Severns Valley to start Celebrate Recovery program

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Model has been adopted by thousands of churches

By Marty Finley

Severns Valley Baptist Church is launching an outreach ministry for people suffering with addictions and debilitating habits.
But church leaders are clear when they say the approach to recovery will be centered entirely on Jesus Christ.
Severns Valley is one of thousands of churches to adopt Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program aimed at aiding those with lingering problems and addictions out of control. First Baptist Church in Elizabethtown also has the program, which meets on Monday nights.
Celebrate Recovery was launched in the early 1990s at Saddleback Church in southern California by John Baker, a former alcoholic who pitched the idea to Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback and author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” Since then, the program has attracted hundreds of thousands of people and expanded internationally.
Severns Valley’s program kicks off March 14 and will be held every Monday night, according to the Rev. Ray Hicks, associate pastor. The meetings open with a worship service and teachings and then split into small groups.
Leading up to the launch of the program, Severns Valley’s pastor, the Rev. Bill Langley, has prepared a sermon series entitled “The Road to Recovery” that will run from Jan. 23 to March 13 on Sunday mornings.
Hicks said the program will follow the model created by Saddleback and focus on providing a safe haven for those struggling with burdens they can’t overcome on their own.
“Let’s face it, there’s a lot of hurting people in the world,” Hicks said. “We’re all recovering from something.”
Hicks said visitors will be known by their first names and no record will be kept of their attendance to foster anonymity. What happens in the meetings will stay in the meetings, he said.
And the program is not focused entirely on alcohol, drug and sex addictions, Hicks said. If someone is dealing with depression, grief, self-esteem or anger issues, for example, they also are welcome.
“Any hurt, hang-up or habit you have,” he said.
The 12-step program is steeped in Christ-centered principles, with the first step calling on the sufferer to realize he or she is not God. From there, the steps focus on participants admitting they have a problem and nurturing a relationship with God to overcome the situation, he said.
“I’m not the answer; nobody is the answer,” Hicks said. “Jesus is the answer.”
Hicks has witnessed the program at work before during a stint with Langley at a Texas church. Within a four-year period, the program attracted roughly 5,000 people and had an average attendance of about 90 people for the meetings, he said.
He said Severns Valley is excited to see what God has in store for Hardin County and is committed to seeing the program through. Over the weekend, Severns Valley welcomed members from churches across the country to discuss the program, and Hicks said area churches that participated expressed enthusiasm for Celebrate Recovery’s potential locally.
Celebrate Recovery has already made a mark on Hardin County with First Baptist Church on Bishop Lane in Elizabethtown.
The program is in its first year at First Baptist and is rebuilding after its original leaders moved, said Brenda Skillman, minister leader.
Skillman attended the advanced training at Severns Valley this weekend and said it has made her a stronger Christian.
Roughly 15 to 20 people attend First Baptist’s Monday night sessions.
Skillman echoed Hicks in saying the program is not geared solely for drug or alcohol addiction, pointing out that only about 30 percent of people in the program suffer from those addictions.
Some shy away from recovery programs, Skillman said, but Celebrate Recovery is a safe environment where people will not be judged.
“Trauma is going to happen,” she said. “Hurt is a part of life.”
The key to the recovery, Hicks said, is people acknowledging the need for help and realizing they don’t have to fight their battles alone.
“We’re going to be here,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.