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. If you don’t see an answer to your question, or you would like to discuss how Faith Partners might work for you, please CONTACT US.
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.
Does what works with communities apply to congregations?
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA’s) Community Readiness for Drug Abuse Prevention: Issues, Tips and Tools says that “Community readiness is the extent to which a community is adequately prepared to implement a drug abuse prevention program. A community must have the support and commitment of its members and the needed resources to implement an effective prevention effort. Because community readiness is a process, factors associated with it can be objectively assessed and systematically enhanced.”
It is also necessary to build readiness and capacity to establish an effective, sustainable congregational team to provide prevention and recovery support activities. Building a team effort takes time and training. Starting a new ministry or service in a congregation takes thoughtful planning and preparation.
Faith Partners has completed a Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Service to Science evaluation enhancement grant and recently published a research article in a peer-review journal to move our model from a promising practice to an evidence-based intervention.
In our evaluation, the unit of analysis is on a congregational level. This is appropriate because the approach focuses on environmental change and impact within each participating congregation. A sustained effort will reveal changes in attitudes and behaviors. Over time due to this intervention the assertion is one will see on a post-test survey increased involvement in prevention, education, and recovery support activities.
This comprehensive and unique approach led by and advocated for people in the pews is an innovative way to create a caring, nonjudgmental, safe place to which affiliated individuals and families can turn for education and assistance. An institutionalized ministry should experience long-term outcomes including:
- Fewer people will experience alcohol and other drug problems;
- More people will receive help in earlier stages of the disease;
- Family members will receive support and assistance in leading a healthier lifestyle, and
- Congregations will be active in local and national advocacy efforts.
Teams move into prevention and recovery activities within the first year and within three to five years the team ministry becomes institutionalized. It is imperative that the teams be nurtured and sustained through an active process of area coordination and on-going education.
New teams need opportunities to learn skills in the areas of ministry – prevention, early intervention, referral assistance, recovery support and advocacy. To reinforce these responses and to equip team members to function more effectively, a series of Webinars is planned for on a regular basis.
In addition, it is encouraged that teams connect with area community resources to help with broadening understanding and skill development. These continuing education opportunities can build capacity in many of the areas in which congregations need skills, can enable them to collaborate with other community resources and assure the possibility of an effective, sustainable congregational team ministry.
Another suggestion from successful teams is to track development progress over time through notes, logs or other recorded methods. This can help with assimillating new members into the team by providing a historical record of seminars, speakers, shared interactions and other community resources.
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. If you have questions or would like to speak with a reference, please CONTACT US.
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.