About me

I'm just a believer that is recovering from my experience at Teen Mania's Honor Academy and I would like to share my journey of healing with you.

February 11, 2014

Ron Luce's Former Assistant Says Reckless Spending is Cause for Teen Mania's Financial Failures


The Great & Powerful Oz: Behind the Curtain of Teen Mania Ministries

It was February 2008 and I was standing in an expansive crowd at the New York City BattleCry. I was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of young people lifting up the name of God in worship. It should have been the very pinnacle of all my ministry experience, but it wasn’t. I felt disappointed, I felt disgusted with the information I knew, and worst of all I felt like I had let God down. I had just been told by Ron Luce himself that I had committed a fatal mistake that had the potential to ruin his entire vision for this event, and he was clearly disappointed with me. 

In late 2007 I had been hired to be Ron Luce’s assistant, director of his Executive Office, and the 2008 New York BattleCry had been my baby. I was responsible for literally every minute of the event with regard to the VIP’s and had been given the directive to spare “no expense” to ensure that we handled our ultimate VIP with “world class” attention to detail. I was tasked with being the liaison for Bishop T.D. Jakes and to do absolutely anything (and everything) possible to ensure that he experienced world class VIP treatment. 

While the ministry was sending out donor letters explaining the dire conditions of the ministries need for more money to stay solvent I was executing a plan that seemed quite contrary to the need. The following can and should be verified by the reader in a demand for a public viewing of Teen Mania’s financial statements. I can assure you that not a single bit of this information is exaggerated or misstated in any way. 

However before I continue I want to be clear about a few points. I am not angry with Teen Mania Ministries or Ron Luce. I do not harbor ill will towards him or this ministry. On the contrary, my experiences absolutely and completely broke my heart because of the incredible lack of accountability, and how Mr. Luce’s power remains unchecked. I was so passionate about fixing this problem prior to my resignation that in a last ditch effort to help turn the ministry around, I wrote and presented to Mr. Luce an exhaustive report about the “real problem” with Teen Mania Ministries. The problem could be summed up in two words:

Ron Luce. It obviously fell on deaf ears…

            Like so many of you I grew up with Teen Mania. I have gone around the world on mission trips with Teen Mania. I loved Ron’s heart for ministry and felt compelled to join the ministry full time to make a difference. What I found when I got there was something that I                abhorred and absolutely broke my heart for the ministry and those who have been scarred by it. I am publically calling for Teen Mania to show their accounting records in full disclosure to the public. This is the only way that this problem can be fixed and for others to avoid being hurt by this recklessness. The following is simply my retelling of the facts that occurred during my experience as Ron Luce’s assistant and Director of the Executive office:

Courting the Bishop

The premier speaker for the New York City BattleCry had been decided in 2007 (possibly even before that time). This event was designed to be the biggest and most extravagant display that Teen Mania had ever performed, but in order to do that we needed the “big dogs” of the Christian world to attend to attract a large enough audience for the event. Early on Ron fixed his eyes on Bishop T.D. Jakes. I still remember when I received the “engagement dossier” from Mr. Jake’s offices in Dallas. I opened it and began muddling through the contract, green room requirements, hotel requirements, and ultimately the “Honorarium.” 

If you are not familiar with the term “Honorarium” then I will explain how that works in ministry as it exists in the church today. Notable and well known speakers in the Christian world are not much different than celebrities in the secular world in terms of their speaking engagement requirements. An “Honorarium” is synonymous with an “Appearance Fee.” This is the cost of what the speaker charges simply to come and speak in your church, event, or in this case the New York BattleCry. While the ministry was cutting back on salaries, expenses, costs, and was sending thousands of letters of year explaining the need for more money, I was hiring Bishop Jakes to speak at the NYC BattleCry.

His Honorarium was $100,000.00. Teen Mania Ministries paid every penny of that cost from the Executive Departments budget. But it didn’t end there…

Bishop Jakes also required a round trip chartered private Learjet from Texas to New York City. This would end up cost Teen Mania approximately $22,000.00. Additionally Bishop Jakes would need to stay in the Presidential suite of the Manhattan Ritz Carlton at approximately $2,200.00 a night. This too was paid by Teen Mania Ministries. 

If that weren’t enough, Bishop Jakes required TWO stretch Escalade limousines to take him to and from his hotel and the event. I do not immediately recall the cost for this expense, but I am sure the reader can use their imagination for what two stretch Escalades might cost. I truly wish it had ended there. Ron was not satisfied with merely meeting the requirements listed in Bishop Jake’s speaking contract; he wanted to far exceed his expectations. So I was tasked with transforming his experience into something that exuded “world class excellence.” 

At the instruction and approval of Mr. Luce we spared no expense and paid many thousands of dollars to have a local florist in New York City make rare and exotic imported flower bouquets for the Presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton. I know this because I delivered those flowers to the suite myself. We spent thousands of dollars buying rare chocolates, desserts, pastries and various imported gifts from around the world for the Bishop, his wife and his children. This included several hundred dollars of i-Tunes gift cards, i-Pods, and various expensive trinkets. 

Mr. Luce had me draft a complete “minute by minute” of what Bishop Jakes would experience from the moment he stepped off his $22,000.00 private Learjet to the moment he entered the stadium for the NYC BattleCry. This included a green room that was fit for a monarch. We completely transformed the nicest available space in the arena into a virtual oasis of luxury for Bishop Jakes. We rented couches, furniture, lamps and brought the most luxurious items we could find in the city to his green room. The cost for this was astronomical. 

