Thursday, March 24, 2011

Acquire the Fire: Where It All Begins

In the past week, the controversy swirling around the Honor Academy's annual ESOAL event has increased significantly, thanks to a new set of videos released on the Recovering Alumni blog. These videos show interns in extreme mental duress being verbally and physically harassed by Teen Mania leadership, including Dave Hasz and Heath Stoner. The videos are absolutely heart-wrenching, and it makes you wonder how Teen Mania recruits hundreds of teens a year to pay for the "privilege" of working for the organization.

The answer, of course, is that Teen Mania relies heavily on their live events like Acquire the Fire to find new recruits for more expensive programs like Global Expeditions and the Honor Academy. In fact, it is extremely rare to find a Global Expeditions participant or an Honor Academy intern who wasn't first introduced to Teen Mania Ministries through an ATF event. Once youth arrive at Acquire the Fire, Teen Mania relentlessly and aggressively markets these expensive programs to everyone in attendance--some ATF attendees have even described the event as a "weekend-long infomercial" for Teen Mania. High pressure tactics are used to get kids to commit to go on a Global Expedition or sign up for the Honor Academy on the spot. If a teen won't make a firm commitment during the ATF event, their contact information is gathered so Teen Mania can continue their marketing via e-mail, direct mail, and phone calls for the next several months or even years.

In short: the journey from "average American teenager" to devoted follower of a high-control group many have described as a "cult" begins at Acquire the Fire.

Surely, though, Acquire the Fire must really be a great experience for teens....right? Why else would they come? Why would churches bring their youth groups to Teen Mania events year after year? Why would people spend the money on Acquire the Fire tickets if the event wasn't amazing?

The answer to those questions and more may shock you as Teen Mania Watch explores the ins-and-outs of Acquire the Fire marketing in our next several blog posts.


  1. You guys are so wrong from truth. I can’t comment on negative expresses these youth had. I have sent seven of my kids on mission trip and I went on my myself. Teen mania is the best thing we ever spent our money one. Our oldest is 30 years old and he still talks positively about his trip. I just sent my son to teen mania this summer he had a wonderful time and we are so happy we sent him. Acquire the fires are hot we have been to those ourselves and our kid went their year with his sister. All positive. There are so many negative things in a kid’s life Ten Mania is one I am very pleased to say is a positive.

  2. I'm glad to hear your kids had positive experiences. My experience as a teen at ATF was pretty lastingly negative, and still makes me feel profoundly uncomfortable with what was pushed on me at that event, over 10 years later.