Provide Ministries that Matter!
Ahhh, the 70s! Remember the Yellow pages? If you wanted to find a church, you looked for the adds there. It was easy. Back then, a simple spaghetti dinner might be an effective outreach. No more. The world has become more complex and wounded.
How do we impact a world deluged by addiction and mental health issues? According to the Rural Health Information Hub, overdose rates in rural counties increased from 4.0 to 19.6 per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2019 and around 33% of people aged 12-20 living in rural areas abuse alcohol, compared to 28.5% of those living in big cities. And according to the NIH, over 60% of rural Americans live in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals.
Although many clergy feel unprepared to deal with mental health and addiction issues, local churches and clergy are among the first to be contacted, especially in suburban and rural areas. The national crisis in addiction and mental health afford a unique opportunity for clergy and churches to help fill the gap.
Trinity Anglican Church, in Rochester, New Hampshire, stepped into this gap to good effect by offering two different programs. There, Fr. "Matt" Mirabile, recognizing the strong veteran presence in his new parish and sympathy in the area for veterans issues, sought out a program for veterans returning from combat. They discovered the Reboot Combat Recovery Course and offered it as an outreach from their parish. Reboot was started in at Ft. Campbell, KY, and led by co-founders Evan & Jenny Owens and continues to support courses around the country. Fr. Matt, together with a few other veterans who helped lead the course, successfully completed multiple rotations, with several of the participants ultimately joining Trinity parish, having found value in the course and built relationships at the parish.
At the same time, the crisis of addiction and homelessness was a critical issue in their community. Since Fr. Matt already had both experience and training in addiction, he wrote a 12 Week course to address this crisis. After two pilot presentations in 2019, he started the first Deep Recovery Course in the fall of 202o, despite Covid 21, knowing that many recovery programs and support groups had been cancelled and that this would lead to a mental health crisis, and quite possible to a spike in suicides. Since then, he has run three complete courses with outstanding results. Again, participation in this course has led to several participants to join Trinity. The next course is scheduled in the fall of 2022.
Fr. Mirabile has had multiple inquiries about offering the Deep Recovery Course in other locations, and is working to facilitate this. If you are interested in offering the course at your church, please contact him through the Trinity or Deep Recovery websites.
Outreach opportunities like those above abound. And when the credibility of the church (and all institutions) is at a low point, finding ministries like these can go a long way to overcoming this. There are so many more ways to reach out into our communities to create meaningful places of encounter between the church and the world, leading to increased opportunities for growth for the local parish. We hope and encourage other churches to consider highly visible and meaningful ways to affect in their communities, and adding credibility to their efforts to grow their parish.