TOOLKIT FOR THE CHURCH
We are calling pastors and churches to mobilize and address this relevant need in our culture. The church with its message of love hope and transformation, and with its innate ability and call to be a compassionate community has the answers to heal heal the pain. A hurting nation is crying out for help.
Though this is a problem of epic proportions and ever evolving, and we certainly don’t have all the answers, out of our experience we want to provide you with some information to help empower you with knowledge and give clergy members and family some resources and information to help them and to instill hope.
***PLEASE HELP US! Please pray for our efforts to affect change and deal with this issue that is devastating the families of our nation. Also, please help us with your financial gifts to help fight the spiritual war of addiction ravaging the souls of our nation. Your generous gifts will help us provide support, educate and help us make this toolkit available to churches and the clergy to equip them to address the issue of addiction in their respective communities and ultimately help the families of our great nation who are desperate for support and guidance.
One of the Most Relevant Needs in Our Nation
The opioid crisis and drug abuse are ravaging the individuals of our nation. The faith community has a distinctive opportunity to make a difference in this relevant issue. By its very nature the faith-based community has a relevant message of hope and healing and it is a community that can provide support and accountability and also make great impact by praying for those who are hurting.
To address the issue of addiction provides a great opportunity for evangelism and outreach to the community. This is our purpose, to be the hope for the world. With all due respect, When I was a parole officer, I was staggered by the attitude of some in the faith community when I would refer a parolee or client to their respective ministries for help that many times they were not welcoming of these individuals. Also, there was a pervasive attitude, we don’t want “those people” in our community. I understand the concern; however, I would want us to think, that these are such for whom Jesus said he came to seek and to save. We must remember the phrase, those who deserve loving the least are the ones who need loving the most. Most in recovery are acting out behavior from deep rooted hurt or a lack of being able to receive love at their core. People many times say that they are products of their own choices. Yes, many have made bad choices, but I like to say we make bad choices, but we don’t choose the consequences. Furthermore, what about those who have had bad things done to them, not by their own choice, and they are living out a reaction to the hurt and pain. I also like to say there are no excuses for drug abuse, but there are reasons. And it is to deal with these reasons why this ministry was formed. Let’s remember the words of the Lore when He said if you visit the sick, clothe the naked and visit those in prison you have done it to me.
Studies and experience have shown, that individuals come to the clergy first for help when they are hurting or struggling, but many don’t feel equipped to deal with the issue. Our aim in forming Mission Recovery is to help equip and empower the faith community to help address this need. Many faith communities are experiencing exponential growth from ministering to individuals and families affected by the issue of recovery from addiction. These individuals are overwhelmed and are looking for hope and answers. The individuals who are receiving ministry and support from the faith-based community are experiencing transformation and heart change from the gospel message of love, forgiveness, freedom and hope. Subsequently the individual’s family members, and friends see their transformation and are impacted by the tangible change they see in their loved one and then they themselves are influenced to put their faith in God. They then want to be a part of the church or community that made such an impact on their loved one or family member. There is great impact when not only the individual begins to experience change but also the environment in which they live begin to change
The tangible benefit of faith-based recovery was seen as a parole officer and case worker. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parole Division began to allow, due to the faith- based initiatives, to invite the ministries, chaplains, faith-based support groups into the parole offices, jails and prison system. They began to see the tangible results of initiatives and they continue to expand in the system today.
OPEN YOUR DOORS!! CREATE A WELCOMING ENVIRONMENT FOR INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES.
Churches are not neutral bystander: what they don’t say is just as important as what they do say!”
We want to challenge the faith-based community to make a commitment to mobilize and begin to address the issue of alcohol, drug and opiate addiction into their ministries and service, and to build a culture of support to the addicts and their affected families.
The first priority is to build a culture and environment that welcome’s with open arms all the hurting in our culture, especially those who are struggling with addiction and their family members who are impacted negatively.
We would encourage you to be a support to the system by giving them respect Romans 13 says governing officials have a God ordained role to keep citizens safe, to be ministers of righteousness and to punish offenders. Develop a supportive relationship to them and offer them prayer and remove the adversarial paradigm between them and you. One thing they will appreciate is to offer to pray for them.
