This whole, strange adventure got its start late one night when I was sitting in my study reading a Life magazine, and turned a page…It carried a pen drawing of a trial taking place in New York City, 350 miles away.

In the Beginning

This opening paragraph from David Wilkerson’s classic, The Cross and the Switchblade, is the true story of Teen Challenge’s beginning in 1958. The “adventure” mentioned in the first sentence continues around the world today and has impacted thousands of lives.

Wilkerson was a Pennsylvania country preacher who came to New York City in an attempt to speak with seven young gang members on trial for murder. He didn’t achieve his goal that day, but he achieved another. Seeing the plight of teens decimated by drugs, he founded Teen Challenge to reach gang members with a message of God’s love.

As an epidemic of drug addiction began to reduce the gangs in New York, the fledgling Teen Challenge and Wilkerson adapted to this new reality to help those bound by drug addiction.

A program was developed to help residents overcome addictions and to learn to live as drug-free Christians in the real world.

Certainly we cannot claim a magical cure for addiction…all we can say is that we have found a power that captures a person more strongly than narcotics but He captures only to liberate.


In a day when drug abuse and addiction has crossed every geographic, economic, cultural and ethnic barrier, Teen Challenge is a refuge where freedom can be found. Every day God’s love and forgiveness is transforming lives from the inside out.

We offer hope for those who have grown up in families and communities where substance abuse creates a spiral of addiction, as well as those who come from stable and loving homes in good neighborhoods. Change can happen.

The Most Important Teen Challenge

Today Teen Challenge offers help to over 28,000 men, women, boys and girls worldwide who face life-controlling problems. However, the most important Teen Challenge is the one closest to you. If you or a loved one has an addiction and truly wants help, we are here.

The Real Story of Teen Challenge

The real story of Teen Challenge is a story about God’s power to change lives. We’ve seen it many times in the lives that have been transformed at Teen Challenge.

If you are someone you love has addiction issues, there is hope. You can refresh the faith in your heart and your own story can be one of God’s love and restoration.