 When it was all said and done we had easily spent well over $125,000.00 (this is a very conservative number, it likely exceeded $140,000.00+, but in the interest of details I want to remain as factual as possible in my recollection) in courting Bishop Jakes, because Ron believed that if we could entice the Bishop to partner with Teen Mania then we would be headed to the Promised Land. Despite my best preparations it seemed we had an Achilles heel that none of us were aware of at the time. Bishop Jakes had arrived at the arena and within a matter of 20 minutes his handler had forwarded a complaint from the Bishop to Ron himself. It seems my office had told the Bishop that he should wear a full suit and tie to the event, and when he arrived seeing dressed down teenagers he was not happy. 

If you didn’t know that during the time the Bishop spoke on stage (for approx. 50 minutes) you may not have noticed that the Bishop seemed bothered and uncomfortable during his short sermon, but Ron noticed and he was not pleased. Probably the most disappointing part of that experience was the fact that a young man had spoken a few hours before the bishop, someone that the ministry had not paid an “Honorarium.” He brought down the house and had the crowd on their feet at the end of his testimony. The Bishop did not have that affect, not even close. 

Despite Ron’s best efforts the extravagant luxuries did not appear to have the desired effect. Our small mistake of telling the Bishop to wear the wrong clothes seemed to be far more important than any of the money we had blown courting him. I know this because I followed Teen Mania for years after my departure, and never saw the Bishop again as a reoccurring guest speaker for the ministry in any remarkable capacity. 

A struggling ministry barely able to pay its staff, the bills, the ongoing operating costs of the campus, that was begging donors for money to stay afloat had literally blown over $125,000.00 on a man who spoke for about 50 minutes, and wasn’t even the best speaker of the event let alone that night. That is, in a nutshell, why Teen Mania has allowed the bank to foreclose. Reckless spending coupled with a leader who answers to no one is a recipe for disaster. 

It also should be noted that Teen Mania also paid Kirk Franklin $25,000.00 to come and perform at the NYC BattleCry for his “Honorarium.” This also did not include his green room requirements and travel expenses. Maybe this is simply the norm in the business that has become Christianity today, but I for one am disgusted by these examples from our so called “leaders”. What happened to the example that Paul gave us in the New Testament? Not only did he refuse to be paid to come and speak, but he insisted on working and serving everywhere he went. I believe it is time for change, and it has to be demanded from those of us that he given so much to these men and women who we have trusted with our resources and lives. 

Don’t Look Behind The Curtain

I really wish it all ended there. Once I started to delve into the financials of the ministry I was absolutely shocked and disturbed by what I found. The Executive Office (“EO”) had ZERO accountability to anyone, including the board. No one ever (or could ever) challenged Ron’s expenditures. I know this because one day I brought our department’s expenses to the Accounting department. The managing Accountant simply rolled her eyes and said, “I have stopped trying to figure out the EO’s finances, I just pay whatever I’m told to pay and keep quiet.”

Very few people stood up to Ron, but those that did were often shut down. This included Dave and Jon Hasz. My office that shared a wall with Ron’s and I was able to hear countless arguments that included disputes over expenses and costs with the main leaders of the ministry and Ron. But what shocked me the most is when I discovered what I still believe to be deeply disturbing. 

In 2008 I was made responsible for preparing the Board of Trustees meeting that happened once a year. Ron made it clear that it was during this meeting that he put his best foot forward. He wanted to impress the board with the ministry and would have the marketing department make special brochures and marketing pieces to show them. Then I came across salary information. I will only direct what I know as it relates to Ron and his family, because that is where my concern remains. In 2008 Ron Luce’s salary (as awarded by the board) was nearly $100,000. That seemed very high considering the fact that senior staff members were being paid so poorly (in many cases less than $20,000.00 annually) and even laid off because of the ministries issues with funding. But the most shocking thing to me of all was that Katie Luce, Ron’s wife, was also paid nearly $50,000.00 annually as the “secretary” of board of the ministry. This didn’t make sense to me because I had literally never seen Katie on campus doing ministry work of any kind in the entirety of my tenure at Teen Mania. If she did work for the ministry that was certainly news to me because I knew the whereabouts of the family most of the time and my understanding was that she operated as the stay-at-home mom of the family. If the ministry was struggling then this simply didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.

Looking Toward the Future

Sadly this is merely a few of the dozens of stories that I have to tell. For the past many years this has eaten at me and I would have gone to my grave keeping these secrets for a ministry that I once loved so dearly, but I cannot in good faith sit back and allow this financial mismanagement to continue without speaking up. It may not appear this way, but I truly approach this matter with the deepest love for Ron, his family, and this ministry, and it is in love that I believe change must occur. In the weeks to come I will share others stories that I hope compel those who would hear me to stand up and demand change. 

