Remaining Faithful

June 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Theological Perspectives

To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some. – 1 Cor. 9:22

Lois Askvig stood in the shadow of her husband first in his recovery and then in his ministry. Grateful for both his transformation and his wife’s undying support Al entered into congregational team ministry as a powerful voice and champion for prevention and recovery. Now after eight years this ministry is still going strong.  No longer helping organize from behind the scenes, Lois has become the guiding force at Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Here are some of her key insights in sustaining congregational efforts.

Shared Leadership

“No one is forced to do anything they are not able to do, do not feel qualified to do, or do not have the time to do”, declared Lois, P8180067parish nurse at Grace Lutheran, “But that does not mean I do not  prompt people into different roles or find people willing to take on different responsibilities.” A congregational team functions more effectively when all of its members have a role to play and each accepts responsibility for the work and life of the ministry.

Over the years the Faith Partners team has had four team facilitators. The first team facilitator helped initiate this ministry by using his passion to move through the initial congregational resistance. The next leaders helped organize and stabilize the ministry and finally the current leadership has helped integrate the ministry into congregational structure and life.  

Supportive Congregational Leadership

Lois describes, “When we first started, the senior pastor, feeling it was not important, wanted no part of this ministry. It took our associate pastor’s insistence and persistence to initiate the team ministry. Fortunately, we have had the support of successive senior pastors.” Clergy support is critical. A ministries’ staying power is the capacity to weather various staff transitions and a congregation’s changing priorities.

The early opposition helped create greater resolve and commitment for the ministry and a better appreciation for changing congregational needs. Activities have flourished with regular communication with the pastors, a presence on the church council, and regular reports to the congregational leadership. Articles in the monthly newsletter keep this ministry in the consciousness of congregational life.

Continuing Education

INGSAHE2920Grace Lutheran has provided continued education for the team, the congregation, and other Faith Partner teams since the beginning using members from Twelve Step programs to local teen drama to prevention specialists to treatment professionals. These educational events have kept the Faith Partners team ministry visible. New volunteers for the team are a wonderful by-product of this exposure.

Evaluation Activities

Grace Lutheran conducted their first congregational survey in 2000. In late 2006, the survey was repeated. The congregation urged the team to continue programming (82%) and keep the ministry alive (98%). The results were presented to the congregation and the church council after the last recovery worship service in February 2007. Seeking ways to improve, the team also evaluates each event. Lois’ evaluation, “Recovery has changed individual and family lives and the church is a big part of their on-going healing and recovery.”

Cornerstone Activities

One cornerstone ministry activity is the recovery worship service. The first year Lois recalls overhearing a member say that the service would not be worth attending. The team decided to not promote this service ahead of time but let people experience it as a part of congregational life and not something held up as unique or special.

A focal point of the service is the sermon and testimony. A moving dialogue sermon with the pastor and a recovering member on the team and a pastor’s personal experience walking with a family through the process of awareness, education, referral, and eventually recovery were both memorable. The pastor recalled how everyone was changed and transformed through the process. After one recovery worship service an inspired visitor volunteered to join the team.   

Institutionalized Ministry

“You cannot push a rope very far,” Lois continues. Youth prevention activities were one of the team’s initial goals. Over the years with gentle prodding and assurance of the team’s support the activities started to take place. The first activity, a teen drama presentation addressing situations concerning alcohol and other drug use, occurred at a weekend retreat.1258011

This activity has become institutionalized into youth ministry life. Well received by both parents and youth there is now mandatory youth attendance and parent involvement is strongly recommended. 

What used to be an area of strong resistance is a solid ministry foothold. In fact, the new youth director is an enthusiastic team participant promoting, along with the Christian education director, the team’s programs and progress in the monthly newsletter.

