John Castellani is director of
Teen Challenge International USA. He recently talked with Ron Kopczick,
promotions coordinator, about Teen Challenge and its 150 centers in
the United States and 200 more around the world.
Evangel: How did serving as executive
director of the Teen Challenge Training Center in Rehrersburg, Pa.,
help you lead Teen Challenge nationally?
I was responsible for a budget of $5 million. We had to look for funds,
because theres no funding stream. We had to create and develop
management skills while working with a staff of more than 140. We had
a vocational-technical department of 21 different shops. The program
teaches the men that Teen Challenge not only helps them get off drugs,
but also creates in them a good work ethic. That has helped me see the
big picture at the national office.
Evangel: What are some recent
Teen Challenge ministry innovations?
Castellani: Were getting
our graduates into technical colleges, some of which offer two free
years of education. Churches have developed re-entry houses. They have
taken these men under their wings and given them opportunities to serve
in local churches, find jobs and start their lives over.
Evangel: What distinguishes Teen
Challenge from publicly funded short-term, inpatient drug treatment
Castellani: Our answer is
the "Jesus factor." That is the success of Teen Challenge.
Hes given these men and women an opportunity to exercise the faith
in them into something positive rather than something destructive.
Evangel: Why is it difficult
for society to accept Teen Challenges effectiveness despite studies
proving its success?
Castellani: In John 15, Jesus
says, "Theyll persecute you, but its not you, but me
in you." The secular community doesnt like faith-based programs
because of the positive message of Christ and what He is able to do
in the power of redemption.
Evangel: What do the endorsements
of Teen Challenge by various U.S. presidents mean?
Castellani: Ronald Reagan,
George Bush and George W. Bush have seen all kinds of programs, secular
and faith-based. They have accepted that in Teen Challenge there is
something positive. Its just like anything in life. When someone
recognizes your value or worth, it causes you to feel good. We dont
rest upon what they have said. We just take it as an encouragement.
Evangel: Where do you think the
debate on federal assistance for faith-based organizations will lead?
Castellani: I thank George
W. Bush for bringing it to the thinking of the American people. For
years the church has done great things in the social community. When
the debate is all settled, even if there are no moneys that come from
the government, the populace at large will have a better understanding
for faith-based ministries.
Evangel: What do you think the
future holds for Teen Challenge?
Castellani: The future for
Teen Challenge is going to be tremendous in the area of drug prevention.
The public schools are going to open their doors to us, as theyve
already begun to do. We have testimonials from administrators who like
what were doing. Drug prevention in our churches is not talked
about enough. Our young people need to hear more from a Christian standpoint
how to deal with the drug issue.
There is a great need for adolescent
programs. Right now we have 20 adolescent programs. Its my goal
to have many more. In the prisons, wardens are looking for people to
do more than hold evangelistic services. Theyre looking for people
to come in and do training, because recidivism is so great.
These are some of the best days
for Teen Challenge because the need is great. I would like to see the
day when Teen Challenge is no longer needed. But as long as the need
is there, I really feel this is Gods time. The doors of opportunity
are opening like never before.