling down a hill with patches of vomit are strangely linked with genuine Christian commitment and true discipleship.”

    Done in a room with a disturbing pattern of dots on the ceiling and a portrait of a woman with a hair-covered tongue on the wall?

    Or “Just Like Frat Hazing, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?

    Soon after the documentary aired, Charisma News published Ron Luce’s reaction. Here is some of what he had to say:

    MSNBC’s broadcast is not only an attack against Teen Mania, but an attack against Bible-based Christianity.

    Of which Teen Mania is the ONLY True Remnant left, of course.

    Ready the “PERSECUTION FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE” card, check…
    Setup for Grand Unified Satanic Conspiracy Theory, check…

    Sure sounds like CULTic behavior to me.

  8. Reacting partially to this:

    >Well, several years ago MSNBC aired a documentary called Mind Over Matter, which exposed the underbelly of Teen Mania and portrays it as a mind-controlling cultish organization.

    I experienced Ron Luce/TM (In particular, _Acquire the Fire_) as an impressionable just-came-to-Christ teenager (decades ago!).

    I recall our Youth Group went, and we were encouraged to bring along unsaved friends. Well, I did. I brought my best friend, who was Jewish. There is very little I regret in life so much as how I participated in pressuring him to “accept Christ” and repent and all of this. He went home, and of course, told his parents about what had happened.

    I have barely spoken to him since. This situation was a huge part in my becoming disillusioned with American evangelicalism.

    I still think about it sometimes, and it still moves me to tears.

    Lord, have mercy.

  9. I went on several Teen Mania trips in the late 90s and also attended their Acquire The Fire events during that time. Those experiences were very positive for me and my life was changed for the better. I was never part of their internship program but did hear that it was pretty controlling. I am not terribly surprised by negative press about them and would agree they could improve in some areas but I would also say they have also made a positive impact in many other people besides me so just because parts are bad does not necessarily mean the whole thing is.

  10. molly245 wrote:

    I had a question about your last paragraphs: You said “As a public service announcement, please be aware of these recent developments with this so-called ministry:. Which ministry is being referred to–Teen Mania or to Doug & Wendy Duncan’s offerings?

    Teen Mania. I will amend the post to avoid any confusion. Thanks!

  11. @ Joe:

    I had similar thoughts when researching the post. My heart breaks for the many innocent teens who endured this stupidity. 🙁

  12. @ Kyle:

    Sounds like you were spared from some serious trauma since you didn't take the leadership track.

    If I were you, I would be counting my blessings because you weren't subject to the lunacy that those in the CNBC documentary endured. Otherwise, you could have had psychological scars like they do.

  13. Great post, Deb.
    Private jets, fancy hotels, ,etc… Both Teen Mani and TD Jakes should be ashamed of themselves. Add to that what appears to be abusive or cult like conditioning of the kids coming on board. It is all about money and control.Find out who has it and discover those who are abusing the system.

  14. Clayton wrote:

    There is very little I regret in life so much as how I participated in pressuring him to “accept Christ” and repent and all of this. He went home, and of course, told his parents about what had happened.
    I have barely spoken to him since. This situation was a huge part in my becoming disillusioned with American evangelicalism.
    I still think about it sometimes, and it still moves me to tears.

    There are many of us who remember similar experiences as new converts. You are not alone in your regrets. I can think of a few of my own.

  15. Kyle wrote:

    hose experiences were very positive for me and my life was changed for the better.

    Thank you for reporting your good experience.

  16. srs wrote:

    $100,000 to speak for 50 minutes? I’m in the wrong business…

    The abuse inflicted on others and/or covered up by so-called 'Christian' leaders is the most despicable of uses of the label Christian. In second place, I put the unbridled greed of so many of those who claim to be leaders of the Christian faith. So many people who call themselves Christians freely bash the real or perceived 'sins' of others in areas such as LGBT, tithing, creation doctrine, etc. but they NEVER rail against the insatiable greed that's endemic to so many 'ministries', something that the Bible warns us of again, again, and again. There's a log in so many eyes when it comes to this.

  17. JeffT wrote:

    but they NEVER rail against the insatiable greed that’s endemic to so many ‘ministries’,

    The ones we hear railing the loudest against so much would have to accuse themselves as well.

  18. Clayton wrote:

    I recall our Youth Group went, and we were encouraged to bring along unsaved friends.

