Celebrate Pastors in Recovery

July 25th, 2011

Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christ-centered recovery program that began twenty years ago through Saddleback Church. Today, over 700,000 people have gone through the CR program in more than 17,000 churches worldwide. CR is a program designed to help those struggling with "hurts, hang-ups, and habits" by showing them the loving power of Jesus Christ through the recovery process.

What some pastors may not know is there is a program called Celebrate Pastors in Recovery (CPR) that began in 2006 for pastors who want to work through the CR program in a safe place with other pastors. For pastors who are ready to take the journey through the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery, the goal is to get pastors connected with other like-hearted pastors through local meetings or with an online group meeting. Groups are open to pastors of all churches, with separate gender groups established. They’ve also begun separate groups for pastor’s spouses who can feel just as isolated.

CPR began when Hess Hester invited a group of pastors in Tulsa, Okla. to walk together through the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery in 2005. In the midst of that journey, Hester discovered that such pastors’ groups were a longstanding dream of CR founder, John Baker, who already had a name picked out for it . . . CPR . . . Celebrate Pastors in Recovery! In August 2009, a website was set up to be a centralized, secure, and reliable service to connect all leaders in ministry who need a safe place to experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ in the context of a caring community.

“For me, personally, until I got involved in a 12 Step group myself, I always felt like I was still on the outside looking in," Hester says. "I enjoyed the opportunities to occasionally speak or teach at CR, but was always guarded in how I introduced myself. I either went generic or tried to make a joke out of it: ‘Hi, my name is Hess, I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with a variety of hurts, habits, and hang-ups,’ or, ‘…who struggles with being a pastor!’

"I knew I needed to wade in deeper but hesitated. Then I entered my own ‘perfect storm’ in life of congregational, staff, and personal issues. That convinced me that this ministry is not just for the people in my church, it’s for me, too. I learned the hard way that everyone needs recovery, even pastors--especially pastors!”

With 1500 hundred pastors leaving the ministry every month, and 80% of new pastors leaving within their first five years, the need for a safe place for help is enormous. The opportunity to find that help through CPR needs to spread.

Pastors who join a CPR 12 step group are not required to have a CR ministry in their own church. But, if they do have CR they are encouraged to participate and provide strong support for it.

Even pastors who are not in recovery are encouraged to take a "blue chip" in their local CR group. Blue chips are a sign of surrender to Christ. For a pastor to take a chip also sends a powerful message that the local CR group has pastoral support. At Hess’ church they have also set up a separate discussion group for pastors who attend weekly CR, which has become another great source of help and encouragement.

How can you start a group for pastors in your area? Or request more information?

Hess and the team are building a network with interested pastors across the nation who want to be involved in helping start a CPR group in their community. Interested pastors can request more information via the “Connect with Us” tab at the website. Once a pastor indicates they want more information, Hess or a member of the CPR Leadership Team will contact the pastor to help them get started with materials and ongoing support from the team.

Higher education opportunities are being discussed with universities and seminaries. College chaplains and interested administrators are encouraged to fill out the online interest survey as well at the "Connect with Us" tab.

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