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Substance Abuse
Despite the fact that substance abuse is a massive problem, few congregations provide programs for their own members or the community to help them cope with this problem. Considering our historic stand on this issue, it is a surprise that Adventist churches are even less likely to do so than are other religious groups in America.




About one in four congregations in the interfaith sample (27%) report substance abuse programs in the last year. Only 17% of Adventist churches did so. The difference is not so much in the percentage of congregations that provide such programs on their own, as it is in those who do so in cooperation with another organization. About 12% of all religious groups provide substance abuse programs on their own, as compared to 10% of Adventist churches. Another 15% of congregations provide such programs in collaboration with another organization, but only 7% of Adventist churches do so.

Clearly a major issue here is the failure of Adventist churches to utilize outside resources to meet this pressing need. There are many “twelve-step” networks that are generally happy to conduct a regular, weekly self-help group if a church opens its facilities and helps advertise the program. There is no direct cost to the church involved.

The best-known of these organizations is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Others that use the same approach, but focus on somewhat different areas of need include Al-Anon for family members of alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous and scores of others.

An issue for Adventist churches is that often these groups include many participants who smoke, and smoking seems to be an alternative addiction for many. However, with the reduction in smoking across the population, there are more and more of these groups who want “non-smoking meetings” available, especially in major metropolitan areas. This can be a real opportunity for an Adventist Church that wants to connect with the twelve-step movement and do something about meeting substance abuse needs.

The Institute for Addiction Prevention at has prepared resource materials that provide an appropriate spiritual base for twelve-step groups. You can contact them for a Regeneration Manual and other materials at their web site www.andrews.edu/IPA or by email ipa@andrews.edu, phone (269.471.3558), or fax (269.471.6611).

Discussion Questions:

1. Has our congregation ever provided a substance abuse program for our own members or for people in the community?

2. What is the level of need for this kind of ministry among our own members and in the neighborhood where we are located?

3. Should we appoint an individual or a small taskforce to develop some options for future ministry in the area of substance abuse?

The Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R has additional insight into trends within the Adventist Church. Learn more about the Faith Communities Today (FACT) research.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, January 1, 2006, Center for Creative Ministry