I hope and pray that God restores this ministry to what God initially intended it to be, but sometimes the Prophet Nathan brings bad news people don’t want to hear and it’s up to them to make the right choices once faced with the truth. I truly and sincerely hope Ron makes that choice…

66 comments:

Oh my god and in 2008 we were out there in the heat of Texas summer doing mass carwashes (mandatory) to raise money for TM's debt. I can't help but speculate that Ron was actually just trying to make up for the big bucks he blew on TD Jakes. What the hell.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight." (Luke 16:10-15)

"Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. [...] But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:5, 9-10)

"Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!" (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

"Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied. They are ignorant shepherds, all following their own path and intent on personal gain." (Isaiah 56:11)

Here endeth the lesson for the day, and the last shred of Teen Mania's credibility.

Thank you so much for sharing openly your experience. It's so disturbing to read this, and sadly, very believable.

It's devastating that an organization, and a CEO, would be so careless with spending, with the sweat and tears of its interns, and with the donations of generous people.

I hope more people have the courage to step forward and share the ways in which a ministry that emphasizes accountability and integrity has so poorly failed in these regards.

Mica can attest to the fact that her and I have been talking about close to a year about this issue. I resisted doing this because I honestly and truly didn't want to hurt the ministry, but with the news of their foreclosure and after reading the press release (which was tantamount to a Politician's promises in a Presidential campaign speech) I knew that I needed to speak up. These secrets must come to light and Ron needs to be held accountable.

I don't even know what to say. I thought I was beyond being hurt and upset by revelations from GV but this is just... omg. I'm beyond angry to know what has been done with money that people literally sweat and cried over to donate to do the work of God.

I'm disgusted by both Ron Luce and by T.D. Jakes.

There is nothing abnormal about the expenses made here. I have worked in several nonprofits. Larger and smaller than TM. Honorariums are completely normal and the cost listed might seem high to the average person, but after working with a ton of bands and speakers, this is completely normal. Other expenses and courting expenses are minimal compared to the potential payout. Everything is budged, and budgeted are approved.

As for salaries, he is making quite a bit less than what is the normal CEO of a non profit TM's size. This is the problem with most Christians. They think that everyone should work for nothing. As for employees being paid much less than Ron. Yes, absolutely they do. and the should. They didn't start the ministry. They don't run the ministry. They are employees...and not forced to work there. When offered a salary, one has the right to refuse or accept. By accepting they are agreeing to the salary, regardless of what others make....wasn't there a parable in the Bible about this? Something about the workers that worked for a full day and working for a partial day getting paid the same?

If you are upset with Ron and Bishop Jakes, then you should be upset by about 98% of the high level Christian artists and speakers. This is completely normal and acceptable.

Anonymous at 3:22 - So leaders should live in the lap of luxury while their followers whose work, blood, sweat and tears keep the ministry running lack for basic necessities like toilet paper? That is disgusting. If that is your christian god, I want nothing to do with him.

Anon @ 3:22 PM - The point of Jesus' parable is that people should not complain when those who work less get rewarded the exact same amount as those who feel they deserve more, because God gives to everyone equally. You seem to be taking the side of the ones who think God should not give equally because they deserved more. That misses the point rather a bit.

Jesus specifically gives the moral to the parable: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16). How on earth do you propose to use this to justify a system in which "high level Christian artists and speakers" live in luxury and make five times as much for 50 minutes' work as other employees make in a year?

I agree, though, when you say that we should be upset by a lot of high level Christian artists and speakers. But the fact that many other people commit the sin of avarice doesn't make it any less of a sin when Ron Luce does it. It may be normal, but it's not acceptable-- at least, not to the One who said, "How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven!"

For me, it is not the amount if money but the attitude behind the spending if it... there is something really wrong about wooing a fellow Christian to your ministry with extravagant gifts, especially as your intern body is struggling to deal with massive cut backs in the program they are paying to be part of... seriously did RD Jakes' kids need another ipod when interns had no hand soap.

Anon @ 3:22,

I remember the first host home I ever stayed at when I was on the ministry team. The lady seemed annoyed by the very presence of me and my teammates. She directed us to her toddler son's bedroom, where we slept on filthy sesame street bedding. She did not feed us that night or the next morning. Meanwhile, I worked myself to the point of exhaustion under the constant threat of being sent home because my parents and church community struggled to scrape together enough money to pay for me to be there. And when i was back in campus for the summer, i was forced to sleep in a trailer that literally had HOLES in the side of it, which allowed mice, raccoons, and ask manner if other vermin to make their home there alongside me and my roommates.There was mold and decay in the carpet and furniture, and there was no air conditioning, and none of my TEN roommates even thought to complain.

I'm sorry, but Ron's time and energy was not $150,000+ more than mine, especially considering that he couldn't have done any of what he was doing without me and others like me--and ESPECIALLY because I was helping to pay his salary with the hard earned money of my parents, who are not well-off by a long shot. Maybe this is how other organizations do it, but does that make it okay? Should a ministry really be run with the same capitalistic ethos of a secular organization? And how many ministries treat their workers so very poorly, or require their workers to pay for the privilege of working? And how many organizations refuse, for years, to scale back the scope of their vision to match the realistic limitations of their budget? You will find plenty of small not-for-profit organizations who do not pay their CEO as much a Ron and who responsibly cater to lower- tier celebrities with much smaller honorariums.

Anon@3:22:
I too worked for a non-profit at one point who wanted a "big dog" speaker to come. I too received the portfolio of demands including private jet fuel, five star accommodation, huge honorarium, etc. We were also on a limited budget.
The difference is, our answer was: thanks we'll do without you, Mr. Fancy High-Dollar Preacher.
So.... yeah, it's true other people charge that much. And yeah, it's also true that organizations that realize what the word "budget" means do NOT simply fork over cash they don't have.