THE GOSPEL OF MESSAGE OF TRANSFORMATION
Recovery is a spiritual problem, and because recovery is a spiritual problem it requires spiritual answers. If one traces the earliest support groups in our nation their origins are rooted in faith. Alcoholics Anonymous in its beginning was founded on the principles of the Lordship of God, living according to the principles of the Bible and the need for confession and support in genuine community. Recovery groups evolved over the years to broaden its appeal to all addicts and individuals who are of no or any particular faith. However, the history of recovery has spiritual beginnings.
Secular treatment can give good tools like addressing thinking and administering medication and behavior modification. However, the faith-based community has central to its purpose the gospel message. A message of transformation that goes to the transformation of the heart. As stated previously, this is the distinctive of the community of faith – the gospel message – to trust Christ brings forgiveness of the past, the power to change and hope to those who believe. In addition, one who receives the message and turns their life and will over to the Lord experiences a daily power greater than themselves to do for them what they cannot do themselves, to maintain sobriety, health and wholeness.
Furthermore, a practical benefit the faith community can bring is that after an individual respond by turning their life and will over to God they become integrated into a community where they are discipled and taught new ways to think and new ways to live according to their new nature and new power.
The faith-based community is encouraged to preach and teach sermons on related to this relevant issue of addiction. Sermons on addictions, freedom from the effects of shame, breaking free from sin patterns, prayer, meditation, overcoming temptation, communication, family, healing of damaged emotions etc.
SUPPORTIVE AND COMPASSIONATE ENVIRONMENT:
We encourage the faith community to be an accepting, non-judgmental, compassionate environment and culture for addicts and the family members. As stated above, this is of vital importance because for every individual that is addicted to, or abuses drugs, three to five individuals are impacted and affected negatively. As they experience the expressions of the love of God through real and genuine community, this encounter of love gets their attention to be open to turn to and depend on God.
Stigma is very common in dealing with those who struggle with addiction. In my dealings with addicts and ex-offenders, many do not feel comfortable in churches to due stigma shame, and perceived or real judgmentalism. The accepting environment is so important because every addict we have personally dealt with has a deep - rooted sense of shame. A common way we talk about the issue of addiction that illicit strong opinions is the “is an addiction sin or disease” debate. We would like for you to think of it as both. All brokenness and hurt comes from the effects of sin due to the fall in the Garden. Furthermore, it is sin due to generational sin patterns and choices. We are all spiritually, psychologically, emotionally and socially affect by the fall. Many times, these patterns can lead to consequences in our brains, organs and relationships. Sometimes we are impacted by the sin that is done to us – rape, incest, abuse, poverty, neglect trauma etc. Regardless the Lord, His Word and His Church have the answers to address all aspects of the fall…by His Stripes We Are Healed.
It is very important to help these individuals be free from shame, so they can come to God without fear or inhibition, so they can experience his love and grace deep into their soul – the seat of hurt in their damaged emotions and memories. When someone in recovery experiences shame from individuals or from the community it leads to more shame. This experience is counter-protective and causes them to spiral downward towards more toxic shame - self-loathing and self- rejection.
Furthermore, they also feel that they can never live up to the standards of the church. In addition, they also feel shame when they feel they are a disappointment to the people in the church of faith-based community. I hear frequently from those in recovery that they do not want to let them down, so again that leads to shame, so they leave the church community and go to secular support groups for support and community, a community that they feel they can more identify with, or people who they feel are in the same boat as them. The church should set the standard for showing grace to others in the same way that grace has been shown to them by the Lord. As previously stated, shame is the main reason why most addicts use drugs and alcohol, so they can numb the feelings of shame and the of being defective and hopeless. This will be discussed more in the section on prayer and counseling.
We want to challenge the faith community to address these aforementioned concerns and make it a priority to preserve the purpose of the church, to be a place where all can come as they are, and they can receive unconditional love. That does not mean you are naïve or do not confront their stumbles. However, it is easier for people to receive correction, rebuke and admonition when they know that they are loved. God’s love focuses on the highest good of the individual and shows the same grace to others in the way oneself has received.
Another important aspect of building a supportive community is to create a culture that would remove the stigma of emotional pain and mental health. The same way we would not shame someone for having a physical injury or take medication for an illness we should respond in compassion and care for those who are recovering from emotional injury. Those who experience chronic pain it affects their brains and their thinking. One suggesting is to develop a relationship with faith-based therapist to train the church and staff how to address mental health issues in their community. This is an overwhelmingly large sector of our population and the church should be equipped to help them.
