Pastors and addicted congregants have a historically rocky relationship. On the one hand, a general lack of knowledge and understanding has led the relationship to be more problematic than beneficial. On the other hand, there’s great potential for educated pastors to be an instrument of great change by ministering to addicted persons and their families.
Addiction takes many forms. Substance, sexual, and even behavioral addictions permeate through every aspect of life; rich or poor, healthy and unhealthy, young and old. The impacts of addictions are intense and can destroy the mental, physical, and spiritual health of all those involved. At the front lines of many of these battles are pastors.
As the face of your religious community, it is your responsibility to understand the deeper implications of addiction and the role that spiritual faith plays in it. Countless programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous integrate some level of spiritual relations in their healing process, the church should be no different. To be more effective spiritual leaders, we should learn to understand methods that help us minister effectively to individuals and families that are haunted by addictions of any kind.
Be Aware: Learn the general definition of addictions and common signs and symptoms. Take special care to be aware of the stigmas surrounding addiction and the counseling for it. Resources like NuWell can be an excellent resource to provide faith-based Christian counseling for addicted persons and their families, as well as take some of the counseling burdens off of church leadership.
Be Knowledgeable: The characteristics of withdrawal and coping can vary from person to person, but every person struggling with addiction withdrawal will go through similar withdrawal events. Even people recovering from addiction have their own set of mountains to overcome! The effects that recovery and withdrawal can have on families and friends can lead to conflict and alienation. Be mindful and ask God to help you reach out in a manner reflective of the love of Jesus.
Addiction can often impede progress along a spiritual journey. Unlike a roadblock such as Sunday sports or workplace stress, addiction is a much heavier obstacle to remove in our walk with God. However, we know that through God, all things are possible. The Bible tells us so many times that it is important when counseling or advising those with addictions that they have a source of eternal strength and support through their faith. NuWell Christian Counseling takes a careful and faithful approach to help Christians tackle addiction.
It is also the role of a faith leader to develop and nurture a welcoming and supportive community within their church. Foster the inclusive attitude that we are all sinners in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. No matter our sins, everyone is welcome and encouraged to be a team player in our individual walks with God. Having a supportive and loving community can even be an early form of intervention for an addicted person, and this sort of environment can demonstrate effective ministry toward addicted persons and their families.
When pastors are mindful, supportive, and loving in their ministry, it can become easier to break stigmas regarding addiction. With the help of organizations like NuWell Christian Counseling, pastors and faith leaders can help addicted persons grow in their relationship to God and themselves, all while receiving guidance that is faithful and true based on the Word of God.