Advocacy

December 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Faith Partners acknowledges and supports individuals and family members whose voice is a powerful tool for progress and hope. Advocacy in its purest form is simply speaking in favor of something or someone. The American Cancer Society identifies five levels of advocacy: self, case, public, organizational, and legislative. Individuals progress through these levels as they grow in their own self-confidence, knowledge, and healing. The first level is self-advocacy – this is where it starts – something we do when we speak up for ourselves.

We need to first be comfortable with our own story and then begin to share it with others we trust. In the faith community, this can happen in a one-to-one conversation, a prayer, a class, a Bible study, committee meeting, or worship service. It seems by breaking the silence; we can enjoy recovery more fully. We begin to take care of ourselves and advance further by helping others.

This leads to the next level described as case advocacy, which often involves helping someone deal with a complicated situation. Often the first to seek help is a motivated family member. The faith community can help by being ready to reach out a hand to those who suffer and help guide them to the resources in their congregation or in the community.

Public advocacy, which works to educate the community and start the conversation, is critical to creating understanding. Permission to openly discuss alcohol and drugs, without automatic judgments, is the hallmark of a healthy and healing congregation. Conversations about alcohol and drug use, misuse and addiction are rare and uncomfortable in most congregations. Though one family in four has direct experience with someone with an addiction experience, the subject is seldom raised.  Addiction disease strikes with equality individuals and families of every faith, every culture, every income level and every community, a subtle taboo often keeps the subject in the closet until a crisis occurs.

The faith community has a special role to play in the prevention, intervention, and assistance in the recovery process of alcoholism and other addictions. One major step in organizational advocacy is the development of a position statement that highlights the faith community’s beliefs about these issues. When the church is a nurturing supportive community addressing spiritual needs, prevention and intervention of alcohol and drug problems can occur.

Many people hesitate to get involved in advocacy because they equate it with the fifth level of advocacy, legislative advocacy. Often that can include activities some aren’t comfortable with, such as demonstrations on the courthouse steps or a public protest. These are legitimate advocacy strategies, but they are only part of the story.  Advocacy covers a range of activities broad enough to include just about everyone, in just about any kind of setting. Many advocacy activities are things we already do for our neighbors, our friends, and ourselves. Legislative advocacy just carries it into the public arena. It is vital for citizens to speak out on certain policies and laws throughout our country, but this is often not where a person starts in finding their voice. The first step is getting comfortable and embracing our own story then sharing it with a friend, a family member, a clergy, or a supportive group of people. Hopefully, that means a congregation.

Prevention

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Prevention is often misunderstood – the confusion often lies in what we are trying to prevent. Are we trying to prevent addiction? Many chemically dependent people state that they were addicted before they took their first drink or drug. The only sure fire prevention in this situation is to never drink alcohol or use drugs. When chemical dependency is in the family there is a genetic vulnerability to the disease, much like any other disease. In this case abstinence is the safest option and needs to be supported.

But to stop there is to miss the boat for the majority of the population. Most individuals will not become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, but can still experience alcohol and other drug use problems like family tension, injury, job loss, and such. The two main goals of prevention are to delay the onset of use and reduce the risks associated with use. Research shows those under 15 years old experiencing regular use are four times more likely to experience alcohol and other drug abuse as an adult.

Karen Pittman, noted researcher from the Center for Youth Development states: “When we speak of “prevention” and “Youth Development” we must be articulate not just about what we are trying to prevent, but what we are trying to promote. Being problem-free is not the same as being fully prepared.” In the faith community the argument that health as well as healing ministry is rooted in the gospel is based on the understanding that salvation means wholeness and healing restoration to wholeness. Wholeness is what God intended from the beginning, and wholeness is what God intends to fully restore in the end. If this is so, then it follows that wholeness needs to be maintained as well as restored.  An ongoing ministry of prevention or health promotion is necessary for the whole congregation as individuals and families navigate life’s trials and tribulations.

