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Evangel University’s Center for Compassion partners with Adult & Teen Challenge USA to coordinate landmark survey

Published on Oct 31, 2019 by Erin Hedlun

Dr. Heather Kelly, chair of EU’s Department of Behavioral & Social Sciences; Dr. Christine Arnzen, coordinator of EU counseling programs; and Dr. Donna Washburn, director of EU’s Center for Compassion. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Evangel University’s Center for Compassion recently coordinated a landmark survey that confirms the success of the faith-based Adult & Teen Challenge USA addiction recovery program.

The survey measured the effectiveness of the Adult & Teen Challenge program by assessing the well-being of graduates one year following program completion.

It found that 78% of graduates from Adult & 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 story 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.

Gary Blackard, president & CEO

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

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

Adult & 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.


The survey

Respondents were asked questions on topics that included current addictions, new legal problems, 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:

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 Adult and Teen Challenge’s definition of sobriety – 100% abstinence from the use of substance (alcohol, street or prescription drugs 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 Adult and Teen Challenge centers.” Washburn said.

This study is the first to quantify the work done by Adult & Teen Challenge centers nationwide using empirical social science research. Full survey results are available online at


About Evangel University

Evangel University, with the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel and AGTS serve more than 2,300 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 70 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.


About the Center for Compassion

Evangel University’s Center for Compassion provides opportunities for the Evangel community to engage in compassionate service, education, and research. Through a partnership with Springfield-based Convoy of Hope, the Center for Compassion equips and empowers Evangel faculty, staff, and students to demonstrate compassion through action.