    Did you have any reactions of “OH, NO! I HAVE ONLY A WEEK TO MAKE SOME HEATHEN FRIEND SO I CAN TAKE HIM TO THE RALLY AND GET HIM SAVED! WHAT DO I DO? WHAT DO I DO?” Because I saw that exact reaction in Campus Crusade when a Billy Graham Crusade came to town and they “encouraged to bring along unsaved friends”.

  19. There is, sadly, in evangelical culture, the belief that if you get the programming right, you get the right results. Couple that with the belief that salvation is achieved through an emotional experience and praying a prayer, you wind up with all sorts of bizarre “ministries” creating, or trying to create, programs and events to accomplish that goal. And to be sure, they’re effective at what they do.

    But I hope at some point we realize that what we’re creating is not dedicated lovers and followers of Jesus, but groups of people united by a common experience – and it’s only a matter of time before we look back and find there was no substance there. And worse than being devoid of substance, we victimize people by trying to emotionally manipulate them into the kingdom. What a silly concept! But worse than silly, it’s dangerous, deadly, and gives a bad name to those of us seeking to minister the gospel through the Word of God.

    Because at the end of the day, when I watched those 3 parts, I came away thinking, “there’s no Bible here. And if there’s no Bible there’s no gospel.” And I can only imagine MSNBC was giddy to produce and air something like this – it gives us all a bad name, and makes all of us claiming the title “Christian” look like the “bad guys.”
    Or as Paul said, “do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. (‭Romans‬ ‭14‬:‭16‬)

  20. @ srs:

    You should read some of the contracts for well known “Christian” speakers. Details on the type of hotel, bottled water brands, food, etc, etc. It is not like the old days when the guy coming to speak at our church stayed at our house, ate dinner with us, etc.

    It is one reason I don’t do the xtian cult of personality thing anymore. It is disgusting how they make bank off Jesus Christ. Why do we fall for it? That is the bigger question.

  21. Lydia wrote:

    @ srs:

    You should read some of the contracts for well known “Christian” speakers. Details on the type of hotel, bottled water brands, food, etc, etc. It is not like the old days when the guy coming to speak at our church stayed at our house, ate dinner with us, etc.

    Is it possible to get a few of these contracts over to TheSmokingGun.com?
    They post the most ridiculous demand contracts they find for rock stars & celebs.

  22. Addie Zierman writes about her experiences with Teen Mania in her spiritual memoir, “When We Were on Fire.” Highly recommended.

  23. Lydia wrote:

    Why do we fall for it? That is the bigger question.

    It’s because they’re doing the Lord’s work and saving souls from the fires of hell. How can you not buy into it too as a ‘faith partner’? If you don’t, isn’t it possible that you’re probably not ‘saved’ yourself and destined for the same lake of fire?

  24. Reading this post today is the first I’ve heard of Teen Mania. Interesting, but out of my circle of Christian experience. Thank God.

  25. @ Muff Potter:
    Well Muff, I was recently told by a “ruling elder” in the Presbyterian vein that I was doing “mental gyrations” with scripture because I do not subscribe to the “positional authority” of elders, pastors, etc.

    Love it! Such a rebel.

  26. For what its worth I would suggest that ECFA lost all credibility due to how they handled Mars Hill Seattle and Harvest Bible Chapel. I think any ministry that boasts of being ECFA certified is more suspect now than ever.

  27. Eagle wrote:

    In researching and looking at Teen Mania it seems to be promoted by the Assembly of God.

    Yes. And Word of Faith. Among the WofF groups I was involved with, Aquire the Fire was almost mandatory for their youth groups to attend. I know of one young man who went and it nearly destroyed his faith.

  28. Someone a while back shared a video, yes vhs, about a teen mania event with a bible study I think it was. I said it reminded me of Nuremberg 2.0. The reference was lost on most of the folks the ones that got it were not pleased with my negative attitude toward a servant of God. Barf.

  29. Eagle wrote:

    In researching and looking at Teen Mania it seems to be promoted by the Assembly of God.

    That seems to be true in my area as well. The AoG folks I know who are in youth ministry seem super excited to promote it.

  30. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:

    Haha, no, nothing quite like that. As far as I knew, I was surrounded by heathens! Our Youth Group was something like 5 or 6 kids. Compared to hundreds of not-obviously-obnoxiously-Christian classmates, so it wasn’t a big deal.