Prevention is for everybody! Everybody in their lifetime will be faced with the decision to use alcohol or other drugs. It is during these times that a person needs certain elements to guide them through safely. One element is information – for instance the knowledge of the interaction with us as a child of God, the influential world around us, and the addictive nature of alcohol and other drugs. But information alone is often not enough – a person needs the skills to walk through these times using decision-making, communication, assertiveness, and resistance skills.  More importantly, a person needs guidelines from those they know and respect to make safe and responsible decisions and certainly the support from others to make these positive choices. Using the evidence-base strategies we work to address alcohol and other drug use prevention problems throughout the transitions in all of our lives.

Recovery Support

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Many view addiction as a sickness or disease. However, others think it is caused by personal weakness or that it is a result of sin. Faith Partners Inc. believes one’s response does depend upon one’s beliefs. We also believe that central to an effective drug and alcohol ministry is a clergy who understands addiction and is committed to providing personal and congregational pastoral care to those who are afflicted and affected.

Alcoholism (and other drug dependency) has long been established as a disease by the medical community. Research is available on brain changes. Family history is a big predictor. Yet often it is interpreted as a personal weakness, something the person could have avoided with better decisions. What we don’t know is when in the development of the disease the capacity to decide was compromised by loss of control. So, yes, personal decisions contribute. But they are not the reason a person crosses the line into addiction.

Rev. Brian Gould of Albany, NY builds on this idea of dis-ease, “I understand addiction (and co-addiction) to be a disease, but not just in the narrow clinical sense. It is helpful to think of the illness as ‘dis-ease’ – that which prevents us from being the persons that God created us to be. The more broadly we interpret the disease of addiction, the more observant we become of the pervasiveness of addiction in our midst – both the chemical and non-chemical varieties.”

Our collective pastoral care must address timing. What approach is most appropriate when? It must also ask which approaches are effective with the alcoholic/addict. When people are sick with addiction their control becomes impaired. They lose the capacity to make good decisions about use. When they begin to recover they bear the responsibility of their actions, learn to make amends, and put their lives back together.

Recovery is a process not an event and there are many stages along the way. Education and information help the addict see that they are dealing with a disease, brain changes and compulsivity. Addicts when hearing that addiction is a disease, something out of their control, become more open to help. They become less convinced that they can handle it on their own. If we give them permission to see the need for help they will one day have to address their responsibility in both the development of the disease and recovery from the disease, just like any other disease.

It seems our primary task as people of faith is to convey the love of God to others, to convey God’s desire for healing and wholeness. A measure of our attitude or practice might be to ask ourselves these questions as we respond to persons afflicted or affected by addictions. Is our attitude conveying the love of God? Is there good news in what we are saying? Doing? Are we offering resources people need to move toward health and healing?

Referral Assistance

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Do you know or have ever known the feeling of desperation concerning the alcohol or drug addiction problems of someone very near and dear to you?  Have you ever wondered what to do about someone else’s drinking or drugging behavior?  Anyone involved with an addict, alcoholic or problem drinker is affected one way or another by the addiction.

Usually the first person to reach out for help is a family member.  Mutual help groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon offer free and confidential support for anyone affected by an alcoholic, problem drinker or drug abuser.  This includes parents, grandparents, spouses, partners, coworkers, and friends.

Both groups are designed to help friends and relatives of addicts and alcoholics recover from the effects of living with an addicted relative or friend. Family members are reassured that they can create a happy, successful life for themselves despite the choices that their alcoholic or drug addicted loved one is making for herself or himself.

You may discover that one needs more than a mutual help group, you, yourself do not have to assess or diagnose the person you are concerned about.  There are professionals available for this. Also known as screening or evaluation, an assessment process leads to an accurate diagnosis along with recommendations designed to help individuals make informed decisions about the next step. The assessment may be a simple phone interview with a clinician or perhaps a face-to-face meeting with a counselor.  Recommendations may include substance abuse treatment, if warranted, or referrals to physical and mental health practitioners, family counselors, or other helping professionals. Whatever the form, an assessment is a good place to start. It is important to know that no single treatment approach is appropriate for all individuals. Finding the right treatment program involves careful consideration of such things as the setting, length of care, philosophical approach and you or your loved one’s needs.

