Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

AC: Prevent/Recover program launches


Format to assist churches in addiction ministries


In keeping with the 2014 theme, "All Things New," Annual Conference delegates were introduced on May 27 to Prevent/Recover, an addiction ministry collaboration of Oklahoma City University and the Oklahoma Conference through the Office of Mission.

Prevent/Recover is under the direction of Peter John A. Messiah.

The cooperating groups signed the official Memorandum of Understanding in mid-June, said Office of Mission Director Jeremy Basset.

Dr. Messiah said the goal of Prevent/Recover is to equip local churches for community-based programs of addiction prevention and treatment education. The collaborative effort will provide learning opportunities for ministry leaders, plus congregational resources and ongoing statewide support.

"All of our churches include members who are addicted to substances and are hurting and suffering from the disease of addiction," Messiah said. "They are in need of a supportive, caring, and compassionate church family as they undergo treatment to deal with the very real struggle of addiction."

In August 2011, OCU appointed Messiah to lead its new Addiction Prevention Studies program, which began that fall.

Messiah managed the Houston school district’s Safe Schools Department before coming to OCU. He holds more than a dozen certifications, including drug prevention counseling, anger resolution, and victims’ assistance crisis response.

The Addiction Prevention Studies program is part of OCU’s Petree College of Arts and Sciences.

Messiah told delegates, "We all want our congregants and the communities we serve to be in good health; but, the fact remains, some fall into the illness of drug and alcohol abuse.

"We realize that addiction may be as close as home, with suffering family, or a church member sitting next to us in the pew."

He continued, "We are also mindful that knowing the best way to reach out, respond, and support these individuals is not always an easy path to navigate."

A four-prong effort will be utilized:

  • Under Prevent/Recover, ministry leaders will be offered certification as prevention specialists through courses available in two formats: a weekly classroom session or online, earning 12 credit hours over four semesters.

  • Potential team leaders can participate in a one-day "Shaping the Change" workshop to learn how to prepare for, launch, and maintain an effective ministry.

  • Roundtable discussion opportunities will be held throughout the state, focusing on relevant issues Oklahomans face involving alcohol and drugs. These sessions will provide content and promote community advocacy and education. They will produce white papers and informational items in support of educational efforts.

  • An annual Fall Symposium will assist with the ongoing addiction treatment and educational endeavors.

  • Local-church ministries of Prevent/Restore will be developed through professional guidance at every level—local churches, area wide, countywide, and UM districts. This will include:

  • exploring future ministry;

  • revision/updating/refocusing of existing ministries;

  • goal setting and shaping of a desired ministry; and

  • coaching for an emerging ministry.

Each church will be supported by the advocacy efforts of district volunteers trained to speak in churches about the scope and possibilities of this ministry. These volunteers will be able to link ministry resources and training opportunities available to a church.

Messiah said, "Possibilities of service delivery are infinite and customizable to meet the need of the local church. There is no one ‘perfect’ approach, but rather a creative force that follows research-based principles in the prevention and treatment of addiction and addiction-related concerns."

The main message that Messiah wants churches to understand about Prevent/Recover: "You are not in it alone" when providing addiction ministry to congregations and communities.

(Dembowski serves on the Conference Dept. of Communications board and is a member of Norman-McFarlin UMC.)

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Dr. Peter Messiah 


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