Can you relate to a recent email inquiry I received?
“Dear Teresa, My recovery ministry is about three years old, and it feels like we’re stagnant. I’m discouraged. It’s not like we don’t have plenty of crisis calls, we do! But once the crisis passes, it seems like the enthusiasm for the work of recovery dries up. The family we served disappears…until the next crisis! Does this ever happen at your recovery ministry? What am I doing wrong?”
Reply: “No! Of course not! In our community, people are always faithful to the work! They recover their lives and just move forward in blissful transformation!” Just kidding.
Real reply: “Oh, yes. I experience this same thing on a regular basis. It is discouraging!”
How about this email?
“Dear Teresa, I’m wondering what you can tell me about the 12 steps. We have a recovery and care ministry in our church. The leadership and support groups have helped me (as Senior Pastor) serve our community; I am deeply grateful for their faithful work. But lately, we’ve been getting pushback about not offering 12 step recovery work. I’ve historically been philosophically opposed to this model. I don’t like the language of “higher power” or “as we understand him”. But I met this guy. He’s been visiting my church for about six months, he’s in recovery and is a big proponent of the 12 steps. His faithful service and wisdom are so obvious and attractive, I’m beginning to rethink my position. Any advice?”
Reply: “No! It sounds like you are an amazing pastor, open to learning and listening – what more could I add? Just keep following those inclinations to consider new ways to serve suffering people, I suspect with that attitude, the Spirit will guide you into your next right step.”
This is one of the many things I love about my participation at the NACR. It reminds me that those of us who participate in the work of recovery are not alone. There are a variety of approaches to recovery ministry that allow church communities to participate in the healing process of hurting people.
Churches and treatment facilities and mental health professionals and families…all across the nation are learning from their mistakes and discovering new ways to embrace recovery and spirituality. People are finding their way back home to God. And yes, sometimes it is easy to forget that it works.
How do we keep the faith? Sadly, some people do come and go, relapse and recover and then relapse again! The roller coaster ride of recovery ministry is enough to cause ministers and treatment professionals alike to break out in a bad case of spiritual lethargy and hopelessness. It’s my experience that I need time for vigilance around my own work – because if I am not practicing my own spirituality and recovery principles – I have no experience, strength or hope to share.