TRANSITION FROM JAIL OR REHAB BACK INTO THEIR COMMUNITY:
A benefit that the Faith Based Community can provide for individuals is that it can help those individuals who are transitioning out of rehab or incarceration receive support.
NIDA: “Drug addiction makes it hard to function in daily life. It affects your thoughts, how you act around your family and co-worker, and in the community. It is hard to change so many things at once and not fall back into old habits. Recovery is a lifelong process.”
There are many great prison and jail ministries. There are also several Faith Based Rehabs that provide short term treatment. Many recovering addicts or ex-offenders find Christ through their respective rehabs or jail/prisons. However, studies show that a great majority of individuals are very likely to relapse or reoffend once they are dismissed from rehab or incarceration and are reintegrated back into their environment or community. Although there are many jail and prison and inpatient facilities that have programs that help, and support individuals reintegrate and transition back into society, they are few and far between. It is in this transition where most likely they will relapse or re-offend because of being back around negative peers or a dysfunctional family system, the old “people, places or things.
The faith community can naturally make a difference in this area by providing authentic, genuine and healthy relationships, community and discipleship, and accountability. These are core ministries of the faith community. They can provide education, information, training and that equip individuals and families through preaching and teaching in relevant areas of their need. They can provide classes and support groups, prayer, intensive discipleship accountability, mentoring, resources and encouragement to those who are trying to maintain sobriety.
They can also provide individuals in their respective community that can help by being sponsors or by being mentors who help with the basics - food, clothing and shelter. Also, life skills, managing money, computer skills, resume writing, personal hygiene etc.
Also, the faith community can select and delegate individuals who would be available when someone in recovery is in a crisis, to listen, encourage and pray for them.
Another thing they can do to make the difference is to pool their efforts to provide resources for low cost housing when an individual transition from jail, prison or rehab. The stress from no stable housing, or financial resources is an extreme stressor to individuals who are transitioning. Negative peers and stress from no stable housing or job are common triggers to relapse.
They can also connect individuals or family members to existing groups and resources in the community that can help the individuals like food banks and resource centers that help individuals with basic needs. These local resources are a great complement to the local churches.
Churches can be equipped with resources like Celebrate Recovery, Life Recovery or Re-generate to start their own support groups.
A great need is to begin a family support connect group to get family members together to provide each other support around the issues they have common.
The faith community should be encouraged to partner with the local rehabs, local therapist and chemical dependency counselors.
Another practical ministry could be to encourage individuals to provide transportation to individuals to their required reporting, counseling or groups. Many times, individuals are set up for failure because they have no reliable transportation to their mandated appointments.
PRAYER AND DISCIPLESHIP (JAMES 5 AND GALATIANS 6)
Another great benefit that the faith community can provide is prayer the loving presence of God to touch their pain and hurt and bring his peace and serenity. Intensive times of prayer for their deep rooted hurts and pains can bring resolution to the roots of the pain. One can create an environment where individuals can come not only for prayer but a safe place where they can confess their struggles and then receive prayer encouragement and counsel. It can be emotionally overwhelming for individuals and for the families that are affected the stress and struggles of living with a family member who is an addict or abuses drugs or alcohol.
COUNSELING AND HEALING PRAYER TO ADDRESS THE PAIN BEHIND THE ADDICTION.
As we stated earlier in all the years of dealing with addiction, what we have found is behind every form of addiction – no matter what form of addition, there is some sort of pain. Physical pain, emotional pain as well as mental health issues. The faith community can make a real difference here, by providing healing prayer for the wounds of the past and help counsel the individuals from the Word of God to renew their minds from the lies, delusions, or negative “self-talk” they have believed about themselves, about God and how they see the world.
We would also call the faith-based community to be willing to address legitimate mental health issues without shame or seeing said individual as weak willed. Clinical or organic mental illness should be approached in the same paradigm as a physical sickness or disease. Regardless, Jesus can heal all disease and disorders, by his stripes we are healed…
Another aspect one can help is with a whole man approach. The faith community can address the spirit soul and the body. We can provide prayer, meditation on scripture, recreation, service opportunities to focus on others needs etc. This has been proven to help those who are prescribed medication to manage chronic pain.
