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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Family Response

July 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Writings

Does this sound familiar? Perhaps you are clergy, a certified substance abuse counselor, an adult child of an alcoholic, or simply the neighbor of someone who is struggling to make the right decision about a husband, child, or other family member. The typical responses are often a complicated mix of fight or take flight or both.

Rev. Cynthia Sloan

Rev. Sloan

Families and friends who love someone addicted to alcohol or other drugs have experienced emotional pain that only another who has been in the same place can understand. One who has never experienced loving and being loved by an addict might say, “Why don’t you just leave them?” But would this be a valid solution if the afflicted person had cancer or diabetes? No, of course not.

Families and friends can help by:


  • Attending workshops on addictionGoing to open AA or NA meetings and learning firsthand from folks who have lived through the grip of addiction
  • Becoming a member of an Al-Anon family group.
  • Family members can play an integral part in the addict’s full recovery, but only if they are willing to work as hard at being a part of the solution as they have worked at being part of the problem. This not meant to be a criticism, only a statement of truth.

k1753299Everyone is reluctant to change what’s familiar. It is like having an old favorite pair of bedroom slippers. Though worn and ugly, they are comfortable and one is used to them. If one gets a new pair, will they feel the same … will there be a period of adjustment…will one miss wearing the old ones?

If you grew up in an alcoholic family, more likely than not you married an alcoholic. Somewhere in the back of your mind you found yourself doing the same things you promised yourself you would never do. Adult children of alcoholics find themselves married to someone they thought they could change or control.

Following are some characteristics of a person brought up in an alcoholic home:**

  • Hero–the well-adjusted child in the family who has it all together. They get good grades, are the star of the football team, and strive for perfection as validation. They need to be in control, but everything in their lives is out of control.
  • Scapegoat–the child who gets into trouble. He or she unconsciously chooses to be the “one problem” so that the other members of family will take their focus off the alcoholic/addict.
  • Lost Child–the “good one” who never does anything wrong to the extent of being lost in the shuffle. They grow up and typically marry someone they can take care of and/or fix.
  • Mascot–the child who makes the family laugh. They bring relief to the situation by putting on a comic mask to ease the emotional pain in the household.
  • Chief Enabler–usually the spouse who tries everything to “keep the secret.” They try to keep the family intact while it is falling apart. The only sense of relief the enabler might get is a brief period of sobriety the addict might demonstrate in response to a threat from that spouse. As the disease progresses, the enabler might feel a bit like a juggler with too many balls in the air. Eventually, this family member gets “sick and tried of being sick and tired” and either leaves and/or goes into recovery.

imageCAED7U2GThe importance of family members’ involvement in their own recovery cannot be overstressed. The family can and does make a difference in getting someone into a program of recovery. Just by becoming a member of Al-Anon, the family member learns: they didn’t cause it, they can’t control it, and they can’t cure it. The Three Cs of Al-Anon (also adopted by Alateen) provide relief and freedom to many people.

Freedom from depending on someone to provide our happiness is the start of the road to recovery. All kinds of miracles can happen when we decide we have had enough. It is time to quit playing to blame game and begin a journey toward freedom.

Pray this prayer with me:

God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I can not change
COURAGE to change the things I can;
And the WISDOM to know the difference.

*From a letter to the clearinghouse for the Al-Anon family groups, which are an outgrowth of AA; 1990, Understanding and Counseling the Alcoholic by Howard Clinebell.

**From Counseling the Chemically Dependent by Rickey L. George.

Originally published by SPSARV & the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. Permission granted to reprint.

Rev. Cynthia Sloan serves as program associate for the United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV), where she coordinates the delivery of training and resources for clergy and congregational ministry development. An ordained deacon of the Western North Carolina Conference, Rev. Sloan is a licensed clinical addictions specialist in the state of North Carolina.

Advancing Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment

September 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Writings

The prevalence of substance abuse and compulsive behavior disorders is astonishingly high in congregations and religious communities. Pews are full of those whose lives are controlled and destroyed by the influence of addictions and substance abuse. Given the limits of training that religious leaders often receive, how can it be identified and what steps can be taken to deal effectively with it?

How does the church approach an effective response with a heart of kindness and mercy? Can a response be informed by a new theological understanding based on the language of the recovery community? Why is it that those in need so often back away from the faith community? How can religious leaders be equipped to be helpers to others, to find the right resources, and to lead those in need “home to God”?

The Hanley Family Foundation, Inc. (HFF) was created to advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism, chemical dependency and addictive behavior, including support for related research and education.



May 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Writings

This posting area is intended for organizations and groups that have been trained and commissioned or otherwise supporting the mission and goals of Faith Partners. It is privately accessed and password protected. For detailed on accessing the information contained here, please send a request to

2009 Recovery Month

May 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Writings


squareV1The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), has unveiled materials for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month (Recovery Month) at a news briefing that highlighted plans for this September’s observance.

The 2009 Recovery Month theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Learn, Together We Heal.” The 2009 public service announcements (PSAs) have two supporting story lines aimed at directing people to SAMHSA/CSAT’s 24-hour information and treatment referral helpline, 1-800-662-HELP. The PSAs depict scenes of individuals whose daily struggles due to alcohol or drugs can regain their lives through addiction treatment. The PSAs were produced for Radio and TV in both Spanish and English.

Additional materials include a Recovery Month kit, posters, and other collateral materials.

The Recovery Month observance highlights the societal benefits of substance abuse treatment, lauds the contributions of treatment providers and promotes the message that recovery from substance abuse in all its forms is possible. The observance also encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective substance abuse treatment for those in need. Each year a new theme, or emphasis, is selected for the observance.

Recovery Month provides a platform to celebrate people in recovery and those who serve them. Each September, thousands of treatment programs around the country celebrate their successes and share them with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues in an effort to educate the public about treatment, how it works, for whom, and why. Substance abuse treatment providers have made significant accomplishments, having transformed the lives of untold thousands of Americans. These successes often go unnoticed by the broader population; therefore, Recovery Month provides a vehicle to celebrate these successes.

Recovery Month also serves to educate the public on substance abuse as a national health crisis, that addiction is a treatable disease, and that recovery is possible. Recovery Month highlights the benefits of treatment for not only the affected individual, but for their family, friends, workplace, and society as a whole. Educating the public reduces the stigma associated with addiction and treatment. Accurate knowledge of the disease helps people to understand the importance of supporting treatment programs, those who work within the treatment field, and those in need of treatment.

More Recovery Month information available here.

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