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.

April 14, 2014

Ron Luce's Former Assistant: The Executive Office is a Toxic Environment because of Ron Luce's Verbal Abuse

It was the summer of 2007 and I was in Tijuana, Mexico building homes on a Teen Mania mission trip with nearly 600 teens from around the country. A young girl on my team was a current intern at Teen Mania and mentioned to me that the ministry had been hunting for Ron’s new assistant. They have spent several months collecting resumes and interviewing people from around the country. Teen Mania had gone so far as to hire Rebecca Contreras, a former White House aide to President Bush, as a consultant to interview prospective applicants.


That next morning I woke up early to reach the build site where we were constructing a 350 square foot house for a family that had been living in a glorified wooden shack for many years. The wood and building materials had been delivered the night before and lay in front of their dusty dirt plot that would soon become their home. As I arrived I noticed that the wood had a large blanket laying over it that hadn’t been there the night before. As I grew closer I saw the blanket moving and realized something incredible.

This poor family had slept on the wood that night to ensure that no one took their future home. The family showed incredible gratitude for our help, and hugged each and every one of us with tears in their eyes as we handed them the keys to their new home.
           
That was why I made the decision to submit my resume to Teen Mania to become the next assistant for Ron Luce. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change lives. I wanted to do things that mattered to the least of these, and most of all I wanted my life to count for more than just myself. I gave up my very successful career working for JP Morgan Chase Bank. I sold my home and virtually all of my possessions because I believed I was answering the call. Please understand, I don’t say any of that as credit to myself, but to illustrate that I meant my commitment when I chose to enter full time ministry.

It didn’t take long before I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. The first day I arrived I had a meeting with my staff of interns. Within the first thirty minutes of that meeting I noticed that several of the interns were crying. I began to probe and try to ascertain what was happening and almost immediately was told a statement that sounded like a rehearsed PR speech, “The Executive Office is a very challenging ministry placement and requires great faith and perseverance to endure.” I had heard “Christianese” lingo like that before, but this seemed like something that had been said thousands of time before my arrival. I knew something was very wrong, but I just didn’t yet know what or who was the source of the problem. Little did I know I was about to discover the truth behind the tears.

Ron’s son was turning thirteen and Ron had planned a ceremony for him to celebrate his “becoming a man.” As part of this event Ron had instructed us to purchase his son a Braveheart-like sword that would be presented to him at the ceremony. Ron told us to have the blade inscribed with a Biblical phrase in Latin. After it had been inscribed by the engraver I asked a few of the interns to have the sword picked up to be presented to Ron. When they arrived they walked into the office and stood at my doorway looking completely distraught. Apparently the engraver had made a mistake on one single letter. I honestly couldn’t understand why they were so upset. It seemed like such a small mistake and more importantly one that could be fixed. But they knew something I didn’t…

Ron Luce detests mistakes of any kind.

Ron had overheard the commotion and walked into my office. He took the sword and noticed the mistake immediately. It was the first time I had ever seen him angry, and it was jarring to say the least. He didn’t speak for what seemed like an eternity, but you could visually see that he was seething. Finally he broke the silence, “I am so deeply and completely grieved at this complete lack of excellence. I am completely disgusted.”

He walked away without saying another word and then slammed the door to his office.

The interns were crushed and the ones responsible for the mistake were completely destroyed by his words. This was a man they loved and revered in every sense of the word, and they had let him down by a simple mistake that wasn’t even their fault. Never mind the fact that this was a personal task that he himself should have been doing on his own time. I wish I could say that this was the last time this type of behavior occurred, but even in the short time I spent at Teen Mania I witnessed this type of verbal mistreatment on countless occasions. My job eventually became spending large portions of my week trying to convince many of the interns not to quit and leave the ministry entirely. Crying in my office became a regular occurrence and no matter how hard I tried to shield them from his emotional outbursts, they continued on a regular basis.

I know this behavior continued long after my departure because a while back I called the Executive Office at random and spoke to one of the interns who happened to answer the phone. Without even knowing her name I told her that I was praying for her and that I understood the hardship that she was facing by working in that department. Not even two minutes into the conversation had passed and she was crying quietly telling me how much she couldn’t stand the hardship of the Executive Office and how much she missed home.