Financial Commitment

This ministry does not require a lot of money. Contributions are made to a church account, not a budget line-item, paying for resource materials and speaker honorariums. Donations received at the recovery worship service provide ministry funding for the year.  Offerings have increased three or fourfold over the years. Extra donations are given to Faith Partners for their continuing work. Mission level giving provides an opportunity for Grace Lutheran to contribute beyond their individual congregation to support new congregational teams across the country. This arrangement has the blessing of the pastor and the congregation.

Relationship with Community Resources

A literature rack with community services has been another cornerstone of the team’s efforts. k1701445Refilled frequently, this literature rack communicates three things, 1) It is OK to have this information available, 2) there are resources offering help and hope, and 3) these resources can positively affect lives. Relationships with community resources have produced greater awareness, educational opportunities, and assistance in the referral process.

Lois recalls one congregational member’s story of transformation. Impressed by the literature rack’s presence, he used one of the resources to enhance his on-going recovery, and eventually approached the team to get involved. He later served as team facilitator and when he moved to another community he helped initiate this ministry in his new church. Lois and he continue to communicate and maintain a mentoring relationship with each other.

Networking/Mentoring

An old Twelve Step Program adage states ‘you cannot keep it unless you give it away’. Grace Lutheran team members have helped other congregations start a team ministry. Lois also educates her parish nurse colleagues on the ministry benefits to individual and family health as well as the whole congregation. Several Lutheran congregations now plan programs together to strengthen community efforts.

Remaining Faithful

Even though the goal in sustaining these congregational efforts is creating a “ministry of presence” S-009it is not uncommon to measure success by the number of people who attend events. This does not appreciate the accumulative effects of consistent work. Lois concludes, “This ministry is humbling in that it demands us to remain faithful in the face of fear, frustration, pride, ignorance, and despair. What we do in those instances will truly measure the ministries’ success and the ability to sustain its efforts. Our hopefulness comes from sticking to the task”.

Grace Lutheran Church, Apple Valley MN

Iowa Churches Grow and Sustain an Active Ministry

June 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Success Stories

The Reverend Don Burket, pastor since June, says of the Faith Partners ministry, “I learned about this ministry from the committee who met with me before I came to serve these two churches. It is a unique and awesome ministry and I look forward to seeing it go beyond our churches.”

Rev. Burket serves two small United Methodist churches, Grace and Faith, which form the West Davenport Alliance in Davenport IA. Grace averages 100-125 in worship weekly and Faith 30-50. Working together they began to address alcohol and drug issues after receiving funding for a project from the Iowa United Methodist Annual Conference in January 2006. At about the same time they learned of the Faith Partners approach through a colleague who attended the Rush Center Summit in Texas. In August 2006 several members from the Alliance team traveled to Lincoln NE to attend the Faith Partners team training.

The Founding Pastor

The Reverend Doug Reynolds, pastor of the West Davenport Alliance when the Faith Partners ministry was initiated, says, “Addiction is an epidemic health problem in America. One in ten people suffer from alcoholism alone. But the odds are 50-50 that you or someone significant to you is a ‘holic of one kind or another. At the core of the problem for all ‘holics who struggle with addictive or compulsive behavior is a pattern of continually misusing something or someone in order to avoid emotional pain and difficulties.” Doug continues, “Alcoholism is just one of many addictions. Chemical dependency, eating disorders, co-dependency, and other obsessive and compulsive behavior patterns are equally as ‘serious and destructive.'”

Mission and Vision

The mission of the West Davenport Alliance Faith Partners ministry is to provide support through 200570987-001education, intervention, and recovery to those afflicted or affected by addiction. Their vision is to first reach out effectively to the alliance churches, then to the greater Quad Cities church communities. They are starting with United Methodist churches and then want to expand to other faith traditions through Churches United, an organization that serves “Quad Cities” (Davenport IA, Bettendorf IA, Moline IL, and Rock Island IL.)

