Ministry Ideas: Celebrate Recovery

Several months ago, some of our members began working with some of our staff to start a chapter of Celebrate Recovery at our church. It took months of planning and preparation, but we finally got started earlier this year.

“Celebrate Recovery” is a Biblically based program for addiction recovery begun by the Saddleback congregation led by Rick Warren. Several of our members have been through the training and have helped lead the program. The program launched after a series of sermons laid out the principles behind the program. We offer it once a week on Wednesday nights.

The first night, we had over 70 visitors, and it’s been going strong ever since. The leaders coordinate their ministry with other Celebrate Recovery programs in town, so that they are all offered on different nights, allowing those who need to attend several times a week to do so at different churches. (No other Churches of Christ in town offer this program, but a non-denominational community church does.)

The program helps with recovery from addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex … anything that can control your life. And it’s strongly focused on the healing power of faith in Jesus.

Many of our members have benefited from the program, and some visitors have begun worshiping with us.

How do you measure the success of such a program? By baptisms? By addictions defeated? By the image the program projects to the community? I think these are all valid measures, but ultimately it’s about whether our members are being changed to live as Jesus lived, and by that measure, it’s a huge success.


11 Responses

  1. I have a friend in Appalachia (Jellico, TN who is reporting that most of his church growth is coming from the Celebrate Recovery program. That wasn’t his goal, of course. He was just trying to meet the need of his community. But when people meet Jesus and get transformed (rather than becoming a member of a religion), word spreads, people get saved, and the church grows. Hungry people start telling other hungry people where the bread is!

    Our church is starting one this week, and we can’t be more excited about it! In this program, people aren’t taught how to control their behavior. They are reconciled to God, and the original purpose and vision He had (has) for man. And the relationship with God transform the person, and the behavior follows.

  2. i attend CR at the Memorial Road CoC here in OKC. i’ve been going for 3 years now. CR kept my head above water during the very worst times in my life. i shudder to think what i might’ve done or become without that program.

    And people need to know CR is for ANYTHING you struggle with. There are people at my CR who are there simply for worry or fear or low-self-esteem. No problem is too ‘big’ or ‘small.’ (Those terms are human measures. Satan doesn’t care what ‘size’ noose he uses to hang you–just whichever works.)

    The thing that has struck me most in my three years at CR is i always walk away wondering why we can’t just do church like that. In fact, i’ve come to believe if the church really was the sort of community God intends it to be, there’d be no need for CR really.

  3. There’s a nation-wide campaign that’s going on ( where churches are preaching the main points of CR, doing small groups around the sermons, then prayerfully spinning up full-fledged CR groups from there. My congregation is participating and our first small group meeting went well (though the DVD player bonked out halfway through the lesson).

  4. Hey dad, do you know whether this program is something a small house church could do or utilize in any way? Could you put me in contact with the person in charge at University? Thanks.

  5. Our minister of involvement, Tom Perkins, is the person to ask. 205-553-3001 is the church number.

  6. At White’s Ferry Road in West Monroe we are averaging about 200 plus on Friday nights. Our elder, Mac Owen has helped churches across America start CR and one of our men who was salvaged by CR leads the state of Louisiana’s CR Inside, prison ministry. Well over 100 inmates are going throught the program and learning the truth that sets men free.

    CR has reached people from every strata of life in our community and now our church is heavily populated with smiling, serving, sacrificing, saints who are in love with Jesus and those he died to save.

    Read about it here:


  7. I received this email anonymously —

    There’s a church of Christ in our area offering Celebrate Recovery. We’re looking for something to address chemical addiction and so we spent some time reviewing their program. What we’ve decided is that for chemical addiction, a higher degree of accountability is necessary in order to break the addiction.

    We have a few folks in our church who have led chemical recovery ministries elsewhere in the past, and who have overcome addiction themselves through that kind of program. Personally, I am pretty naive about the drug addiction culture, so talking to those folks has been an eye-opening experience for me. They tell me that drug addicts are typically very skilled at lying and deceit. They need to be held accountable by someone who can see through their facade of “everything’s fine.” These programs require each participant to have a sponsor who holds them accountable outside of the meetings. The group also holds one another accountable, and they don’t let anyone get away with lies and half-truths. The measure of success for a chemical addiction recovery program is how many people are still “clean” a few years after graduation from the program. On that measure, the programs implementing high accountability are dramatically more effective.

    Celebrate Recovery is more of a passive program in comparison. It surely serves a valuable purpose but I don’t think it is sufficient for breaking addiction to things like cocaine, methamphetamines, etc.

    I have no real expertise in this area, but I figure it’s true that different treatment methods will be needed for different folk — some of whom won’t respond to the CR approach or the CR approach alone. Leaders should be aware of when someone needs to be referred to profession rehab or counseling — perhaps in addition to CR.

  8. Jay,

    I completely disagree with the one who emailed you. Talk to elder Mac Owen at White’s Ferry Rd church in West Monroe. He will tell you the exact opposite. They specialize in helping those to recover and find life in Christ who had had every other program fail them.

    The man who leads CR Inside was himself a crack head and now about 4 1/2 years later a well respected ministry leader and model Christian.


  9. I would say CR is successfull to a degree, but if you need a higher degree of accountability for your group, look at James Group Ministries. This is a group I helped start 17 years ago at the Webb Chapel CofC in Dallas Texas. Their Website is (I just checked and it’s not working, so go in the back door through the church’s website)
    There are now several James Groups around the country.

  10. I’ve attended some CR. I have to say it is not my flavour so far. I respect however that it is of value to some.

    I simply find that I get more from AA as it is relevant to my vice of choice… alcohol. Sitting in a CR meeting with guys who drink but have other vices… including chronic unemployment by one guy…. I dont know… I just didnt feel the same kind of connection I did with AA where we are more focused on Alcoholism.

    I also prefer the fact that AA is run exclusively by the people it serves and that each group is atonomous. I cant imagine having a central organization mandating what happens or the format of our meetings.

    An AA meeting happens when any two alcoholics with a desire to stop drinking meet together for the purpose of helping one another stay sober and recover.

    Attending a meeting that is part of a portfolio of “outreaches”…. I dont know. Just not really for me. I get a lot from the fact that AA is run without supervision yet remains amazingly effective and consistent only by adherance to our Traditions.

    Either way…. I consider the 12 steps to be one of the most amazing selfless gifts of God ever. So selfless that He does not even require accurate recognition for the steps to work for anyone who follows them.



  11. i know that my church has a program for those who survived trying to commit suicide, but i have no idea if they started attending church or got baptized since it is confidential and kept seperate from church business

    but the point seems more to be like any other sort of outreach like programs that give out groceries to needy families. the world has needs and God has prepared good works for us to do to meet those needs. I don’t think AA would have been as successful as it is if it was directly connected to Calvary Episcopal Church, NY where it started or affiliated itself with the denomination. i don’t think it would have been as successful if it wasn’t confidential either so i don’t know how you would judge it as successful other than if people go and the church is offering it, that is in itself a success.

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