It frightens me that you want to normalize behavior that breaks the backs of many to impress a few who are already wealthy.

Thank you to the courageous soul who shared this story.

Normal or not isn't the point. The point is when your business is in financial trouble the first thing you do is cut expenses. If I cook a meal for 150 people and we don't have enough for the high end meat I have to find a way to make lower end meats taste just as amazing. This is basic financial planning 101.

Lets look past the money talks here for a second.
This stands out to me more "I had just been told by Ron Luce himself that I had committed a fatal mistake that had the potential to ruin his entire vision for this event, and he was clearly disappointed with me."
I mean this is how he treated you. That is a shame on him for that. Its a shame that he felt he had the right to step up to you in that manner. To tell you, that its all your fault for everything that is gone wrong. That is mind blowing.

Now back to the money
Wow just wow.

This is certainly not the first time Ron Luce bet a significant sum of money on some star speaker that would ostensibly impress... I'm not sure, maybe his target audience's grandparents. I'm reminded of former US president Gerald Ford speaking at the second Pontiac Silverdome event, he probably cost as much as Jakes, there was a private jet involved there too.

Thank you for bringing validation to what almost any intern or staff with any business sense has picked up on in the last 15 years. In 1998, we were forced to purchase our own paper (on the tiny stipend that came out of our support money that also needed to be used to feed ourselves on the weekends and buy things like soap and toothpaste) to send letters to our supporters, asking for more money. I think that pretty much encapsulates the modus operandi of this "ministry". Any repercussions that Teen Mania suffers in its fall, will be deserved.

I wonder how many of the persons writing in this site have ever done at least 10% of what TM has done for the Lord and for His Kingdom, I had a rough time going thru the HA and some things I did not agree with, however I'd never dare to judge or try to discredit a ministry that over 2 decades has sent thousands of teens for missions, and formed, overseas missionaries, pastors, youth pastor etc, I am a pastor now. The thing is that if you havent understood that even in a Godly ministry there are man mistakes because only Jesus was a sinless man, if someone is beong used by the enemy is whoever is behind this site. Matthew 7:2

Anon at 7:02--- seriously? There is a point when mistakes of man cannot be looked past and chalked up to "we are flawed humans." Ron Luce and TM are WAY beyond that point. I'll give him a mulligan for maybe one or two of the stories on this site... but when there are over 100 people who have spoken out, and when now it isn't just those of us deemed bitter, but is in actuality people that still support TM that are speaking out--- there are no more mulligans for this man or his ministry. He and it need to be SHUT DOWN.

Yesssss!!!!! Thank you for sharing your perspective and the facts within. Some much needed reference to hard evidence to will hopefully continue to expose the hypocrisy and CRAZINESS of christian "ministries". Luce quickly leaned how to work the crowd, has been doing it for years, and wanted to hit the big time. So glad I questioned that whole thing before, during, and after my "internship", which was one of the worst years of my life. So glad my questioning brought me to where I am today: living a happy, meaningful life as an agnostic humanitarian.

It would be more than 125k according to your description. Also- who is this assistant. If i were writing a blog this specific, I would own it. C/O 1997

Thanks for sharing. I'm blown away at how many people think it's okay to run a ministry like this off the back of kids that PAY to work. Bullshit.

Charlene - He chose to use a conservative number but said it was likely more than $140k.

Ron's pay was $100,000/year PLUS additional $100,000.00 for travel and such (according to the FYE2012 990

150k for salary is not a big deal. I expect though that he could live very comfortable in middle of no where Texas with that.

Acquire The Fire carried Teen Mania financially. When that ended, so did the good times.

I worked atf events back in the late 90's and I don't remember how much they brought in but I am sure that there was a substantial profit for the bigger shows. They spent money on the production because it made money.

Thus the desire to have a big event with big speaker. Problem though is expensive city and expensive performers. Maybe it lost money?...

Anon @ 7:02 -- "I wonder how many of the persons writing in this site have ever done at least 10% of what TM has done for the Lord and for His Kingdom."

Any person who has ever said a kind word to someone who was hurting has done at least 10x more than TM has ever done for the Lord and for His Kingdom.

And how about Matthew 7:22.

@eric i disagree. TM has many faults and problems. Many.

But I think they have done a lot of good too.

But since when does the good outweigh the bad? A rapist who saves a drowning child is still a rapist and should be treated as such.

after all, Christian doctrine states that a single sin is enough to send one to hell....

Anon - It might depend how we define "good," perhaps. After all, in the verse I just cited (Matthew 7:22-23) Jesus makes it pretty obvious that "doing a lot of good" is not the criteria that He judges by. And on the principle that "the last shall be first and the first shall be last," it's likely that those who are really doing the most for the Kingdom are not the seemingly obvious candidates.

My assertion that one act of love is worth more than all of TM's flashy good deeds is in fact a direct nod to 1 Corinthians 13: "And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

That said, I do believe that God is very much able to use whatever the heck He wants to accomplish His work. Though I see it the other way around from some commenters here-- it's not that the organization is good but some people still make mistakes; it's that the organization is bad but some people still love God.

no surprises here. I seriously hate this place.

