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12-step programs boost mission and congregation ranks

SUMMARY: How does your congregation help members and non-members address life challenges? Offering 12-step support programs can enrich your church and reach out to the community.

One example is Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step program. It assists people in overcoming challenges through Bible-based principles, while emphasizing responsibility for hurts, hang-ups and habits. Often, non-church members who participate decide to get involved in other ministries of the congregation.

If you are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous and its first step, which is to acknowledge a higher power, think “God” instead with Celebrate Recovery. It blends the 12 steps with principles from the Sermon on the Mount, commonly called The Beatitudes.

Need usually exists. 
Consider the difference your church can make by starting a 12-step support group. One church learned a woman in the congregation had struggled with an eating disorder and received treatment but could not find a local support group. The leaders started a support group.

Such programs can help people coping with drug and alcohol addictions; sexual addiction (pornography, phone sex, promiscuity); anger/co-dependency; eating disorders; domestic violence; loss of a loved one; and self-image problems. They also can encourage healthy lifestyles (weight, exercise, nutrition).

Don’t think strictly “addiction.” 
Anyone who is hurting can benefit. Stress that such program are built on anonymity. What is discussed at meetings stays there. It is not mentioned at Sunday worship with a slap on the back and the question, “How’s the recovery going?”

Review the hosting options. 
Many churches offer a community meal and then divide into subgroups that focus on particular projects. There's no time limit for participants to complete the 12 steps. Let participants and prospects know they will need about six meetings (usually once a week) at a minimum to get a feel for the program. Most churches do not charge for the programs but do accept donations.

Go outside the church. 
If your church cannot host a 12-step program, make it an outreach ministry. Consider taking it to nearby transitional facilities. For instance, one leader presents a weekly program to women at the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Rehabilitation Center.

Offer for all ages. 
Through ancillary programs, your church can develop specialized lesson plans for children and youth. Children and teens receive the same message their parents hear in an age-appropriate way. They see positive characteristics in an atmosphere where they feel safe and cared for, which will go a long way in treating the family as a whole.

Google to learn more. 
Type “12-step programs” to see the possibilities and to learn how to get involved. Your efforts will benefit church members and non-members alike.