On Nov. 6, 2011, Teen Mania Ministries was the topic of an MSNBC docudrama titled, “Mind over Mania.”
The docudrama’s intent is to give a voice to former interns and the effects of their time at Teen Mania, and “anything the organization doesn’t want you to know about their programs.”
The docudrama investigates the ministry that Ron Luce, a member of the Board of Trustees at ORU, and his wife Katie started in 1986, and depicts it as a secretive, cult-like ministry.
The purpose of Teen Mania is to “provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take his life-giving message to the ends of the earth.”
The docudrama focuses on the experiences of specifically one former Honor Academy student, Raven, along with four others who are trying to “come to terms with their various experiences while at Honor Academy.”
Honor Academy is a one-year internship geared toward “[providing] leadership training, opportunities to deepen faith in God, and make strong lifelong friendships all while serving in a placement directly contributing to the ministry of Teen Mania as a whole.”
The docudrama references Robert Lifton’s Theory of Thought Reform to analyze the process that some of the students went through.
The docudrama implies that according to Lifton’s theory, those that participate in the Teen Mania ministries are being brainwashed.
The concern that arises from this claim is whether the docudrama accurately assesses Teen Mania as a whole, or focuses only on the bad experiences of a few individuals.
“I feel that the whole documentary was the worst kind of journalism there is,” said Luke Grcich, senior international relations major.
Grcich spent three years at Teen Mania, one as an intern at the Honor Academy, and two years as a core advisor iat the Honor Academy.
“It was constructed by putting piece-meal quotes from participants and leaders of the Honor Academy together along with somewhat disturbing images from a small part of the program together to make Teen Mania look like some crazy Christian boot camp,” said Grcich. “There were no interviews with graduates from the program who think that Teen Mania was a valuable life experience such as myself or many of my friends.”
When asked about any specific details presented in the docudrama, Jill Wilsey, junior secondary education major, doesn’t approve of their approach.
“I was a little upset about how much they talk about ESOAL (now known as PEARL),” Wilsey said. “They make a big deal out of it when it is just one weekend and is optional.”
Wilsey has led seven mission trips at Teen Mania, and spent three years at the Honor Academy as a core advisor and working for the Global Expeditions missions department.
“You have to want to be there, you have to want to change, to want to be challenged and to grow,” said Chelsea Bridges, a senior at ORU and Honor Academy alumnae. “That’s what it’s all about—growth. The experiences you go through are life changing…It’s the hardest thing I ever had to do, but it was the most rewarding and life-changing experience I have ever had.”
“The documentary was very one-sided with how the girls felt, but the heart and intent of [Teen Mania] is completely different than what the girls described,” said Wilsey. “I loved my time at [Teen Mania], and it changed my life. I went there right after school because I did not know what I was doing with my life.”
“It was one of the most challenging years but it was exactly what I needed, to get out of the world and learn who I am in Christ. Obviously I loved it since I stayed three years.”
“I can understand some of the pain that these girls were feeling,” said Grcich. “However, even though I can understand where they are coming from, I don’t agree.”
“I truly hurt for these girls that feel that way about TM,” said Wilsey. “I actually was interns with one of the girls, Raven, so hearing what she was saying hurt because I know that is not the intention of the [Honor Academy] at all. Their intent is not to brainwash anyone or make people feel the exact same way they do. The heart of TM really is to equip men and women to fulfill the great commission, bring Christ’s name to the world.”