@eric no desire to get into argument about definition of good. Nor do I care to discuss bible verses.

My experience at TM was generally good. I am not the kind of "bleeding heart" personality. Esoal was an option for me and I said "why would I ever subject myself to that?" I could see that there were problems but life is full of problems. I learned a lot. It messed me up in a couple ways. I am stronger now. Today I have turned essentially to not believeing in God. But I occasionally lean on my truthful memory of experiencing God while I was at TM. Of course on the other side TM is part time of the reason I no longer believe.

Thank you for sharing! I am not surprised, nor am I bitter. Nor do I think Ron should live on minimum wage...its his business to earn a decent wage. But there needs to be a line in ministry...not to capitalize on kids to feed the big Godly celebs. Ministry leaders are to serve... not for fame or money. Yes, there are big time ministry makers out there but some credible ones are sowing most of it back into their communities and the world.

I'm afraid there are a lot of blind alumni out there that don't want to see the truth unfold. The bible does talk about being good stewards of our finances. HA is so quick to give the boot to people who supposedly fail at the internship. Rather than mentoring them, working alongside of them, or encouraging them to move forward. I being one of them. I served on various leadership panels, including ACA,CA, 3 yr CA, Women's ministry, 1rst woman as Sports Coordinator, Co-founder of Terra Nova and Honor Council for two yrs.

But the Ron followers want to say no Ron is like our mini god, he can ask for forgiveness so we forgive and he can return to business as usual. Ok, fair enough, forgive and move on. But you dont forgive interns who fail. HA kicks you out and when you try to make amends, they tell you are not welcome to come back to visit. My true story! Then, when you arrive at campus they tell you not to stay on campus...they treat you like a diseased person. But I had the courage to walk through the staff's put downs and some interns discouragement despite their spiritualism and prejudices. I had the courage to drive 2000 miles alone and tell my ex core that I made a mistake and to forgive me. They deserved it! Because I truly loved them...without a doubt.

The only true person in leadership that handled me with love and support during my dismissal was Mercer Cauley. I'm eternally grateful for the seed of love he bestowed as I was surrounded in such a dark place.You'll never know what it is like to walk along the path to your dorm room, wave at your fellow CA's whom you served with and many turn their heads and dont acknowledge you ....cause now all they'll ever see you as is a "sinner".

So we scroll the pages of this site and story after story it tears my heart. Then, we get yelled at by pharisee alumni who post on this site and tell us to shut up, we're sick, it didnt happen, you guys are bitter, who cares its just 10% of the interns that are affected...look at us over here "the majority" we are happy...we had the best experience. So the story goes on after 11 yrs. We get looked upon as less than...like "sinners".

Then, alumni who dont like us run back to there spiritual lives...behind ordained masks, praying God use me to change the world. When they in fact, low ball us over here...

There are two sides to every story. So why cant we share ours? I dont want money...I dont want to start a revolution ex minstry HA..I dont want nothing but to voice my story. So that maybe I can encourage someone scrolling these pages to afraid to speak up cause they are burdened with depression, thinking they have failed. We all fall...but we get back up again. And my knees have the scars to remind me to never forget where Ive been....the grace to walk again and the strength to be stronger today and the future.

I am grateful that I went through what I did at TM, the good and the bad. I learned alot of great things, overcame many fears and faced hard lessons. But my life story is to fight for the underdog. My God, my dad, my Jesus was for the underdog...he ran steadfast after the 1 that left the herd of 99.

Keep moving forward and never give up! :)

Jennifer


You are brave and I admire your tenacity and willingness to speak out. Thank you.

Fuck, I forgot about that car wash.

Well this post just pissed me off...

Battle Cry, in its first year, put TM 4 million dollars in debt. There was no profit.

Then, they had the audacity to ask interns to fund raise for the ministry ON TOP of their own fundraising.

If that's not bad enough, TM continued with Battle Cry for the next 2 years. (maybe even longer, but I stopped paying attention by then)

Ron should get a six figure salary for speaking 4 hours a week? People dealing with nuclear material deserve 6 figure salaries, but not Ron. And especially not when his ministry can't afford the campus. If he took a third of what his family earns, which is fairer, perhaps his ministry wouldn't have defaulted.

BattleCry... nearly a half million dollars in printing costs, for plenty of glossy paper complete with spelling errors.

Beyond the salary issue - which is not over the top for a non-prof CEO, but certainly reflects leadership style to be drawing that number while leaving staff with a fraction of his income, and interns still paying to work and being taught that they should be content with little, since that is a mission mindset - the concern for any donors or future interns should be the attitude of money mismanagement.

"No one ever (or could ever) challenged Ron’s expenditures. I know this because one day I brought our department’s expenses to the Accounting department. The managing Accountant simply rolled her eyes and said, “I have stopped trying to figure out the EO’s finances, I just pay whatever I’m told to pay and keep quiet.” "

I worked in the TM finance department in 2003, and can tell you that even then, budgeting was barely considered. Nearly every day, I was asked to call a vendor to whom we owed money and give an excuse about why we can't pay yet or when we might send money. Suggested excuses I was fed were "We'll get it to you next week," "Oh, it's on its way. Check back with us in a few days," etc - none of which was true. We would have months of unpaid bills that kept coming back to us.

