The Bible has much to say about human work, but perhaps the most well-articulated purpose of diligent labor is found in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. You know that you will receive an inheritance as a reward. You serve the Lord Christ.” Paul’s thoughts in these two verses are a summary of his larger discourse in Colossians 3 on how Christ-followers should conduct themselves. It is an equally convicting and invigorating passage that calls all Christians to a higher standard of living; how much more applicable to an entire ministry that has devoted itself to gospel evangelism!
Adult & Teen Challenge is constantly seeking new avenues of increased excellence God may present as a means to build His kingdom. Through these divinely ordained opportunities, ATC can glorify God by maximizing its potential as a recovery provider. Such improvements and alterations are not intended merely to boost ATC’s reputation; they are a response to Paul’s exhortation to serve the Lord Christ to the utmost.
One “avenue” ATC can and should immediately pursue is the collection and analysis of program data. It is one thing to know a program works and to say as much. This is called anecdotal evidence, and ATC has plenty of it. Nowhere is this more readily visible than in the thousands upon thousands of stories of God’s life-changing power from ATC graduates. While anecdotal evidence can be totally legitimate, it does not carry the weight of numerical data collected over time, multifaceted and thoroughly reviewed. Numbers prove effectiveness, establish best practices, identify weak spots, and show to anyone with no prior knowledge of the ministry that ATC’s model of care works.
For example, a story of a graduate who overcame years of trauma and substance abuse to become a beloved pastor and devoted family man shows God’s power working through ATC. It demonstrates an example of transformation common to ATC, but it doesn’t show whether that program was effective for others in his cohort. The story makes for a powerful testimony to others in need, but it doesn’t say which of ATC’s offerings was most effective in helping the graduate maintain abstinence after the program. It may generate an engaging appeal letter that will bring in money to keep the lights on, but it doesn’t help the center’s directors identify where they should strengthen their program.
Alternatively, examine some of the outcomes in a recent study of over 10,400 Adult & Teen Challenge students. Through several means of tracking and recording participant responses at 162 centers, survey designers found the following:
- Graduate abstinence rates after completion were consistently higher than the national average until 350 days after graduation, when the rates were equivalent (approximately 20 percent).
- Over the course of one year, 78 percent of intakes left the program. The largest number of dropouts occurred from 120 to 150 days in the program.
- By program completion, graduates surveyed experienced mental health improvement by 333 percent.
- The highest number of admissions (26.9 percent) came from family referrals. The next highest came from pastors (11 percent), followed by self-admission (10.8 percent).
- Provider performance, as ranked by the students, trended consistently upward from zero to 60 days.
- The most marked trigger locations and actual trigger trips both occurred at a place other than homes or sites of previous substance abuse.
- Fewer than 25 percent of students were high school graduates.
- Over 57 percent of students surveyed were single; over 62 percent were male.
These data, which are still being collected, can provide key insights for ATC program performance. What encourages a person to change his or her habits? Why should a person commit to a longer period of recovery than may be comfortable? How can ATC make recovery more engaging? What community connections should ATC make to increase referrals? What level of education is ATC most likely to see, and how does that inform curriculum, instructional design, and lifestyle expectations? Numerical data will illuminate the answers to these questions and many more.
Likewise, data collection and analysis show outside parties ATC is serious about internal evaluation. By gathering all of this information, the ministry demonstrates that it is committed to a culture of constant development and improvement. Additionally, it serves as a marketing tool to prove the efficacy of the ATC model to unfamiliar or skeptical audiences.
Most importantly, collecting and analyzing data are ways ATC can do its utmost to glorify God. By exercising due diligence to ensure the ministry is operating to its fullest capacity, ATC will serve the Lord by providing the highest quality care to each lost and hurting individual who enters its programs.