    (I mean, really, in my mind I had found this great thing and wanted to share it with others. I just wish I had more tact and hadn’t lost a life-long friend.)

  31. I’ve been watching TM’s abuses for several years, and I’m glad to see more attention given to them here. A few years ago I wrote a case study of Teen Mania’s theology. Long story short, the leadership at the time actually taught word for word, quote, “A life of moral excellence helps you to know God better.” To say they are legalistic is an exercise in understatement!

    There are in fact over a hundred “Recovering Alumni” who shared their personal experiences of abuse at Teen Mania and Honor Academy on the eponymous whistleblower blog (Bene D gives the link above), far more than the four in the documentary Ron Luce tried to brush off. Some of the stories are downright hair-raising, especially the ones involving the so-called “Life Transforming Event” ESOAL or PEARL, which used military-like techniques to break the intern’s wills in the hope that they would achieve “Burial And Resurrection.” They discontinued it after word got out into the news what they did, but they still say it was a good idea…

  32. I was an intern in this cult. My story is one of many that can be found at http://www.recoveringalumni.com

    I can also proudly report that the “ministry” has lost tremendous ground over the past year. They have shut down their internship (where I spent over a year) and have cancelled over half of their Acquire The Fire events. My hope is that it continues its downward spiral into complete closure.

  33. If Jesus had a blog, I would wonder, why Jesus, the eternal son and incarnate one did not tell His children facts concerning germ theory. That would have been powerful and it would have saved the lives of tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives and so much pain would have been avoided. I get it, we all have it coming, if God kills all of us, all of our kids, all of the disabled, all the elderly etc. We were born to be the enemy of God. I get that, I really do. But if God would have just given us a hint, even a little light concerning germ theory so much pain could have been avoided.

    I am sure that is heretical and I repent, a child of God should not want healing or leading of a loving father, I get that to. The non child of God, well they are out of luck and can burn. I get that too. Its no wonder some become atheists. I cant, and never will because I love God, I wont deny God even on my life. But I dont get the works of God. It really is confusing.

  34. brian wrote:

    . But I dont get the works of God. It really is confusing.

    Yes it is. I’m thankful you love God after the tremendous pain you have experienced and are experiencing. I don’t know why God does what he does. I don’t know why Jesus decided to leave his glory and become a human to die for people like me. It doesn’t make sense, but I’m thankful he did. We shouldn’t expect to understand God. He is God, and he is big enough for our questions, and he is always willing to listen.

  35. @ singleman:
    Read the link you posted Singleman. Yikes…very defensive negative response by Ron Luce. Not impressed with him after reading his words.

  36. @ Muff Potter:

    Actually, My mom would have found Muff interesting. She was one of those people who enjoyed all kinds from all cultures. I should know….I grew up with the house always full of such individuals.

  37. To follow up on my earlier comment, Teen Mania’s annual income of $20 million breaks down to taking in on average $54,794 each and every day. The average household income in the US in 2013 (2014 numbers aren’t out yet) was $52,250.

    In sort, Teen Mania receives more money in one day than the average US family makes in an entire year. Given their insolvency, they must spend more every day than the average American family makes, too. And they don’t spend it as carefully as most families do.

  38. brian wrote:

    Someone a while back shared a video, yes vhs, about a teen mania event with a bible study I think it was. I said it reminded me of Nuremberg 2.0.

    Originally it was the other way around. I have a copy of the 1943 OSS psych profile on a certain A.Hitler. Many eyewitnesses to Nuremberg 1.0 described the event as “a revival meeting”.

  39. Joe wrote:

    From the Duncan’s website:

    “Bizarre practices, such as putting roaches on someone’s head, pressuring a young person to crawl through a sewer pipe, or rolling down a hill with patches of vomit are strangely linked with genuine Christian commitment and true discipleship.”

    It’s almost exactly how Jesus trained His disciples… Oh, wait, maybe it was a little different…

    Good grief! That’s just sad

    ROACHES????? (She shrieked). Good grief; what utter lunatics.
    Of course, the tragedy is that folks were led to believe that this was all somehow “Christian”.