The faith community is vital for the spiritual development of its members and supporting its congregational members through the challenges of life. It is important for those caring persons doing this ministry to recognize their limitations in helping and when to refer to known community resources. The Faith Partners approach works to connect individuals and families needing help with the resources and services available in the community.

Frequently Asked Questions

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Writings

Frequently Asked Questions

Experience is a great teacher. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions with respect to starting, structuring and conducting a Faith Partners ministry.

WHAT IS THE FAITH PARTNERS TEAM MINISTRY? The Faith Partners ministry consists of a small group of trained lay people who work together to provide alcohol and other drug awareness, education, and addiction recovery support to children, youth, and adults served by the congregation. The team creates a ministry of presence, available to those reaching out for help or needing information. They:

* Work closely with the clergy to develop a mission and plan for the ministry, fitting the needs of their congregation; * Engage others in conversations about alcohol and other drug concerns; * Teach prevention strategies, skills to interrupt the earliest symptoms, and other accurate information about addiction to individuals and/or in small group settings; * Share their recovery experiences with others in worship and other settings in the congregation to cultivate a climate of openness and understanding; and, * Build bridges of understanding between the faith community and community resources such as Twelve Step programs. This ministry may have many levels of involvement depending on the time, talents, energy, and commitment of team members, from a simple act of providing literature on the subject to hosting an annual worship service in which addiction is addressed and recovery celebrated to an educational series or support group ministry.

CONGREGATIONS ADDRESS ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG ABUSE?

Many people served by congregations suffer directly or indirectly from addictions. Despite this, conversations about alcohol and other drug use, misuse, and addiction are rare and uncomfortable. Addiction damages people in many ways, but especially spiritually, affecting one’s relationship with God, self and others. All congregations have a call from God to serve the spiritual needs of people. An informed clergy, supported by committed and trained members of the congregation can serve by offering hope to those who suffer through a recovery support ministry. All congregations can provide awareness, education, and early intervention strategies through a prevention ministry.

WHY IS THE FAITH PARTNERS’ APPROACH EFFECTIVE?

Over the last 17 years this approach has evolved and is being used in numerous congregations in several states. It is effective because:

* It builds on the strengths of the congregation by involving lay people with special expertise and a passion for this ministry;

* Clergy time, energy, and involvement is carefully utilized;

* Teams are trained in prevention, early intervention, referral assistance, and recovery support, choosing programs that meet the needs of the congregation;

* Teams network with other teams and utilize community resources, keeping their efforts focused on the congregation’s mission;

* It is relevant to the whole congregation, young and old, individuals and families;

* It is not a short term program but an ongoing process that enables congregations to identify activities and programs that meet their changing needs; and,

* The ministry cultivates a compassionate response to all human problems, creating long-lasting change, making the congregation a safe and hospitable place.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CLERGY IN THIS MINISTRY?

Starting a team normally requires active clergy support. Their role may diminish (it is their choice) after the first few months when the team begins to mature. To initiate a team ministry, clergy attend the leadership session and work closely with the team facilitator. The clergy role will include regular communication with the team facilitator, confidential referral to trained team members, interpretation of the team ministry to the congregation, and finding ways to incorporate issues and stories of prevention and recovery in teaching and preaching.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF LAY LEADERSHIP IN THIS MINISTRY?

The most important factor in starting a team ministry is finding one or two key lay members to provide leadership. Frequently the person called and committed to this ministry is a person who is in recovery from addiction and/or is a professional in the field of alcohol and other drug use prevention. This person needs to be healthy, mature, and willing to commit his or her time to the development of the team ministry. This person must be respected and trusted by the clergy.

