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Evangel, Teen Challenge Post Landmark Survey Results

Survey finds that 78% of graduates from Teen Challenge centers remained sober and substance-free following graduation.
Evangel University’s Center for Compassion in Springfield, Missouri, recently coordinated a landmark survey that confirms the success of the faith-based Teen Challenge USA addiction recovery program.

The survey measured the effectiveness of the U.S. Missions Teen Challenge USA program by assessing the well-being of graduates one year following program completion.

It found that 78% of graduates from Teen Challenge centers remained sober and substance-free following graduation.

Dr. Donna Washburn, director of the Center for Compassion, which launched in 2018, said one of the center’s goals is to help non-profit organizations tell their stories of compassion work through collected data.

“We look to partner with organizations who are making an impact in their communities and assist them in social science research, something they often do not have the expertise or resources to do on their own,” she said.

The survey was requested by Gary Blackard, president and CEO of Teen Challenge USA.

Contracted researchers included Washburn; Dr. Heather Kelly, chair of Evangel’s Department of Behavioral & Social Sciences; and Dr. Christine Arnzen, coordinator of Evangel’s counseling programs.

Teen Challenge is a faith-based holistic drug and alcohol addiction recovery program that provides a variety of services to individuals struggling with life-controlling issues. Practical Bible-based courses offer a roadmap to freedom from addiction and a restored life in Christ.


Respondents were asked questions on topics that included current addictions, new legal problems, the pursuit of continued education or training, ongoing recovery efforts, and quality of relationships with family.

A total of 74 Teen Challenge centers participated in the study and 340 program graduates fully completed the survey.

Significant survey findings included:

• 78% of graduates remained sober and substance-free following graduation
• 92.9% reported no new legal problems post-graduation
• 25.9% have enrolled in new education or training
• 91% reported improved quality of relationships with family members
• Respondents who met Teen Challenge’s definition of sobriety – 100% abstinence from the use of substance (alcohol, street or prescription drugs such as opioids used for non-medical reasons, and legalized marijuana), excluding the use of nicotine – reported a greater connection to God as compared to those who were categorized as non-sober

“Individuals responding to this survey overwhelmingly indicated holistic improvement across multiple health indicators, from sobriety to relational and spiritual dimensions, following their recovery through Teen Challenge centers,” Washburn said.

This study is the first to quantify the work done by Teen Challenge USA centers nationwide using empirical social science research. Full survey results are available online at teenchallengeusa.org/studies.

Erin Hedlun

Erin Hedlun is senior director of Marketing and Communications at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.