Our Genesis Recovery program has been very successful in helping men and women turn their lives around and over to Christ. The Genesis Program is a pivotal program for us. All of our programs are aimed at addressing barriers to independence, and substance abuse is a common roadblock. This year we conducted an audit of our program to see what we could do better. One of our findings was the importance relationships play in recovery for our folks after they leave our program.
We want to help our participants establish safe, healthy, and supportive relationships. Healthy relationships create safety and help us become the genuine person God created us to be. We need people in our lives who will stick by us; who are transparent, honest, trustworthy; and who will extend and receive grace. Where can our people find these “safe people?”
Being a place of safety for people is not an easy accomplishment for any organization, including churches, but it is vital. If a church wants to be a place where people can share their struggles and personal failings, safety must be a priority. When I use the term “safe churches,” I’m not referring to a building with a steeple or cross, but the people inside. I’m talking about a gathering of safe people. Safe churches play a crucial role in our recovery program. Typical recovery programs have roughly a 15% success rate, however, when an individual is connected to “safe people” that rate jumps to over 80%.
A safe church is a place where confidentiality is respected, gossip is outlawed, and leaders are vulnerable. A safe church openly and graciously extends Jesus to a hurting world. It’s a place of refuge where people are comforted when hurting, encouraged when weary, supported when struggling, and accepted and forgiven after failure. God calls us into relational vulnerability. We need to have the humility to receive healing, love, grace, accountability, and encouragement, all grounded in His truth.
Safe people are aware of their own weaknesses and need to grow. They are open about their hurt, pain, failings, and humanity. Instead of “having it all together,” they are in the process of healing and opening up to their own safe people for support and accountability. Safe people have the courage to confront, challenge, and speak the truth in love. They don’t communicate about sensitive issues with e-mails, texts, or FaceBook, They talk face to face. They are not defensive but confess when they are wrong and ask for forgiveness.
The leadership role is critical in establishing a safe church. Leaders in a safe church control the thermostat that sets the temperature to create a safe atmosphere. Leaders must allow others to see them as real people on their own spiritual journey to maturity. They see brokenness, struggle, and failure as normal parts of the sanctification process. Grace is preached from the pulpit and is the foundation for how people are to be treated. Truth is preached without compromise. They don’t wear masks, allow people to put them on pedestals, or act outside of accountability.
The bottom line is that a safe church is relationship driven - relationships with God and His people. A safe church is where people and relationships are more important than programs, church health is more important than church growth, kingdom building trumps church building, and where the entire church is the welcome committee. I feel God has been teaching me this bit by bit and I would love a chance to share with your church or group about being a safe place.
By: Rodney Gaskins