Ministry Development – Resistance vs. Receptivity

October 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Teams, What's New

Early on, with the formation of a Faith Partners team within or congregation, I encountered an unusual dilemma. When I announced the team being developed, giving “pitches” to attendees at three separate services, I was surprised at how many responded as interested. I culled about 16 likely parties, with a mix of long and short term primary (addiction/alcoholism) recovery, medical professionals, and secondary (AlAnon) recovery.

After sessions devoted to introductions, ferreting out interests and inclinations, we planned to attend remote team training. Upon successful completion, we were ready to introduce the team to the congregation on an upcoming Sunday. I thought that it would be an impressive show of how common the problems attendant to addiction were, as well as how many close friends were available within the congregation, by introducing team members and having them stand in place where they sat in the pews.

Unfortunately, this idea wasn‘t unanimously approved of. Two of the team members pushed back on the open recognition. One said that they desired “anonymity” which I presumed stemmed from their experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. Another, strangely, suggested that they probably wouldn’t be at that Sunday service, but gave no reason. Their reticence was undeniable. As is often the case, I typically deal with being blind sided like this in a humorous manner. I quipped that perhaps we could all wear “anonymous masks” similar those to worn by the freedom fighters in “V for Vendetta.” The joke didn’t go over that well. Ultimately, we decided to be acknowledged openly but not to stand in the service.

Still, I was left confused. Quite frankly, it never occurred to me to be reluctant to be openly recognized as a person in recovery with years of experience and training in dealing with alcoholism and addictive disorders, let alone promoting a helping ministry. After all, I had numerous encounters and discussions over several years with people inside and out of the church who desired help for themselves and family members. I talked to all clergy in an effort to promote open dialogue. But I let it slide given the newness of the ministry.

Some time after this came an incident where a congregant approached me and asked for help in dealing with a spouse who was experiencing the consequences of a DUI. I thought this would be a good experience for a team member with about 5 years in recovery. So I asked them to step up. Again, I was surprised by the reluctance. They said that they didn’t have the expertise they thought was needed. I was struck by the notion that a ministry member needed to have extensive knowledge or expertise before being of any assistance to those who asked for help.

I let it slide and approached another participant, with about the same amount of recovery time. Again though, I was met with more pushback. This time the reluctance seemed to stem again from a desire to not be “outted” as a person in recovery. I took this sequence as an opportunity for clarification. At our Faith Partners meeting that month, I broached the topic. At first I threw an open question on the table, “Why have each of you agreed to participate in this ministry?” Everyone was given the opportunity to contribute.

Next, I intoned what our multiple missions were: to offer insight into dealing with questions regarding addiction and alcoholism; to advocate, work with and offer community resources to help combat such problems; (and importantly) to open the dialog about recovery where it was once swept under the rug. Such a ministry may require us to step out our comfort zone and use the best information that we’re armed with. And it certainly will require most of us to be openly acknowledged as a ministry participant, with all the “risks” that this could entail. It takes practice to build any sort of skills, and this kind of ministry is no exception. It means a difference between being resistant to offering aid and being receptive to using whatever tools we have to offer help. That, of course, is why we pray. Prayer changes our perspective, allows us to be more attentive, and grants us the strength to do the right thing.


Edmond, OK Team Training May 17-18th

April 29, 2012 by  
Filed under What's New

Faith Partners Team Training is scheduled for May 17-18th in Edmond, OK. This is a two-day training program that provides the information, skills and resources to build an addiction ministry in your congregation.  The workshop will take place at First Presbyterian Church, in Edmond, OK (details on attached registration form)

Additional information on this training event and the overall approach can be had by clicking on Edmond OK FP Registration


Presbyterians Endorse Faith Partners

February 10, 2009 by  
Filed under What's New

Carol Pine, member of the Presbyterian Addiction Action Leadership Team, and co-facilitator of the Faith Partners team at her church, House of Hope Presbyterian, writes, “Our ministry is called Faith Partners and we are joined by more than 300 communities of faith around the U.S. who have decided to lift the veil of secrecy around addiction and offer hope for healthy recovery.” Faith Partners training for congregations that want to start their own ministries is available in several locations around the U.S.

The Presbyterians for Addiction Action leadership committee of the PHEWA has endorsed Faith Partners. It is a model of ministry that is sorely needed in congregations. Its special strength is voluntarism matched with pastoral support.