FINANCIAL RESOURCES - AN EXCLUSIVE NICHE TO FAITH COMMUNITY:
One area the faith-based community can make a real difference is to consider establishing and allocating funds in their budget to providing financial assistance to those individuals who have no funds due to addiction, prison, family estrangement. The aforementioned have no job, no stability or have “burned bridges” with their families or support system and therefore have no financial resources or insurance to be placed in rehabs or treatment. I have found as a parole officer and caseworker that the majority of the people that need rehab cannot get it because of what was previously said about no means to pay. This means the ones who need it cannot get the help they need. This is a niche that can be exclusive to the faith-based community.
To help financially support local faith-based rehabs. Also, another aspect of this, is the recurring problem with many faith-based programs is that have no financial stability because they can only exist by private donations. They do not want to compromise their beliefs and values to receive governmental assistance, so churches can provide valuable support to keep them vital. My experience as a parole officer and caseworker saw frequently that there were many good programs that were making a tangible difference, have to close their doors due to lack of funding.
We would encourage churches to strive for unity in addressing the problem of addiction and lay aside sectarian and doctrinal difference to major on the thing that they do have in common: reaching a hurting and broken world with the Gospel. Individual churches can make a difference by investing in these local resources and faith-based rehabs in their respective communities.
**DISCLAIMER: To be prudent we would advise visiting the facilities and validating their credibility and talk with individuals and family members of individuals who have experience with the facility to preserve integrity and to protect your community from unscrupulous or programs that are not credible. One way to do this is to talk to local parole or probation departments because many of them will refer their clients to these facilities. The law enforcement, parole and probation, attorneys and social services are aware of the facilities in their respective areas that receive no government funding or insurance and are required to make visits and get progress reports from the facilities.
The best thing we can do is to address the problem before it ever begins.
Children may only be 25% of our population but they are 100% of our future. The Surgeon General Adams said, “What helps children from adverse experiences is nurturing parents, stable family environment, and caring adults outside the family to serve as role models or mentors.”
We want to encourage the faith community to make it a priority to create healthy families. Preach and teach and conduct conferences to help build strong families.
Family Meal time. Try to create families that facilitate an environment in their homes where all family members feel safe, valued and nurtured. We encourage to create an environment that facilitates respect, affirmation, open communication and where every member feels safe and connected and can speak freely. We encourage families to spend time together talking and to each other and limit the time that children watch TV, media or are on their devices. We also, encourage families to teach values, morals and set boundaries and protections in the home.
We encourage parents to be involved with their children and know their peers and families. Talk they Will Hear You!
We would encourage churches open their gyms to create after school programs for youth and children.
Mostly we want to encourage families to pray have devotionals and worship together.
Some helpful resources for families of children are Heart light Ministries, Focus On The Family, Teen Talk, and Strong Fathers.
An addict by nature of the problem can be manipulative. They do this to preserve their addiction, so they will lie and manipulate. Many times, they have done it so long they don’t even know they are doing it. They need to be lovingly confronted and held accountable to break free from the destructive patterns and grow. We want to make the faith community aware of these manipulations and to make it a priority to always lovingly verify what they tell you. For their benefit say, I want to believe you, but you understand I need to verify what you are telling me, I want to help you but want to make sure I am truly helping you.
DO NOT every give them money directly. First, verify that it is a legitimate need. If you are going to give financial assistance it is best to submit the money to the agency, landlord or utility company.
Many times, addicts and ex-offenders will take advantage of the naivete and kindness of people of faith. Always remember, trust but verify.
Another thing to look for is remorse and repentance. Remorse is when one is sorrowful. Repentance is when they are willing to change at all cost. Look to see if they own it and take responsibility for their actions and do not blame shift.
Another important safeguard when people come into the church is to assign them mentors who for their own safety and the safety of others monitor their activities at all time. They should not be put in a situation that may have the appearance of impropriety or evil.
More things you can do is teach basic life skills like taking responsibility for your actions and making amends when you have hurt or wronged someone.
SPEAKER’S TO MOTIVATE AND EQUIP:
Because of our experience as both pastor and caseworker that has given a unique and balanced perspective we would love to partner and come along side your ministry. If you would like us to come speak to your small groups, classes, staff meetings to equip you to address the issue of drug and alcohol abuse. Our director has been a minister for over 30. He has started support groups in churches and his local community. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule him for your group or event.
****Finally, after reading please take a moment to pray for addicts and families and ask the God of all mercy and compassion to give you direction to engage in this mission and the grace to enable you to do what he is calling you to do. The task before us is not easy but it is eternally significant and rewarding.