It is very easy to focus on the financial failures of this ministry. It is easy to poke holes through the mistakes that were made by allowing Mr. Luce to maintain his white knuckled grip on a multi-million dollar empire that it became, but the biggest tragedy are the lives that he has damaged by his words, his actions and his inability to accept fault or failure.

For me this was best illustrated at the end of my tenure with Teen Mania Ministries. Towards the end of my time at Teen Mania I had discovered that my wife had been unfaithful to our marriage and I believed I needed to take time to try and recover what remained of our relationship. I sought a private one-on-one meeting with Mr. Luce to discuss my need for time away from the office. Despite the fact that I already had one foot out the door and my ongoing reservations with his behavior I decided to bear my heart to Mr. Luce. He remained quiet as I relayed the somber and devastating news to him. When I had finished he very confidently sat up in his chair and said something that to this day completely and utterly blew me away.

He explained to me that I was responsible for her behavior. He said that my absence from my home was likely to blame and that spiritually I was responsible for the mistake that she had made. He put the blame of my wife’s affair completely and totally on my shoulders.

To put that into perspective you need to understand the context of why that statement was so completely unfounded. Prior to my tenure at Teen Mania I was working a normal 9 to 5 job and had a very normal and healthy family life. It wasn’t until my arrival at Teen Mania that I was forced to work upwards of 90 hours per week and spend countless nights at the office. In January of 2008, my wife and I had decided to take time to go to Dallas to celebrate our anniversary. Our anniversary fell on a Saturday, but Ron was up against a book deadline and insisted that I come into the office to help finish his book, “Re-Create.” I told him that I would come into the office and work on the book until 2pm that day and that I would leave so that I could spend time with my wife. When 2pm rolled around I called him to let him know that I would be leaving. Well I am sure you can guess what happened next…

I was at the office until nearly 10pm that night before I was able to go back home and spend a few fleeting moments with my wife and kids before they went to sleep.

I do not blame Ron Luce for the failure of my marriage. I do not blame Ron Luce for the choices I have made or more importantly didn’t make. I blame him for the fact that he had continued to make slaves or people in the name of “God” and “ministry.” If you have ever spent any time serving in any capacity at Teen Mania you know this to be true.

Like so many of you I took the leap of faith to partner with Teen Mania Ministries to make a difference in the lives of people who were in need. I wanted to serve, give, and dedicate my life to the cause of Christ and show people His love. It never occurred to me that I would be spending my life running personal errands for Mr. Luce or making sure he was bumped up to first class on every flight or we weren’t “excellent.” What started as a noble decision ended up as an incredible disappointment because the focus went from people to person. It has taken me nearly seven years to get the courage to say all of these things because I truly wanted to just forget this part of my life and move on. But I owe it to each and every one of you to remind you that we serve Christ and Him alone, and when anyone or anything stands in the way of that service…

Well I cannot speak for anyone else, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

           

7 comments:

Hugs I am horribly sorry for all the executive office members who went through those parts of hell.

Thank you so much for posting this. I admire your courage. Very very sorry to hear this...what a nightmare.

thank you for sharing so much. i think it helps so many to have the affirmation that comes from your firsthand experience. i'm sorry you had to put up with so much shit. i'm glad you're out of there now.

This comment has been removed by the author.

I found this blog by accident. My daughter is currently on a TM trip. I have not heard from her or have had any updates. I have been calling the 24 hr parent communication hotline, only to find out the people on the other line, as nice as they are, are so young, completely clueless and sound like they're all reading from same script. This is not reassuring at all. Needless to say, I am now worried sick. I have now been googling trying to find emails/phone numbers for someone I can get information from and voice my concerns to. I don't want to talk to another 18 yr old intern! Unfortunately, I am not having any luck. Can any of you help with getting me this info? I would truly appreciate it. -Desperate mom

Hi There, I'm reaching out to my contacts to find out if I can help you reach your daughter. Will let you know if I hear anything.

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