  40. Dear Dee and Deb,
    When I was running the blog Against Biblical Counseling (now defunct, and not to be confused with the Bobgans’ work), I once had one of the Teen Mania survivors post on their. Just one time. The normal number of responses to a blog post on my blog were 10 or 15. I got something like 55 responses, all from current Teen Mania members, all of them berating this survivor for telling her story. This, despite the fact that the abuse at the Honor Academy, especially since the MSNBC documentary, has been so definitively proven that it is ridiculous to even question it at this point. All you need to do is read Teen Mania\Battlecry material to realize they are an extremist organization. Luce calls MTV a band of virtue terrorists and his propaganda videos show would-be virtue terrorists attempting to blow up kids in their living rooms, as well as Nazis attempting to shoot unsuspecting Christian kids in the bathroom. I wish I was making this up, but literally its what they do. I’ve watched tons of hours of their propaganda material because of an academic essay I once wrote on them that I could never find a publisher for. I don’t like the term cults, and I do not know that I even believe that if one has the term it can meaningfully describe any organization. But outside of the Children of God\Family (who believe in pedophilia as a holy rite of Christianity) and Scientology, nothing seems more clearly to deserve that kind of label within Western religious circles as Battlecry.

  41. John Weaver wrote:

    The normal number of responses to a blog post on my blog were 10 or 15. I got something like 55 responses, all from current Teen Mania members, all of them berating this survivor for telling her story.

    “Current Teen Mania members” or “Good Little Party Members”?

  42. Pretty impressive, huh? Here he is explaining why he wrote Resilient.

    DEB, DEE: That video link is now full of commercials on Auto-Play, with the Mute and Pause buttons automatically resetting to “Off”.

  43. Elan school in Polan,Maine that treated children with behavior problems
    was forced to shut down in 2011 after 40 years, due to web campaign.

  44. >>Any charitable organization that has taken in nearly $300 million over the past 14 years (average over $20 million per year) and is now insolvent is not worthy of any conscientious person’s support. The organization has clearly lost its way.<<

    This is the best post in the thread. The best reflection I've seen all day on the Internets. Somebody say AstinkingMEN.

  45. I attended Teen Mania’s film internship (The Center for Creative Media) some years ago. I was not in their “Honor Academy” at any point but we did participate in some of their activities, including that one where everyone rolls the hill and is covered in mud. . It was voluntary for everyone and you could leave at any point (after you “rang out”, literally ringing a bell and I think we shouted something?), and I knew many people who did not participate, but yeah, you would usually get bullied into it if you didn’t rise to the challenge yourself. Maybe not bullied but spiritually guilted… You know what I’m talking about if you’ve been in a legalistic church or ministry that pretends they aren’t legalistic. I can’t lie, I loved that horrible boot-campy event, rolling the hill, eating gross food… It was all so “Survivor!” but I was also kind of brainwashed and bought in to a lot of the system there. I came from an environment that wasn’t so different from Teen Mania so many things that hurt others I was already accustomed to. I was a teachers pet in a way, too. But I was bothered my friends didn’t have the same experience I did. After I left I became depressed… It’s been somewhere around 10 years and I still deal with it somewhat. I had a number of friends completely lose it before or just after leaving. Great people, mind you… kinder hearts than many of the staff there. Many of them are no longer Christians. Some of the staff were just interns who didn’t want to leave or, in the film school’s case, graduates who stayed for various reasons but were VERY underpaid. There were perks in the film side of things, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been paid more. I have a few horrendous stories I could tell… I should come back and talk about the OTHER “Life Transforming Events” they offered, which I was totally pissed about during and after, and they were not optional. I think the one where we pretended to be “unreached people groups” and “missionaries” was the MOST disturbing of all, by far. Think bonfire and weirdness in the woods with people wearing strange things, painting faces, talking in made-up languages… The funny thing is Ron Luce is getting all this attention, and I guess that is due him, but from where I was as a student, Dave Hasz (and others) was the one running the show on the ground there. I am not here to judge his character, but no matter his intention, I would say he should take responsibility for some of the emotional/spiritual abuse that went on. He taught on an almost daily basis. I’m not sure what he was teaching but I sat in on a lot of it. Now that I am older, I can’t see how these guys running this place could take themselves seriously as grown men, with all these lemmings paying them to do their work for them? They must have felt some sort of embarrassment or shame or something? Adults should know better than to weasel CHILDREN out of their money and pretend it’s for their own good. I’m so glad I was not a part of the Honor Academy. Still, I have friends who went there and will defend it, saying anyone who thinks it is/was a cult is crazy. But I think there is definitely merit to that statement.