Team Facilitator

Mike Salter, team facilitator, says, “We want to promote the idea that churches can be places of healing and hope. By working with the community resources the Faith Partners team does not need to offer treatment but can offer support through education, intervention and recovery.” He and his wife, Willo, are very active church members. They are also good at getting others involved. A goal is to continue to recruit people from the congregation to participate in specific projects, thus extending the reach of the ministry.

Making the Congregation Safe through Personal Testimonies

Marti Crane, the newest team member, says the positive congregational response keeps her involved and committed, “We have many members in recovery and several have given their testimony in worship. I personally shared how AlAnon had been a life saver for me after growing up with an alcoholic father. I had no idea how much alcoholism was continuing to affect my life until AlAnon”.  Marti says there is more openness to this issue in the congregation because of the team activities and testimonies.

Trained Team Members create new Projects

Nancy DeHaven became a team member because she accidentally signed the wrong clipboard. She stayed because she saw the potential for this ministry. “I went with others to the team training and the light bulb went on.   We got it. We came back and told the pastor we lay people are on fire and ready to carry the ministry.” 

The team influenced the church to offer the effective LOGOS after school program not just to member’s children but also to children in need in the community. Here the children experience several hours weekly with caring adults who eat, play, study and sing with them. Nancy tells about two other ministries that originated out of the Faith Partners team ministry. 

Youth in Need of Justice

One such ministry is called the “Youth in Need of Justice Ministry.” Willo Salter provides leadership for this effort. Team members decided to have a “presence” at a large skate park in Davenport. They started by giving away bottles of water at the park and just “hanging out” with the kids. When the kids called them the purple shirt people the adults embroidered PSP on their purple shirts.

Trusting relationships between church members and the young people have grown because of this presence. When the youth realized the adults did not have an agenda other than to get to know them and be with them they opened up and began having conversations, even asking the adults to pray for them. This relationship has led to a powerful alliance between the PSP adults and the youth. They have gone together to the local alderman and city council to ask for restrooms, lighting so they can skate at night, and refreshment stands. Early signs of graffiti were converted to murals.  This caring supervision has been so successful other churches now want to participate.

Puppet Ministry

u19436314Team members are preparing to carry prevention messages through a new puppet ministry. The stage and six puppets will be used initially for a presentation on peer pressure. Members say that the adults as well as youth and children are excited about this project.

Importance of Capturing Team History and Activities

Nancy and Marti Crane gathered pictures, articles, and stories of their team activities. They made a three ring notebook, capturing their history.

Mike Salter, the team facilitator, said putting together the notebook rejuvenated the team. They were amazed at all they had done which included:

  • Wrote a grant proposal and received funding from the annual conference;
  • Conducted a congregational survey and shared the results;
  • Asked community mental health specialists to speak to team/congregation;
  • Developed a mission statement, brochure and a call referral list;
  • Created nametags, banners, Sunday video clips, monthly newspaper articles;
  • Gave several personal testimonies during worship and team was dedicated;
  • Press release to community with follow up newspaper article;
  • Worked with youth at a large skate park;
  • Started a women in recovery Bible study; and,
  • Writing to prisoners and preparing to support them upon release.

This compilation of activities both renewed the team and sustained them as they began to plan for the next year. Congratulations to the West Davenport Alliance Faith Partners team!

Contact the team through their website at faithpartnersquadcities.org


Mt Zion UMC Faith Partners

June 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Teams

Chartered in September 2007, Mt Zion’s Faith Partners Recovery ministry works to educate, support, and transform the congregation and communities in which we live, the families whom we love, and the those directly afflicted and  impacted by addiction disorders.

These are whom we embrace by accepting them where they are, at their point of need and loving them as Christ loves. Faith Partners serves as a conduit for opening the dialog regarding alcoholism\addiction, a center for helpful resources and knowledge, a trained team that bridges the faith and recovery communities, supports local treatment practitioners, and reaches out to both those incarcerated and their loved ones. Healing through God’s grace becomes a genuine and realistic outcome. Link to Mt Zion UMC Faith Partners on Facebook.

