Groups for Christians
What is a support group?
Overcoming the lingering
affects of addiction and moving into the fullness of the abundant life is
an involved, long-term process. Through support groups, people in recovery
can share their experience, strength and hope with one another. A support
group is usually a small gathering of individuals who share similar
struggles. Larger groups may have a common opening session and then break
into small groups to allow more intimate fellowship and sharing. Support
groups members come together at least weekly to share their struggles and
their victories as a means of mutual encouragement. The best support
groups practice a policy of strict confidentiality (and often anonynimity)
so that their members can share freely without fear of others outside of
the group learning about their problems.
Most of us become isolated
and full of shame as a result of our addictions and other problems. This
will work against any movement toward finding a better life for ourselves.
A good support group will be a source of great hope and encouragement as
we gain insights from becoming connected with others who share similar
Fortunately, in recent
years we have witnessed the growth of Christian support groups. Those who
use the Twelve Steps originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous seem to
be the most effective.
Christian "support groups"
are not a new idea-John Wesley's "Rules for Small
Groups," written in 1816, is an outline that embodies "the Method" from
which the name "Methodist" came. This method resulted in one of the
greatest revivals the world has ever known. Believers gathered together in
small groups, sharing honestly, becoming accountable to one another,
asking probing questions, praying for one another with a deep knowledge of
their mutual needs and struggles. Any believer can benefit from this type
of gathering. It can be a tremendously healing and encouraging experience
for those in recovery.
How can a
support group help a Christian who is struggling?
Ideally, a good support
group is, first, a place where recovering addicts will find true
acceptance and a sense of what unconditional love is all about. It is a
safe, non-judgmental setting where they can express struggles, thoughts,
ideas, and feelings without fear of rejection. Hearing the stories of
others with similar difficulties and how they overcame them, gives the
struggling addict great encouragement to go on in a life of sobriety.
Healthy support groups can provide a sort of "family "atmosphere that
stimulates the hope for a better life in all involved. Because addiction
wreaks havoc upon an individual's relationships with others, a good
support group is a wonderful place for recovering addicts to begin the
difficult and painful process of re-connecting with other people.
How do you identify
a good support group?
In many ways, support
groups are like churches -- all are not the same. That is why it's
important to attend at least two or three meetings before making a
judgment about any particular group.
Here are a few "hallmarks"
of a healthy support group:
||Protects the confidentiality of
its participants by not disclosing what members share during the
meetings to those outside of the group.
||Avoids "cross talk"
(interrupting out of turn) and offering unsolicited advice and
counseling during the meeting.
||Provides the recovering person
with a combination of personal support and group accountability
||Provides a format for honest
sharing of personal thoughts and ideas
||Is a safe and non-judgmental
environment for the risky experience of exploring and verbalizing
||Supplements the entire recovery
process, not the single focus or an end in itself
||Communicates acceptance and
freedom of expression without fear of rejection
||Promotes an atmosphere of
positive reinforcement and hopefulness
||Maintains a "family" atmosphere
into which each individual feels he/she can fit
||Has mature, stable leadership,
but is not controlled by one or a few dominant individuals
||Has definite format for its
meetings, not rambling, directionless discussions
How do I
find a Christian support group in my area?
There are probably numerous
support groups meeting in your local area. The best approach is to contact
someone you know who is involved with recovery to ask them about their own
experience. Pastors and Christian counselors can also be an excellent
source for finding a good referral. It is wise to attend at least two or
three meetings before making a commitment to a particular AA meeting or
other support group.
||Find a Christian support group that is a member of the Christian
Recovery Coalition by clicking the
Local Groups button.
||Use the online directory of
groups from the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions to learn how
to find a group meeting in your area.
||If you do not have a Christian
group your your area, you might consider becoming involved with one that
it not specifically Christian. Most that use the 12 Steps still
emphasize the importance of spiritual growth in the recovery process.
John Wesley's Small Group Rules
In the early days of
the Methodist Church, members were expected to agree to six common
disciplines or "Rules" found in The Works of John Wesley (1816)
- To meet once a week, at least.
- To come together at the hour
appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
- To begin (those of us who are
present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
- To speak each of us in order,
freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have
committed in thought or deed and the temptations we have felt since our
- To end every meeting with
prayer suited to the state of each person.
- To desire some person among us
to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as
many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins,
The above was
adapted from A Guide to Effective Rescue Mission Recovery Programs by
Michael Liimatta, Director of Education for the Association of Gospel
Rescue Missions. Used by permission of the author.