The team mission is the following: “The ‘House of Hope Faith Partners Ministry will serve the needs of our congregation, and the broader community, by addressing addiction in our midst. We will provide educational programs, resource information, outreach and support to people affected by addiction.’ Those of us in healthy recovery know that we are walking miracles. God has given us new life. The people who love and care about us give their gift of support. When a ‘church home’ offers sanctuary and healing compassion for its members, it is a church at its very best”.

Faith Partners in Kentucky

January 26, 2009 by  
Filed under What's New

Trish Merrill

Louisa United Methodist Church (Prestonsburg District) hosted the “Core Competency Training: Addiction Survival Kit for Clergy” in their new family life center on March 9-10, 2009. Forty persons from around the Kentucky Annual Conference came together to learn more about the issues surrounding substance abuse and hear first-hand accounts of the recovery process. The program was part of Prestonsburg District’s long-term commitment to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the area.

Rev. Guy Moyer, pastor of Louisa UMC, said, “The conference was exceptional. It was presented in a professional and profoundly powerful way. Rarely have I seen conference participants so engaged, energized, and honest in their dialogue concerning the challenges of addiction, the opportunities for ministry, and the hope that is in Christ to make all things new.”

The goal of the two-day seminar, led by Trish Merrill and Drew Brooks of the Austin, Texas, based Faith Partners, Inc., was to equip participants with knowledge and skills to build confidence and commitment for the initiation and support of addiction prevention and recovery ministries.

“It was one of the most helpful continuing education events that I have ever attended,” said Rev. Brad Smart of Bagby Memorial United Methodist Church in Grayson, Kentucky.  Funding for the cost-efficient seminar was provided through the clergy education monies set aside from the Pikeville Hospital settlement.

A Family Affair

January 23, 2009 by  
Filed under What's New

Recovery: A Family Affair

April 9, 2009 by Emily Battaglia

As part of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is promoting the message that recovery is a family affair. According to SAMHSA, over half of all adults in the United States have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking. SAMHSA is striving to inform all Americans that alcoholism is a preventable and treatable disease, and that individuals in a family where alcoholism exists need to receive help, too.

Family dynamics often play a role in the development and facilitation of addictive behaviors. In order for an addict to recover, those closest to him must also re-examine family interactions, habits, and roles to discover destructive, detrimental, or self-defeating behaviors. Although all families have unique dynamics, and it is normal for family members to take on certain roles, addiction heightens the intensity of dysfunction in a family and tends to bring out certain types of roles and interactions within a family.

The addict: Addiction is a complex phenomenon, but usually indicates a fundamental inability to cope. As addiction grows, the addict unbalances the family by becoming the center of the family’s energy and attention. Other family members shift roles to compensate for the imbalance. Although recovery for the addict is the focus, recovery for other family members is no less important to the healthy functioning of the family.

The hero:Usually one person in the family will begin to focus on appearances as a way to cope. He will ignore obvious signs of addiction and strive to make the family and family members look good in spite of one member’s problem. He ignores the dysfunctional interactions of family members and insists that things are fine. This person is dealing with underlying feelings of fear, guilt, and shame.

The mascot: This person is the family jester and copes with the situation by refusing to take it seriously. She will use humor to distract herself and others, and to avoid confronting the reality of addiction. This person’s role can hinder other family members’ attempts to recover. This person feels embarrassment, shame, and anger.

The lost child: The lost child withdraws from the family and surrenders personal needs in favor of avoiding any discussion of addiction or recovery. This person is lonely, angry, guilty, and neglected.

The scapegoat: This person tends to act out, rebel, and work to draw attention away from the addicted individual and any efforts at recovery. The scapegoat prefers distraction. This person often feels empty, shameful, and guilty.

The caretaker: The counterbalance to the addict is almost always a caretaker. This person facilitates the addict’s destructive behaviors, often out of misguided attempts to love or care for him. This person also facilitates the dysfunctional behaviors of other family members. She strives to keep everyone “happy” and make excuses for all behaviors. This person often feels inadequate, fearful, and helpless.

For the family to recover, each member must reclaim healthy roles and priorities. In the dysfunctional family, the addiction of one member takes precedence over all other matters, members refuse to recognize the addiction as a source of problems, blame is used to deflect responsibility, and communication is either nonexistent or detrimental.

In a healthy family system, self-worth is high for all members; communication is direct, clear, and honest and allows the expression of feelings; family rules are appropriate and flexible; and each person has separate goals and plans but is supported by the family in achieving them.

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