Faith Partners ministries have been integral to my congregational experience for several years. Of course, the pivotal tasks involving set up, initiation, constitution (in the United Methodist church) and kick off always create a sense of satisfaction and mission accomplished. Often when I talk to new participants in Faith Partners, who weren’t part of the church back in 2007, I am compelled to impart that same elative sense of marching down a new path with a mission and like-minded, enthusiastic fellows. That task is the goal of and met through “sustaining ministries.”
After the initial and advanced training, group coordination, congregational buy-in, and delegation of responsibilities, we began to see not just group cohesion, but individual interests develop and nurtured. Our team helded twice monthly meetings where outside speakers from a variety of disciplines could instruct the group on various facets of addiction, the psychology of recovery, the role of faith, community services, legal strtcures, amd even non-traditional approaches. Some team members began to deal with daunting challenges – family dynamics, legal consequences of substance abuse, and referral to helpful community resources – and as a group all learned simple lessons in the complexity of the problem and diversity of creative responses. The team also realized that after focusing so much energy on internal issues and needs, maybe it was time to also look outward. In fact, much of our group’s sustaining ministries have been a direct result of our engagement with the local community.
Dinner with recovery residents – Our community has separate long-term, residential recovery programs – 20 women at one, 50-55 men at the other – for a unique population coming in off the street or out of incarceration. The newer women’s program sought out support from the surrounding community. Our Faith Partners team made a commitment to provide dinners on a monthly, then twice monthly for the residents. We discovered that this regular kind of committment gave a unique opportunity to not just serve, but to also break bread, share, discover and laugh with a fascinating group of residents newly on the road the recovery.
Transitional needs – From interaction through the dinners, the team discovered that many who were completing the residential recovery program – 12-14 months – had shown up with virtual nohing and were leaving with little more. The group began making special drives to help meet some of transitional needs – servicable furniture, small used appliances, groceries, and the like. Of course, the priorty placed job, housing, and transportation needs first, but having a decent bed to sleep on, a couple chairs and some groceries in cabinets places a pretty close second. The residents were especially appreciative of the gesture as a way of welcoming them back into the communty.
Community service – From another source came the impetus to provide community service opportunities to participants in the local DUI and Drug Court programs run through the county judicial system. For a few, connections were made via 12 Step meetings and the many requests to sign “court chits” for mandatory meeting attendance. It was soon discovered that these judicial programs carried with them not just substantial fees, drug testing, counseling, 12 step meetings, but a hefty community service requirement. In response, an effort was made to establish standards, construct the proper documents, obtain authorization from church board members, and recruit the labor for small church projects. The “talent pool” was extensive. A painter recruited, also had years of plumbing experience. Another recruited for food service, had computer programming experience as well, and wound up joining the congregation a few months later.
Sustaining ministries are the result of compassion, determination, and earnest effort to connect directly with the least, the last, and the lost. I’m always interested in hearing what other Faith Partners teams are doing once their teams are pulled together and starting to reach out.
Faith Partners/Recovery Ministry Coordinator
Sacred Tapestry United Methodist Church,