If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.                                            

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV, 1984)

One of the goals we have undertaken as a ministry at Adult & Teen Challenge is to attempt to discover the “secret” of retaining men and women in the program once they enter. The reasons for withdrawing range from simply “not being ready to change” to discovering they are unwilling to surrender their own will to follow Jesus Christ. We have researched and strategized how the program could be altered to reduce the student drop-out rate. Yet, having not made any significant changes, we have observed a noticeable increase both in student retention and in the number of graduations. Interviews with both staff and students reveal that the potential “secret” is as old as Paul’s words above.

Those who have suffered from their own tragic decisions and personal traumas and have persevered to discover the healing grace of God have a tremendous capacity for tenderness and compassion. Those who have almost quit, but continued on in the program have a unique ability to speak life into those they feel are on the brink of giving up. This attitude—this spirit—is contagious and is producing results that we could not have contrived by some adjustment of the program. 

I have often said that we have a microcosm of our broken American society living on our ATCM campus. With that being the case, we are also able to observe the power of the Gospel as it both challenges and changes the same lives that society would often consider beyond hope. The love of God, the fellowship of the Spirit, and the compassion of those already set free are more than able to convince the brokenhearted that hope is worth fighting for!