The department that seemed to spend the most recklessly that year was ATF. I don't ever remember denying an order request from that department. The one department that ever seemed have issues clearing permissions for an expense was for the Honor Academy itself. Not surprisingly, the living conditions of the interns were not top priority. We had a parking swamp behind Morris Hall where intern cars were regularly stuck, but it took years to have the money approved for some concrete. Even repairing broken light fixtures was low on the list of spending priorities. And don't even get me started on the food.

Ultimately, it's the ATTITUDE of spending that is a major red flag for this non-profit. I think there was an air of "God will give us whatever money we need," no matter how ridiculous the reasons. And for the head accountant herself to throw up her hands and just try to pay whatever was asked of her, regardless of money availability - that rings true with my experience years before talk of foreclosure. It's this attitude of recklessness that doomed the business. And, as the author expresses, that attitude comes straight from Mr. Luce. I can't say that any intern past or present would describe him as anything but reckless (good or bad). Doesn't he even teach a class about being "reckless for God" or something? Sounds like him. He's pretty crazy.

THIS MAN IS GOING DOWN!!!!
You just wait and see!!!

Omg. Those car washes... fuck those car washes.

Omg. Those car washes... fuck those car washes.

I was an alumnus from 06-08 and enjoyed thriving with the ministry at it's height of size and apparently radical spending. I agree that Bishop Jakes charges way too much for his honorarium and probably left the idea of modesty behind when he started getting weekly calls to travel and speak all over the place. He likely just decided, like a for-profit business might do, to jack his price up to meet the "demand" instead of holding the requests before the Lord asking the Spirit for which one he should pursue - which seems like a more reasonable approach to deal with high volume. I also agree that Ron's decision to place that much value on one "gifted" man of God to try and generate more revenue from a huge event was a misallocation of resources and a bad decision on TM's part.

Just to speak up on the issues of Ron's Salary alone: My field of expertise is Employee Compensation (Even in non-profits) and believe it or not, the median pay for Tyler TX with Ron's resume (including the MBA at Harvard) puts him at a mid market Non-Profit CEO salary of about 178,000 total cash salary (with about 145K base) (The market ranges anywhere from 110K to 305K). I say that to give a benchmark against other ministries, but the tough question really revolves around the ministry comp strategy for all the staff - who have likely been drastically underpaid. Meaning, if they want to pay everyone at a certain fair market pay, that might mean top leaders take a pay cut before doing layoffs OR everyone agrees to live at a very low pay together - which is not the best for everyone's livelihood and provision for their families. Layoffs aren't necessarily bad when they are wise. This is a difficult decision for any leadership team to make amidst a struggling revenue stream. Bottom line is this: I agree that they would do well to consider hiring a new CEO who is not so married to the ministry as it's founder would be and who can make hard decisions and strategic ones need to be made to keep TM afloat and back on the track to thriving, in ministry results and in finances that correlate.

FYI - Ron Luce does NOT have an MBA from Harvard. He only took a course there that lasted a few weeks.

This is not normal or acceptable at all, it's an atrocity. Interns are convinced to work for free based on the idea that they are advancing God's kingdom. Employees are often recruited from within and have been conditioned to live at a low financial standard, one that is unsustainable in our culture. They are also encouraged to forego opportunities for furthering themselves financially by being offered limited options for college as a TMM staff member, or be forced to put off getting an education in order to work for the ministry. It is outrageous that a ministry who claimed that to be a leader one must follow a higher level of accountability than their followers would expect their subordinates to live at wages below the poverty level while they themselves had more than enough for themselves and their families is abhorrent. It doesn't matter what the industry standard is for non-profits and non-profit CEOs because Ron Luce and Teen Mania do not claim to be just any other normal non-profit, they claim to be the sole bearers of a message of the lifestyle requirements and theological beliefs necessary to obtain good standing with God. The levels of psychological abuse this contains is staggering. I can't believe anyone would not look on Teen Mania without feelings of disgust and shame.

The idea that this astronomical compensation for Ron Luce is acceptable because he was a "ground floor" guy at the beginning? Absolute crap - you're either committed to the prospect of spreading a message and ministering to the needs of others, or you're a businessman motivated by the bottom line and maximum return. Despite the fervent attempts of the latter to justify their milking of limited funds while claiming to also be the former, these two objectives simply don't mix. Call the man what he really is - be that businessman, opportunist, exploiter of young people, or (as some have suggested) cult leader. Having worked in non-profits and started many an initiative from the ground-floor up, I certainly never saw my "first-in" position as an excuse to profit off the backs of those who came after. I mean, isn't that why people work for non-profits and charitable organizations in the first place? By its very definition, "non-profit" means non-profit - period.

My heart does legitimately go out to everyone who was duped into what they believed to be a very worthwhile enterprise, only to experience the kind of duplicitous exploitation described in multiple previous postings. My hope is that you don't give up on the inherent goodness of people and the world in which we live...

this is nothing but the Word of God being fulfilled!!!!didnt the Lord Jesus already tell us what was going to happened in these last days...!!!didnt Paul preach and teach what these so called "LEADERS" would become????yes this is really shocking to hear...but should we REALLY be shocked????the Holy Bible already told us of these things.....yet folks still being deceived by these "MINISTRIES and MINISTERS!!!!WAKE UP CHRISTIANS....READ YOUR BIBLES AND KNOW THE REAL TRUTH THAT SETS YOU FREE!!!!!!!