United Methodist Agencies Endorse and Support Faith Partners Team Ministry

June 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Teams

General Board of Church and Society Endorses Approach

The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the nation’s third-largest denomination, has endorsed the Faith Partners Team model for local congregations to help solve America’s number one health problem – alcohol and other drug addiction.

James Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, said in a support letter sent to all Bishops and Church and Society Chairpersons in the U.S. Annual Conferences, “I believe that the team approach for congregations is an effective and sustainable way to provide prevention, education, early intervention and recovery support.” Winkler said the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church is encouraging all members to promote attendance at Faith Partners Team Leadership Training Events offered by Faith Partners Inc.

General Board of Global Ministries Partners to Bring Training to Five Jurisdictions

At the request of its Inter-Agency and Standing Committee Task Force, the Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV), a general church initiative housed at the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church has partnered with Faith Partners Inc to offer its series of Faith Partners trainings. In 2007-2008, SPSARV offered the training to each of the five United Methodist jurisdictions. A leadership team composed of United Methodist clergy and lay people met in Nashville with the General Board and Faith Partners staff to work together toward this historic denominational partnering to make resources available across the country.

The leadership team explored the church’s role from a theological perspective, examined the Faith Partners approach, identified ways to make the church more aware of the need for this ministry and provided guidance on how to initiate the Faith Partners model across the denomination.

For more information on the SPSARV-sponsored Faith Partner trainings, go to www.umsparv.org.

Hope for Recovery

June 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Success Stories

Hope for Recovery” is the name that our team at St. Alban’s chose for itself.  It’s the perfect name: it reflects what we’re all about, and it does so in three succinct words.  But those three succinct words are not the most important three words in the sentence. The words chose for itself are.  Because while choosing a name may seem like an insignificant detail, it reflects a highly significant and much larger reality: that the life of this ministry has been-and continues to be–developed and shaped by its lay members, not me!

When I was called to St Alban’s six years ago as a newly ordained priest with seven years in recovery, I had already made the very personal decision that wherever I served, I knew recovery would be an important part of my ministry, and I wanted folks to feel safe coming to me for help.  But I had no idea then just how many families are touched by substance abuse issues!  Before long I found myself wishing I has time to put together a team of parishioners to start a substance abuse ministry, so I’d have others I could refer folks to for help.  Occasionally I’d refer someone to one of the parishioners I knew from “the rooms” of AA.  And fortunately, because of St. Alban’s long history of hospitality to 12-step programs, there were a lot of those parishioners-folks who came here for the meetings in the basement first, then gradually discovered the services in the church upstairs!

When I heard about Faith Partners it was prayer answered. I took the Leadership Training, then identified potential team members in our congregation and invited them to watch the Faith Partners video with me after church. Before the screening, I made it clear that coming to see the video was about exploring the ministry, not committing to it; after the screening, I made it clear this ministry called for lay leadership, for which training would be provided.

The response to the video was so positive, all I had to do was make arrangements for those committed to doing the Team Member Training with me.  I can’t describe how valuable that training was!  It gave us the confidence and energy to launch this ministry and fabulous materials with instructions on every aspect of introducing, developing and sustaining it.

Two members serve as co-chairs, another is our publications person, yet another is our community resource person, and we all attend our monthly brainstorming meetings.  My particular usefulness as a team member is as a liaison-after all, I’ve got the “best” contacts with the church!  So as a team member I advocate with church staff on behalf of Hope for Recovery events, newsletter articles, and other ways of making this ministry visible; and as a member of the clergy, I make referrals to the team, provide pastoral support, and give it its “St. Alban’s Stamp of Approval” in the eyes of the congregation.  But most important of all, I take advantage of opportunities like this to thank our team for the amazing grace, dedication, creativity and passion they bring to this ministry.

Thank you Hope for Recovery!

Rev. Margot D Critchfield,

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC

Photo Credit: Patrick Smith Photography via Flickr

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