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Teen Challenge History

History of Teen Challenge

The First Teen Challenge Program and Ministry

Teen Challenge ProgramTeen Challenge was started in Brooklyn, New York 1958 by Rev. David Wilkerson. Wilkerson was a young country preacher pastoring a church in eastern Pennsylvania. One February afternoon, Wilkerson read an article in LIFE magazine about seven teenagers on trial for murder. During a gang fight in Manhattan, these teens beat a young man to death. Troubled by what he read in the article and sensing God wanted him to do something for the teens, Wilkerson made a trip from his hometown — away from the negative impact of friends and familiar places — to Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, to the urban area of New York City.

Sometime after this, Rev. Wilkerson resigned from his church in Pennsylvania and moved to the New York City area to work full-time with teenage gang members. This new work was eventually called “Teen Challenge.” Soon, Teen Challenge also offered help to those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Since that day, the Teen Challenge ministry has spread across the United States and multiple countries worldwide. Then, as now, the ministry of Teen Challenge reaches out to troubled individuals and their families. Centers have been established for men, women, boys, and girls.

The rest of the story of Teen Challenge is told in the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade. This book has sold tens of millions of copies and has been translated into 35 different languages. Another exciting book, Run Baby Run, tells of notorious gang member Nicky Cruz, one of David Wilkerson’s early converts in New York City. Beyond the Cross and the Switchblade and The Cross is Still Mightier than the Switchblade also detail the early history of the Teen Challenge program.


Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch

Teen Challenge Program

In the 1970s, John and Nelda Nevels started taking troubled and hurting boys into their homes in Morrow, Arkansas. This Christ-centered outreach was known as the King’s Ranch. In 1973, this ministry became affiliated with Teen Challenge International, USA, and became the first residential Teen Challenge program and addiction treatment exclusively for boys. The King’s Ranch grew and eventually moved to its current location in 1980. Because of the kindness and generosity of the people of Morrow, Arkansas, the ministry was allowed to move to 5 acres of land and buildings previously used by the Morrow Community School district. Later, an additional 30 acres were purchased for expansion. In 1993, the ministry changed its name to Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch of Northwest Arkansas.

What started in a home on a hill in the Ozark Mountains has become a powerful, life-changing ministry that assists troubled boys and their families across the United States.

Should you need help finding therapeutic schools for boys, boarding school for troubled girls, or homes for boys, please let us know. Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch is a Christian therapeutic boarding school and boys home. Boys come to our therapeutic school and home in Northwest Arkansas from across the United States. We help at-risk boys who struggle with behavioral issues. Therapeutic boarding schools and boys homes like Teen Challenge offer behavioral therapy and a rehab for troubled teen boys with teen counseling for boys. The Christian boarding school for troubled boys offers a comprehensive, faith-based program designed to help boys overcome personal and behavioral challenges.  The curriculum combines rigorous academic instruction with Christian teachings, fostering both intellectual growth and moral development. Students engage in daily chapel services, Bible study, and prayer, which help them build a strong spiritual foundation and develop a personal relationship with God. Therapeutic support is a key component of the school, addressing the underlying issues contributing to the students’ difficulties. Counselors and therapists work with the boys individually and in group settings to provide emotional support, coping strategies, and behavior modification techniques. By providing a well-rounded experience, this Christian boarding school aims to equip troubled boys with the tools they need to succeed in life and become productive, compassionate members of society. Through a combination of faith, education, and therapy, our Christian boarding school strives to transform the lives of troubled boys and set them on a positive, fulfilling trajectory.

Teen Challenge History | Teen Challenge Program & Ranch

Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch became the first residential Teen Challenge addiction treatment for teens program exclusively for boys.