WHAT ARE THE STEPS IN GETTING STARTED?

We know that it takes a careful and thoughtful process to start a new lay team ministry. Therefore, we offer a three-step process to start an effective team ministry to address the needs of the whole congregation. To begin this congregational ministry we recommend:

1. Build Congregational Support – Order a Call to Action Kit to build support for this ministry early. Use the Healing Places book, Faith Partners Journal, video, step-by-step guide, and consultation services to introduce this ministry to clergy, potential team leaders and congregational leadership. Readiness and support are critical to success.

2. Equip the Leadership – Attend the six-hour Leadership Training for clergy, staff, and lay members. This day covers the role of the faith community in awareness, education, and support activities; important tips for clergy and team facilitators in initiating a team ministry; potential barriers to the ministry; and steps, tools, and strategies to assure success including on-going consultation.

3. Develop the Ministry – After Leadership Training, send a team of 3-10 team members to the two day Team Training, usually scheduled 3-4 months after Leadership Training, giving time to assess the needs of the congregation, identify opportunities for education and recruit team members. Team Training addresses specific prevention and recovery strategies, team functioning, connection to community resources, and plan of action.

WHAT RESOURCES ARE NEEDED FROM THE CONGREGATION?

A congregational alcohol and other drug team ministry is carried out through prevention, early intervention, referral assistance, and recovery support. Teams will need the same communication system as other congregational programs: bulletin board, literature rack, library space, worship bulletin, newsletter space, and meeting space. This is not an expensive ministry. It requires the efforts of committed laity along with minimal costs for printing or purchase of educational materials. Many free or low cost resources – brochures, videos, and speakers – are available through community agencies.

HOW DOES A TEAM HELP THE CONGREGATION?

A team ministry equips youth and adults with the information, skills, and support they need to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse and to ask for help when there is a problem in the family. Effective ministries of prevention in the congregation combine the best science-based research practices with the strength of personal and corporate religious faith. Ministries of recovery put a “face” on addiction, reduce stigma and shame, and offer hope through stories of healing and support for recovery.

WHAT CAN A CONGREGATION DO THAT RECOVERY SUPPORT GROUPS DON’T ALREADY DO?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other Twelve Step groups play a critical role in helping people recover from addictions. Their steps toward spiritual healing and growth are compatible with most religious teaching, yet they are not a substitute for congregational life, which includes worship and religious education. The founders of AA urged their members to attend both AA meetings and the congregation of their choice. The alcohol and other drug team ministry in a congregation “builds bridges” to persons in recovery as well as to professional counselors and agencies. The process of recovery from addictions takes time and multiple resources.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR THE FAITH COMMUNITY TO DO PREVENTION?

To be totally effective, prevention must be done in every segment of society. The most powerful influence in a child’s life is the parent, so education must include adults. Research has shown that certain faith practices help decrease at-risk behaviors. Regular worship, youth programs, the parents’ religiousness, prayer, and certain beliefs have a positive impact. Finally, congregations provide an intergenerational setting offering many opportunities for education, prevention activities, and support for children, youth and adults moving through life transitions.

WHERE ARE CONGREGATIONS CURRENTLY DOING THE FAITH PARTNERS TEAM MINISTRY?

There are several strong efforts going on in congregations across the country – Minnesota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Texas; – just to name a few. New efforts have begun in Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Several strong efforts are going on in Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations. Jewish and Muslim leaders are working to adapt this model to their faith traditions. To begin this in your congregation, contact Faith Partners at 1-888-451-9527.

WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT CAN WE EXPECT FROM FAITH PARTNERS INC.?

Each Faith Partners team is provided with useful tools and strategies, educational materials, training and consultation for a team ministry that meets the needs of the whole congregation. These valuable resources, developed over years with many teams, are made available through fees and contracted services. Faith Partners provides the materials, tools, training and consultation, to initiate and sustain the team ministry. Area Coordination is encouraged and supported to help provide networking opportunities and connect teams to community resources.

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