Out of the Darkness

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Kyla’s* seen a lot in her 11
years.
Her mom, who’s been in recovery for almost two
years, was addicted to meth for 20. Kyla’s dad was recently
court-ordered out of her life. She and her mom live in a cramped,
dusty trailer park riddled with stray animals, peeling paint, and
long-broken windows. Dismal as this all may seem, for Kyla it’s a
vast improvement over her earlier years, when she often had to fend
for herself or rely on virtual strangers to feed her and get her to
school while her mom slept off drug binges. Kyla’s life is
though still challenging — much more stable
and healthy than it’s ever been. Her mom genuinely seems to have
rounded the corner, determined to face her addictions and their
underlying roots. For Kyla’s mom, joining a recovery support
program offered by a local church has been the key to her current
success. For Kyla, her mother’s change of direction in life
represents a strange and wonderful new concept:
hope.

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“I was messed up,” notes Kyla’s mom quietly. “I still have my
struggles, but things are better.”

Despite the collateral damage in her life — broken relationships,
court wrangles with child protective services, ruined credit, a
fragile relationship with her child, and health problems resulting
from years of drug abuse — she’s made dramatically positive steps
in her life. She credits Celebrate Recovery (celebraterecovery.com),
a Christ-centered recovery program for adults that’s based on eight
principles of the Beatitudes, with her progress and renewed outlook
on life. Celebrate Recovery is the worldwide, faith-based program
founded by John Baker in 1991 following his personal battle with
alcoholism. He designed the program to “help people overcome their
hurts, hang-ups, and habits through recovery, wholeness, growth,
and spiritual maturity.” To date, more than 700,000 people have
gone through the Celebrate Recovery program in 10,000 churches
worldwide; it’s a transformative experience that’s saved lives –
in more than one way.

As children’s ministers, we’re often faced with the reality of
situations like Kyla’s. Many of the children we work with are
living in high-risk households or in situations where their health
and well-being are compromised. And many of these children, without
intervention, face the very real possibility of ending up in the
same cycle of dysfunction as their parents. Baker himself became
keenly aware of the perils at-risk children face as he watched his
son follow his steps into alcoholism. And he became determined to
do something to stop the cycle.

IN THE WAKE OF
DYSFUNCTION

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Baker, while discussing the remarkable success of Celebrate
Recovery (CR), says that for years he longed to develop a similar
program for kids — something he refers to as “pre-covery.” He saw
a great need to equip kids with the truths and coping strategies
that adults learn in Celebrate Recovery — only much earlier in
life so they would already have the tools to rely on when life’s
challenges arise.

“We have a critical opportunity to help at-risk kids embrace the
amazing love and grace God offers in a real and life-impacting
way,” Baker says.

Out of Baker’s desire to minister to these at-risk children came
Celebration Station, a year-long resource that aligns with the
Celebrate Recovery scope and sequence. Written by Christine Yount
Jones (executive editor of this magazine) in conjunction with John
Baker and his son Johnny, Celebration Station is designed so adults
and the children who come with them to Celebrate Recovery learn
about the same topic during the same week (with kids learning in
age-appropriate ways). This strategy opens the door to family
communication and honest dialogue, and helps children absorb
healthy coping strategies and a faith-centered outlook on
life.

Lori Simpson Keller, ministry assistant for Celebrate Recovery and
coordinator for Celebration Station at Killearn United Methodist
Church in Tallahassee, Florida, says Celebration Station has
dramatically impacted kids in her ministry for the better.

“Our ministry to at-risk children stems from our Celebrate
Recovery program,” says Keller. “Kids from all imaginable
backgrounds come to Celebration Station. We have a group of kids
who probably represent our society fairly well. We see everything
from average, ordinary families who’ve simply found our ministry to
be a safe, welcoming place for their families; parents recently
released from prison trying to adjust to life on the outside again;
families where one or both parents are struggling; to grandparents
raising grandchildren who want to break the cycle of
dysfunction…This is one place where kids know exactly what to
expect and when to expect it. We work hard to give them that
predictability; it truly is a gift.”

A BRIDGE TO HOPE

Numerous Celebrate Recovery ministries had sensed the need-and
great opportunity — for programming for children in the CR
families. CR members were already bringing their children, and the
churches were already providing childcare or extra programming to
fill the time. Children’s ministers like Keller say they
instinctively felt there was a prime opportunity for important,
effective ministry to these special kids — some of whom had never
been inside a church.

“When we started our Celebrate Recovery program six years ago,”
says Keller, “we were trying to do this ministry with kids by
creating lessons each week, finding good music, and coming up with
creative activities and crafts — that were all tied to what the
adults were doing. That was a major challenge, but we believed in
the importance of creating a shared experience that kids and adults
could all relate to after the program.

“Now Celebration Station is plug-and-play,” she continues. “I can
hand the leader’s guide to any volunteer, and that person can lead
the kids on the spot. I can take a week off and not have to do a
lot of advance preparation. We know that getting the kids and
adults on the same page week after week is an enormous benefit –
because we’re giving them something to talk about at home. There’s
nothing better than honest, open dialogue that’s swathed in God’s
love. We’re teaching the entire family to speak the same language.
Our ultimate hope for this ministry is that the cycle of
destruction and despair will be broken. We want these kids to learn
to live life God’s way. We want the adults to learn to live life a
new way. This is where our families can be honest and real about
all of life’s struggles, not just addictions or the ‘big’
stuff.”

For kids like Kyla, Celebration Station offers not only a reliable
place of refuge and acceptance but also fun. And it creates a new,
healthy dynamic in her relationship with her mom. The focus of
Celebration Station is learning while celebrating God’s love, so
even though the program deals with some tough topics in
age-appropriate ways, each session results in kids’ growing
knowledge that God loves them — and their parents –
unconditionally.

“One key we’ve found to at-risk ministry is the importance of
opening communication and finding a common language while providing
support and acceptance for families,” says Keller.

Michael Rudolph, a member of Celebrate Recovery, feels
passionately about the importance of equipping at-risk kids with
knowledge of God’s love and relevant coping strategies.

“Celebration Station teaches children how to live out the
Beatitudes in their daily lives and to express their feelings and
issues instead of stuffing them,” says Rudolph, who works with
Celebrate Recovery churches to implement the Celebration Station
program. “Kids begin to develop a good, communicative relationship
with God. Parents get the tools to build a strong, communicative
relationship with their children. Celebration Station can truly
help children establish a strong foundation in Christ, family, and
themselves. They can learn a healthy way to deal with life instead
of turning to the multitude of other destructive choices out
there.”

     

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