Judgment begins at the house of God. I agree with Charles. We need to wake up and read our bibles or we will suffer our own chastisement.

Thanks for sharing this post. I am a local pastor who has taken numerous teens over the years to ATF events, and who was involved in the BattleCry initiative. I have had the greatest admiration and respect for Ron over the years, along with what TM has been trying to accomplish. I am truly saddened to hear of these abuses. While I agree that these salaries and honorariums are more than likely in line with other non-profits, we must always be careful to represent the Lord. We must take care to assure that the cause of Christ is not brought into reproach because of our behavior. Unfortuneately one of the dangers of success is that it can begin to blind people to where they have come from. The word minister should have really better been translated servant. Because we must always remember that we are called to serve others, as Jesus gave us this example when He washed His disciple's feet. I don't deny men of God the right to be paid well, because they have often made years of sacrifice for the ministries and people they have served. Yet we need to remember that we are stewards of God's resources. These type of lavish expenditures and treatment as described in hosting Bishop Jakes simply have no place in God's Kingdom. I have always admired the fact that while Billy Graham is one of the most well known ministers of our time, he has always lived on a relatively modest salary, and maintained a life of integrity and humility.

My heart is literally broken for a ministry I worked SO hard for....
Intern 05-06/ Ministry Team 06-07 (Branded By God tour)

I gave so many years to this ministry as well. It breaks my heart most of all that Ron lives in complete denial of his mistakes. He believes he is totally infallible and always speaks on behalf of God Himself. It's disturbing and I am sad that I spent so many years trying to further the goal of this ministry. -The Author

I'm not shocked at all by this information. During my 03-04 year my friend worked in Finance and one day I went to visit her to talk about a bill or something from my department and she pulled me aside in very hushed voice and said "if you had ANY idea how messed up our finances are here, you wouldn't believe it!" apparently she was having a rough day and was fed up. I asked what she meant, and she said without getting herself in trouble and giving me exact specifics, that the ministry was beyond help in over their heads in debt, and there was no way she could foresee them ever getting out of this much debt with the unbridled spending that was also going on, and that no one had any accountability with Finances, and even the person in charge in the finances dept didn't have a clue how to manage it at this point. Everything was a huge mess, records were missing or wrong, no one knew what was going on, and the debt just kept growing while the spending went unchecked. She made me promise not to say anything, as the culture of fear at the HA was very strong, she was afraid of being found out and "punished." This same time, one of my male friends from our bro core actually got dismissed for accessing the Executive files and looking at Ron's salary information. At the time there were no locks or passwords on the files. Anyone with computer access could go into the Executive folders and look at anything they wanted. I actually saw it for myself (which I was afraid all year I would be dismissed for looking at it on my computer), but I was most shocked by all the extravagant trips and vacations the Luce's took, which the ministry paid for. Expensive trips to Atlantis Resort in Bahamas is one I particularly was shocked by. This wasn't a ministry trip, but merely a leisure trip for the entire family. Why was the ministry footing that bill? Why didn't Ron pay for it from his own private salary, which I think was more than 100k that year, but don't hold me to that, this was a decade ago I nervously looked at those files as quickly as possible afraid some internal computer alarm would go off and I'd end up getting caught. I had no malicious intent for looking at this information I was honestly just curious. And as a ministry that has always seemed so secretive about their finances while demanding such sacrifices from their paying interns and poorly paid staff, TM has always had an air of dishonesty around finances to me. Or at least an aloofness and ignorance that borders on carelessness. Thanks to this former employee for being honest. I cannot judge Ron that's God's job, but I can see fruit for what it is and choose to never support this ministry again.

Why did I go to TM at all? Coming home from my internship (January 2012) I was often asked what led me to The HA. It took me several months to fully process my experience enough to satisfy the authenticity of my time there and the pursuit to which I went. Initially, I had known HA alumni. These were outstanding men of God. I knew I was gifted and talented, but oh, how I wanted to grasp ahold of what these guys had. Passion, hunger, leadership, willingness, character, understanding...Action. I fell in love with the prospect of becoming someone who could step out in a big way for God and trust Him to accomplish His will in my life; through my life. I checked out the Campus Preview Weekend and there by the prayer tree, God and I talked about the opportunity to "dedicate one year of my life to Him." This, coming from a guy who had never been two states away from his home. Now, considering a year in Garden Valley, TX...a place I didn't know existed until recently.

I came because I was hungry. I was curious. I was afraid to act and afriad of what not acting would mean for my walk with God. I was obedient. I was in love with God. I was bold.

My time there, as many from either side of this conversation can agree, was hard. Questions were asked that I hadn't thought about. Emotions were stirred that I thought I had done away with. Experiences were gained, "counting it all joy" was learned. I came hoping to add "Christian Leadership" under my belt of accomplishments. I wanted to be a leader! I wanted to be perfect! 8 months in (which I believe to be due to my stubborness) I finally broke. After all the core nights, the silly rat race routine, the pressure to be excellent, I Broke! I experienced guilt, shame, failure, fear, disgust, depression...things perfect Christians shouldn't deal in. I became aware that I indeed was a broken man...a sinner before a Holy (yet loving and tender and compassionate and merciful and forgiving) God.

