Maybe you've been following the recent investigations into Teen Mania's ESOAL events. I have to say that I cannot see how this event has anything to do with ministry with youth and I find it disturbing that churches and parents are encouraging this sort of activity in place of all the positive and affirming ministry teens could be doing.
A number of former participants have come out and raised real questions about ESOAL. This comment in particular caught my attention:
I think its kind of presumptous for Teen Mania to assume that ESOAL - "Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime" is beneficial to everyone. What about people who have already been through an emotionally "stretching" experience of a lifetime?
- Broken Homes
- Sexual Abuse
- Gang Rape
- Jail time
- Accidentally killing someone else
- Suicide attempts
- Deaths of close family members
- Dysfunctional Families including neglect, abandonment, parents in jail, drug and alcohol addiction, physical, sexual and verbal abuse.
Every year there are interns with these wounds in their past. Every single example on this list comes from an intern or alumnus that I personally know. I'm sure there are many more things we could add to that list. (And if they tell you they don't accept interns that have CURRENT struggles with the things on this list, they are wrong.)
What if they did EHOAL instead? "Emotionally Healing Opportunity of a Lifetime." I think many interns have already had enough trauma. What if, instead of beating the crap out of the interns, they embraced them in the totality of their wounds and brokenness? What if they allowed people to freely express their pain and feelings without fear of condemnation or dismissal? What if they embraced courageous vulnerability instead of forcing many interns to hide who they really are and numb out to their feelings in order to look "spiritual"? What if they quit focusing on outward behaviors and instead sought to heal the underlying issues with love, patience and grace?
Here you will find a detailed description of the event from a young participant who saw it as worthwhile. Note how he describes those who "ring out" (quit) the event as lacking in faith and admits that some teens are injured to the point of not being able to continue.
It would seem this is just another example of (perhaps well-meaning) adults who are manipulating the emotion centers of the adolescent brain. Due to the recent criticism, Teen Mania has announced an investigation of their own program. You can read more here.