According to research, families in difficulty with addiction issues often turn to their clergy or their family doctor. This will come to no surprise to most clergy. In fact, a study by Columbia University notes that 94% of clergy consider alcohol and other drug abuse along with behavioral addiction to be important issues that they confront. At the same time, only 12% of American clergy report that they have any formal preparation in dealing with addiction disease.
What is surprising to most clergy is the prevalence of this disease within the congregation. Over 10 % of Americans are afflicted with chemical addiction at some point in their lives. One in four families is affected by the disease in some way. No segment of society and certainly no place of worship and healing escapes this certainty. Fortunately, there is another unexpected prevalence; the existence throughout society, and in congregations, of people who have survived their addiction experience and those who are professional or otherwise engaged with prevention and recovery practices.
It is with these individuals who have experienced healing that hope springs for effective education, help for families, congregations, and communities. Faith Partner Teams are built on the premise that people helping people are both blessed and a blessing to others. Clergy who have long addressed addiction issues have found the team approach effective and powerful, both in helping those affected and in building prevention efforts. “Lighting the Path: Clergy Leadership in a Faith Partners Team Ministry”, Faith-Partners.org.
The Sabine Prevention Alliance (SPA) has now been active for over a year. SPA is a volunteer coalition of youth and adult citizens actively engaged in increasing awareness of underage drinking in Sabine Parish. Three committees, Policy/ Law, Health/Education and Multi-Media drive the work of SPA in delivering the prevention message and coordinating efforts across community sectors to prevent and reduce underage drinking in Sabine Parish. Early in 2020 the alliance engaged the assistance of Faith-Partners Inc. under the direction of Mr. Drew Brooks, CEO to bring the Faith Partners model to Sabine Parish by offering a series of training, development, and technical assistance to at least ten local congregations. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the strategy had to be modified from face-to face to virtual training formats. So far this year SPA has engaged five denominations and seven congregations in the Faith-Partners Ministry training and development process.
Phase one, “Readiness Training” was accomplished via Zoom in April and phase two, “Leadership Training” was held locally in person in June, while following all health and safety precautions recommended by the State of Louisiana. Seven congregations with clergy or prospective ministry team members from five different denominations were in attendance for a full day of orientation and training in the Faith-Partners model.
Phase three entails conducting a congregational survey and identifying lay members of the ministry teams to return in the fall to participate in a “ Skills Training” event for implementation of the three key elements of the ministry which are Awareness: helping the congregation become more aware of the problem, see the need for prevention through alternative activities, and finding the resources for help; Education: through personal contact, existing classes and church organizations provide evidence-based information on the nature of addiction as a treatable disease with spiritual consequences rather than a “lack of willpower”, and how addiction has genetic implications effecting everyone in the family; and Support: in a non-judgmental manner team members share experience, strength and hope while helping others find and connect with appropriate resources withing the congregation and in the community.Phase three training will be held in the fall and there is still time to have your congregation involved in this inspired training. If you are in the Clergy, a toolkit and phone consultation will be made available to you to assist in planning. If you are a member of a congregation with a desire to be of service to others, please discuss this article with your church leaders. If your church wants to be part of this transformative process, contact the Sabine Prevention Alliance at 259 Fisher Rd., Many, La, 318-315-0081 SPAWagley@gmail.com Facebook / sabine prevention alliance, www.sabineprevents.com. , or call James Wagley at 318-602-9206.