I learned that in order for God to raise up the leader I so desperately longed and strived to be....I had to surrender. Take me; break me; make me! I stayed bitter for months. I was angry at my own hypocrisy and the superficial extension echoed in all that I put my hand to. I was a caller for ATF. Every phone call made me face my own double-mindedness. Broken, distraught and overwhlemed I made the calls, "Good Morning, God bless....let's pray." A living reminder that I was a phony; a fake...but I was excellent.

Why did I come? To follow the pursuit of God. I realized along this journey, men are broken, ministries aren't perfect, work can't fix the hurt, excellence doesn't mask the pain and I wasn't enough. I needed God in a way I never grasped. I found Him through it all.

I was finally done with trying to be perfect. I learned there is grace: the power of God to do the will of God. Forgiveness! I found mercy and grace for my family that I held so much bitterness towards. I found grace for people who were still learning to get it right. I had room to breathe and to grow...and room enough to allow others to do the same.

I won't say that TM is perfect. I agree that I had a lot of things I needed to forgive them for. Ultimately, God is Faithful. He proved true, though every man be counted a liar. He used every experience, the good and the bad, to draw me closer to Himself. I pray each of you continue to grow closer to Him. Despite the hurt and pain inflicted by man, He is so sufficient. It was worth it!

Going after T.D. Jakes (modalist heretic) as a "Christian big dog" is an indicator of more serious things going on.

HonorRium is supposed to be an offering. When there is a charge it is a fee! Lot of difference. The ministers and speakers I know don't charge fees, they accept offerings. Those are Dependant on what the church can afford. The Bible says "my God shall supply all your needs..." Its called walking by faith. Apparently TD isn't familiar with that. And if he is to good to fly commercial, then he is headed for a fall. "pride goeth before destruction and a haughht spirit before a fall...".

Where is the IRS? I hope they are investigating. There are strict laws regarding allocations of funds and record keeping for non profits.

Also, a good minister doesn't live wY above the people he serves. If the average man in his congregation makes $50,000 annually, his salary shouldn't be more. He is to be a SERVANT, not a king.

Lest anyone accuse me, I'm not judging. If it is written in the Word it is to be followed.

Prayer changed things.....Saint we wee to pray...................Let God deal with it. Amen

I just read through all this. I knew Ron very personally many, many years ago. The Ron I knew truly has a heart for teens, for God, for ministry. Which means he would be under the enemy's attack all the more and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This information saddens me. I also think of scriptures where we are called to pray. Sin is rampant in the world and even David (called the friend of God) committed great sin. Saints, we are called to pray, pray for these men/women who are in the spotlight, and yes, reaching people/teens/children who do give their life to Christ. Pray that God would reach them and show them the places in their hearts and lives that need to change. Our prayers can move mountains and our Lord can reach anyone on their road to Damascus. Saints... pray for these men and women who may be having difficulty in the spotlight remembering to do the right thing - to seek first the kingdom - to be servants. Pray for them saints, pray! James 5:16

I wish I had read about this several months ago! As a youth leader, I organized several fund raisers (car wash, spaghetti dinner, basket raffle) to raise money for our youth group to attend an Aquire the Fire event that was to take place in Cleveland this past weekend. Our youth group and my co-youth leaders worked very hard to raise the $500 it took to buy tickets for the event. We purchased the tickets several months ago and received the confirmation email from ATF two weeks ago for this weekend`s event. Myself and two youth leaders took time off from work and several parents rearranged their schedules to pick their youth up from school early so that we could get to the ATF event on time. However, when we arrived at the conference center, the only people there were several other groups wondering why the building was locked and no one from ATF was present. When we finally got through to someone at ATF, we found out that the event had been rescheduled for February 2015! I have no idea why we couldn't be notified of this change ahead of time! It was very frustrating. I requested a full refund of our ticket money, as I have no idea if we can all rearrange our schedules again to attend in February. It was implied, by the person at ATF, that a refund may not be possible. I was told that I would receive a phone call from ATF within a couple of hours to discuss the refund. It has been more than 24 hours now and no such phone call has been received. I am going to have to spend some time in prayer too figure out how to tell our youth that the money we worked so hard to raise has been taken and not returned by a Christian organization, if we are unable to attend the event in February (if there actually is such an event). All of the remaining 2014 events have more been rescheduled for 2015. To read that this organization is in financial trouble as a result of Ron Luce`s mismanagement of money, makes me very concerned that we will never see our ticket money again.

Kerri, I'm very sorry to hear that. It sounds like you really care about the kids in your group or you wouldn't have worked so hard to make this event happen for them. I can imagine this is a very frustrating situation!

On the bright side, none of your kids were sucked into the Teen Mania machine to have their enthusiasm and innocence stripped and replaced with depression.

Wow, Kerri, that's amazingly unprofessional and ungodly even for Teen Mania. I'm so sorry to hear that you got burned like that!

As for how to explain it to your youth, you might consider using it as a teachable moment for some of Jesus' lessons about how false leaders try to take advantage of believers, and how to deal with the inevitable disappointment when they do. See for example the several verses in my first comment above saying how false prophets often misappropriate money. "You will know them by their fruits." The question to examine is, since we can't always trust people or organizations who claim to be Christian, does that mean we can't trust Christ? (Answer: well, He was certainly trustworthy about the fact that there'd be wolves in the fold...)

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