Teen Mania International is suspending operations for the Honor Academy—the signature internship program that brought thousands of teens to its East Texas campus over the last two decades.
Teen Mania, one of the largest Christian youth ministries in the country, made the announcement this week in an email to students and alumni. The organization says it will suspend Honor Academy operations for one year while it completes a relocation to the Dallas area.
The Honor Academy, a year-long program combining work and biblical studies, was once one of Teen Mania’s largest revenue sources, bringing in seven-figure profits in the mid-2000s. During that time, the program approached 1,000 participants per year, but barely more than 100 are currently enrolled, and fewer than 100 enrolled for the coming year.
“The Honor Academy was the most profitable of the arms,” said Dan McLeod, who was Teen Mania’s chief financial officer from 2012 until May 2014. “All the departments there were operated by kids who came and worked under staff for a year. The majority of the work came from interns.”
Without a campus, Teen Mania announced second-year Honor Academy interns will take ministry road trips as part of new “Go Teams.” First-year interns who began in August 2013 and January 2014 will graduate next month, cutting short the one-year program for those who came in January. The announcement did not say whether students who fundraised for a year-long program will be refunded for the final four months.
Current students each paid $8,400 to participate in the Honor Academy, but that price was scheduled to increase sharply in 2015. Teen Mania employees have told members of an Honor Academy Facebook group that incoming interns who have paid down payments on the coming year will receive full refunds.
One parent confirmed that to WORLD. Scott Green, pastor of First Assembly of God in Natchez, Miss., told me his 18-year-old daughter had been planning to attend the Honor Academy since November 2013 but pulled out last month due to Teen Mania’s instability. His daughter’s account contained more than $6,000—much of it from donations—and he said Teen Mania refunded “every penny” less than two weeks ago.
Green said his daughter had a backup plan and will begin college next month, but other parents are complaining their students are left without viable education options.
Teen Mania has outsourced its finance department to Entertainment Financial Services, Inc., in Nashville, Tenn. The change came more than three years after several board members tried to convince Teen Mania founder Ron Luce to relinquish financial control of the organization.