The Church as Minister to Alcoholics and Their Families -- By: Thomas H. Cairns

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 09:2 (Spring 1992)
Article: The Church as Minister to Alcoholics and Their Families
Author: Thomas H. Cairns

The Church as Minister to Alcoholics and Their Families

Thomas H. Cairns

Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

As individual communities of faith, local churches have a vital role to play in our society’s attempts to help alcoholics, addicts and their families.1 Rev. Howard Clinebell, a respected early pioneer in Christian ministry to alcoholics, says:

Local congregations, viewed collectively, represent a sleeping giant of influence and help to the burdened, so far as their potential contributions in this area are concerned. Many individual clergymen are providing valuable services in alcoholism education, working with local Councils on Alcoholism and helping alcoholics and their families. But most local churches, as total congregations, have hardly scratched the surface of their potential opportunity to be the ‘servant church’ in the area of alcoholism.2

Churches and their staffs do not have to make care for the addicted the central focus of their existence to be effective. Some despair that there is not much their church can do about this admittedly important problem without abandoning nearly everything else they do in order to become an addiction treatment center. It is true that some churches will perform this ministry so effectively that they will gain a reputation for being the church in their community where people go who need some kind of help with addiction. These churches may be able to offer support groups, professional counseling, a library, and other specialized ministries. However, most churches will not have the calling or the resources to approach the problem to this extent. Every church, however, can be a place where people understand addiction, help where they are able, and make referrals to other people and institutions to provide additional care. With preparation and intentional effort, any church can fulfill its basic responsibilities as the people of God to addicted people and their families. This will be an improvement over the current situation in which many addicted people would never turn to a church for help and many who do are disappointed with what they find.

Local churches have unique responsibilities, opportunities and resources to minister effectively to alcoholics and their families.

Unique Responsibilities

The church is called and gifted by God to meet spiritual needs through evangelism and discipleship.

The church is also called and gifted by God to meet other human needs through Christian ministry like Jesus did (healing the sick, feeding...

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